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India showcases Emory's global strategies

Although Madhuri Hegde left Mumbai as a young woman, she has often returned to share her expertise in diagnosing rare genetic disorders during passage from India to New Zealand and finally the United States. As executive director of the Emory Genetics Laboratory (EGL), Hegde recently led an international delegation to convince the government to dramatically increase newborn screening in India, and in June, she will help run a national pilot for newborn screening there. Her Emory colleague, Rani Singh, professor and director of the division of medical genetics, nutrition section, will follow up with training on clinical treatments for babies diagnosed with life-threatening genetic disorders.

A comprehensive diagnostic and clinical lab for genetic disorders, EGL offers genetic testing for a full range of inherited genetic diseases such as Down's and fragile X syndromes. It uses cutting-edge technologies such as next generation sequencing for applications including disease gene panels and exome sequencing. It serves as the follow-up laboratory for the state of Georgia Newborn Screening Program, handling an annual case volume of approximately 30,000 samples. However, the impact of bringing this service to India could lead to exponential expansion of newborn screening -- close to 24 million babies.

"This delegation has established a formal partnership with WHO, UNICEF, the U.S. Embassy, and local advocacy groups and government officials on the ground in India, so that we can play a leadership role," says Hegde. "For me, it is a way to give back to my homeland. I feel like I owe something to India."

Hegde's aspiration finds resonance with other Emory faculty who come from India. Whether marketing guru Jagdish Sheth in the Goizueta Business School, epidemiologist K.M. Venkat Narayan in the Rollins School of Public Health, or vaccine researcher Rama Amara at the School of Medicine and Yerkes National Primate Research Center, these faculty with international reputations in a wide range of fields are transferring knowledge about India to the U.S. and in turn back to their native land.

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