BENGALURU: The year is 2012. Dr Meenakshi Bhat, a clinical genetics consultant at Centre for Human Genetics, approached the country’s premium research institutes to devise low-cost nutrition products for children with the birth defect Phenylketonuria (PKU), but to no avail.
Enter Bengaluru-based Pristine Organics, and today at least 5,000 children aged below 9, and who are suffering from 27 different conditions, have benefited from ‘Metanutrition’. This is a formula powder for those whose body cannot turn food into energy for the lack of specific enzymes or proteins.
On the sidelines of Blue Ribbon Rare Diseases Symposium held here, Dr Meenakshi told The New Indian Express, “It costs Rs 16,000 to get a tin of this powder meant for PKU-1 children from outside India. Pristine offers it for Rs 1,000.”
PKU is a birth defect that causes an amino acid called phenylalanine to build up in the body. Untreated PKU can lead to brain damage, intellectual disabilities, behavioural symptoms or seizures. Treatment includes a strict diet with limited protein. It can last for years or be lifelong. In India, one lakh children are diagnosed with it annually. In December last year, Pristine was one of the five companies that the country’s food regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) gave licence to, to manufacture specialised diet for inborn errors of metabolism (IEM).
Of these five companies, Pristine was the only Indian company. In India, the prevalence of IEM is one in 2,497 newborns. Children affected by IEM don’t survive beyond the age of one, due to complications caused by protein build-up in the body.
Shruti Kumbla, senior nutritionist, Pristine Organics, said, “Previously, parents would import it from US-based Nutritia, Abott, Mead Johnson Nutrition and Switzerland-based Nestle that would cost a lot.”
Low-cost nutrition solutions for children suffering from rare diseases can do wonders if Indian companies take up manufacturing, Dr Meenakshi said.