A Strategic Research Framework for Defeating Diabetes in India: A 21st-Century Agenda

Published in "Journal of the Indian Institute of Science"
Narayan, KM Venkat , Jithin Sam Varghese , Yara S. Beyh , Soura Bhattacharyya , Shweta Khandelwal , Gokul S. Krishnan , Karen R. Siegel , Tinku Thomas , Anura V. Kurpad

Indian people are at high risk for type 2 diabetes (T2DM) even at younger ages and lower body weights. Already 74 million people in India have the disease, and the proportion of those with T2DM is increasing across all strata of society. Unique aspects, related to lower insulin secretion or function, and higher hepatic fat deposition, accompanied by the rise in overweight (related to lifestyle changes) may all be responsible for this unrelenting epidemic of T2DM. Yet, research to understand the causes, pathophysiology, phenotypes, prevention, treatment, and healthcare delivery of T2DM in India seriously lags behind. There are major opportunities for scientific discovery and technological innovation, which if tapped can generate solutions for T2DM relevant to the country’s context and make leading contributions to global science. We analyze the situation of T2DM in India, and present a four-pillar (etiology, precision medicine, implementation research, and health policy) strategic research framework to tackle the challenge. We offer key research questions for each pillar, and identify infrastructure needs. India offers a fertile environment for shifting the paradigm from imprecise late-stage diabetes treatment toward early-stage precision prevention and care. Investing in and leveraging academic and technological infrastructures, across the disciplines of science, engineering, and medicine, can accelerate progress toward a diabetes-free nation.