Muscat: Dr Rahul Gandhi, a 33 year-old doctor who spent part of his life in Oman studying at the Indian School Muscat, recently won a debate on DNA manipulation at the Oxford Union.
Gandhi spoke against the motion, arguing with Sir Ian Wilmut, considered one of the greatest authorities in genetics, whose lab cloned Dolly the Sheep.
His presence at the Oxford Union was meant to bring a very important topic in the world of science to the fore,as well as to highlight the potential benefit MBA degrees offer the world through social entrepreneurship - a move that Oxford has embraced, as opposed to most traditional schools of business.
Founded in 1823, the Oxford Union has grown to become the most prestigious student society in the world,and has hosted world leaders in almost every field, including Presidents Reagan, Nixon and Carter, Malcolm X, Michael Jackson and Albert Einstein, among others.
While Dr Gandhi’s team won the debate by a large margin, he noted that winning the debate was not his ultimate goal.
“In the wake of advances in medical science, mankind has unlocked the secrets to genetic configuration and holds the potential to address the global burden of chronic disease. The development of CRISPR-Cas9 allows scientists to edit what society may perceive to be defective or undesirable genes, for example to mitigate HIV risks or cancer.
“There is a fear, though, that such a move is a step too far – that it is ‘playing God’, even. Moreover, many are concerned about what types of ‘defects’ will be weeded out: today, cancer, but tomorrow, those with low IQ? Such worries fuel the view that perhaps the possibility of so-called ‘designer babies’ is a threat posed by progress in genetic engineering. But does that mean abandoning the chance to save lives and wipe out diseases? Or do we have an ethical obligation that overrides this?
These were a few of his points of argument at the Union. Currently, Dr Gandhi is pursuing an MBA at Oxford and MPH at Harvard, with a view to be an advocate for equitable healthcare.
“Health is being regarded as a commodity, whereas it is a fundamental human right. Access is limited by capitalistic models of health delivery, but collective action allows for universality in coverage. To study this falls within the broader realms of medical practice, and it was a perfect opportunity in the middle of my internal medical residency training that I could not refuse.”
Gandhi came to Oman from India as a teenager in 1997, along with his family, and enrolled at the Indian School Muscat in standard nine. After completing standard 12 in 2001 from Oman, he left for India to pursue Eastern and Indian philosophy at a ‘school of philosophy’ on the outskirts of Mumbai, his hometown, before turning on to become a neuroscientist in New Zealand.
He is currently on term break in Oman with his family, where his father manages a pharmaceutical company. “I am here to see family, this is in between term time at Oxford, so I thought I would come and spend time with them before heading to India for a project.”
"Oman and ISM in particular have contributed to my pursuit. I recall fondly my teachers at school providing the impetus for me to remain fascinated by Science. Mrs Clare Antony, Mr M.Krishnamurthy, Mr Premkumar and Mr Vijayaraghavan were the giants on whose shoulders hundreds of students have stood to realize their visions. I am very thankful for my time here."