The conversion of Prime Minister House into the Islamabad National University (INU) is now a reality. The resounding reason by the Prime Minister of Pakistan for establishing this university is to send a strong symbolic message that Education is the top priority of his government. This initiative suggests that current government faith in knowledge economy for bringing economic, social, cultural and moral changes is perpetuating. Initial deliberations of the very first conference at this seat of learning focused on four thematic areas including governance, development, climate, and technology. I am confident that governance aspects will focus on devising strategies aimed at bringing Pakistani Higher Education system at par with the global priorities. Focusing on climate and developmental aspects show a commitment of the government as well as the higher education system to face the global challenges irrespective of some developed world dissidents. Irrespective of all the impending difficulties, a new university has been borne, Congratulations –“NAYA PAKISTAN” all academicians and the future pupils of this specialised institution. Now it is the turn of the academic leadership to reciprocate with innovative strategies for getting optimal benefits through this generosity of the government.

In this article, I will address the technology aspect as I do not feel competent to discuss the other three elements of steering this university forward. Importantly, my thoughts on technology are related to human health and genetic material the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Every human being on this Earth receives a copy of this genetic material from the Mother and Father. Minor faults in genetic material have been the cause of several inherited diseases; however, the genetic material in a human being is also associated with responses to treatments with medicines and so on. This notion has transformed the world of medicine into genomic and personalised medicine. The DNA is present in the building blocks of our body known as cells. Inside the cell, there is a structure known as the nucleus that contains all the DNA on chromosomes besides smaller organelles like mitochondrial DNA. On this DNA there are small spreads having information about various biomolecules known as proteins that play an essential role in human health and disease. How government and the public representative can help in introducing new technologies towards improving the health standards of their nation can be aptly described through the story of former President Barack Obama. The human genome was wholly deciphered (sequenced) in the year 2003 through a massive funding and enormous efforts by the developed world countries scientists. Former President Barack Obama was so much enthused with this discovery that he presented “Genomics and Personalised Medicine Act of 2006” before the Congress aimed to “improve access to and appropriate utilisation of valid, reliable, and accurate molecular genetic tests by all populations, thus helping to secure the promise of personalised medicine for all Americans.” Pertinent to mention here is that at the time Barack Obama was a senator and the act failed to get through the statutory bodies. Guess what happens next? Barack Obama became president of the United States, and in his 2015 State of the Union address, he announced the launch of Precision Medicine Initiative that take into consideration genetic material the DNA. This initiative continues to benefit American people health and has been adopted by several nations across the world. Among the Muslim countries, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are at the forefront. At the technology front, the Islamabad National University can prioritize on precision medicine initiative. Fortunately, we have two staunch supporters of this idea at the helm of affairs. Highly respectable, Professor Dr. Atta ur Rehman and Dr. Sania Nishtar. They both can orchestrate one of the best Personalised Medicine initiative in Pakistan. This initiative will not only benefit the Pakistani population instead will make our medical educations system at par with contemporary pedagogies.

Moreover, Higher Education Commission burden will be eased through accommodating hundreds of jobless Ph.Ds. Among the unemployed doctoral degree holder’s majority have their specialisation in molecular techniques and biotechnology. This available highly trained workforce can be utilised for economic and health benefits.  It is pertinent to mention here that in a disease like diabetes, cancer and several viral, fungal, bacterial infections precision medicines have helped in improving the quality of life among people suffering from these disorders. This initiative at the technology forefront can be linked with the manufacturing of generic biotech-based medicine (biosimilars) where the Muslim world is lacking behind. A variety of anticancer medicine including vaccines are also produced through biotechnological processes. Unfortunately, Pakistan does not have a single Food and Drug Administration approved pharmaceutical production facility, whereas India has over 200 and Bangladesh five globally recognised drug manufacturing setups. The State Bank of Pakistan Annual Report 2015-2016 (State of the Economy) lament this issue and consider it as a hampering factor towards the improvement of the national economy. Annually, Pakistan spends a considerable sum of money on importing branded as well as generic medicine and among these pharmaceuticals produced through biotech procedures are the costly and labile one. In case such medications are generated within the country, the national exchequer will be saving a considerable sum of money besides increasing the availability of such medicines to country fellows. Furthermore, earning money through exporting such products to countries across the globe will generate much-needed revenues. Fortunately, trained human resources already exist in the country, thanks to foreign scholarship programs of the higher education commission of Pakistan.

These modern pharmaceutical manufacturing setups will also ensure high-quality research besides aligning the country health system with the rapidly changing contemporary healthcare setups developed world is striving for, i.e., the 4p (personalised, predictive, preventive and participatory) systems. Importantly, 4p has received much attention in cancer treatment, infectious diseases and chronic including genetic ailments; the Pakistani population is suffering. Future generations will appreciate this technology initiative of the Islamabad National University.

 

The writer is currently serving in Malaysia. He is the member of the Malaysian Biosafety and Biosecurity Association; founding chairperson of the Global Academic Leaders Academy; IUCPSS and served as Vice Chancellor of three universities in Southern Punjab, Pakistan.

 mukhtar.muhammad@gmail.com