Small changes in the molecules might cause diseases and discovering new drugs through molecular research was the only solution to address the problem, said Prof V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, Executive Vice- President and Principal Secretary, Science and Technology Department, Kerala State Council for Science Technology and Environment.

Prof Pillai was inaugurating the two-day international conference on molecular medicine that began at Sree Buddha College of Engineering (SBCE) at Pattoor near Pandalam on Thursday.

Traditionally, diagnostics has been quite distinct from therapeutic development. Molecular medicine is changing that paradigm, as molecular markers become increasingly important for understanding disease biology, selecting and validating targets, and assessing the efficacy and safety of compounds under development, said Prof Pillai.

According to him, molecular research, diagnostics and medicine have a much greater role in patient care.

Prof Pillai said molecular diagnostic technologies were likely to have a strong impact on the drug treatment of many major illnesses. Now, a wealth of genomic data is enabling researchers to predict a patient’s response to therapy based on the genetic make-up of a tumor (in the case of cancer), or the viral genotype.

Potential applications for emerging molecular diagnostics tests include viral genotyping for drug resistance, cancer diagnosis and prognosis, disease susceptibility and prediction, diagnosis of inherited genetic disorders, prediction of drug response, and forensic (identity) testing, he said.

Prof Pillai said a slight change in the DNA molecule might lead to diseases like Sickle Cell Anaemia. However, the Sickle Cell Anemia patients were also found to have been resistant to Malaria, he added. Inter-disciplinary interaction among officers, chemists, biotechnologists, medical doctors, etc, was inevitable to address various problems in the field of molecular medicine and research, he said.

Dr Somi Sebastian, college principal, presided over the inaugural function.

Prof K. Sasikumar, Sree Buddha Educational Society chairman; Prof V. Prasad, secretary and Dr Seema Nair, head of the Department of Biotechnology, also spoke.

Delivering the keynote address on Pharmacogenomics, Dr C. Adithan, head of ICMR Centre for Advanced Research in Pharmacogenomics in Puducherry, said each drug was likely to interact in the body with numerous proteins that determine the absorption, distribution, excretion, targeting to the site of action, and pharmacological response of drugs. Hence the presence of multiple polymorphisms in these genes could affect the drug levels which in turn could affect the drug response, he added.

Dr Adithan says pharmacogenomics research is an emerging discipline that focuses on genetic determinants of drug response at the levels of entire human genome. The goal of pharmacogenomic research is to evaluate genetic variations in an individual genome to predict how a patient may respond a particular therapy or dose, he adds.

Dr Min-Tze Liong from the School of Industrial Technology, Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, delivered the plenary lecture on Probiotics Cholesterol and Blood, later.

Dr D. Karunagaran of Department of Biotechnology at Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai spoke on Role of micro RNAs in cancer and Dr Annie John from Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology in Thiruvananthapuram delivered a lecture on Regenerative Medicine, later in the afternoon.

Invited Lectures on Molecular Medicine for Disease Diagnosis and Biomaterials for Regenerative Engineering will be held on Friday forenoon. Dr K. Sudesh Kumar from School of Biological Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang will talk on ‘Fabrication of Electrospun Polyhydroxyalkanoate and its application in Medicine and Environmental Conservation’, later, in the afternoon.