Environment, lifestyle diseases, infectious diseases and diseases of the brain should be the priorities of the India Alliance for the next phase: Hon’ble President of India
Next phase should focus on encouraging more clinicians to carry out research: Hon’ble Dr. Harsh Vardhan
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Ministry of Science and Technology, in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust, to support a three-tier fellowship programme on biomedical research at post-doctoral level, celebrated 10 years of their joint partnership in an event in New Delhi today. The Wellcome Trust is an independent charity funding research to improve human and animal health. Established in 1936 and with an endowment of around £15 billion, it is the largest non-governmental source of funds for biomedical research in the United Kingdom. The aim of setting up the fellowship jointly with Wellcome Trust was to create a system comparable to the best in the world, taking India on the path of becoming a leader in key areas of life sciences and biomedical research.
Speaking on the occasion President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind said that as the partnership between the Department of Biotechnology and the Wellcome Trust completes its first decade, this is an opportune moment for the India Alliance to draft its priorities for the next phase. Today, through science and technology, humans wield unimaginable power over the future of our planet. We, therefore, have a responsibility like never before. And scientists, particularly bio-scientists, are our soldiers and generals in the battle to safeguard our planet, our species and our future.
The President suggested four frontlines in this battle. He said that the first is the environment. Our air, water and soil must be cleaned. While we do so, we must mitigate the consequences on human and livestock health. The second frontline is that of lifestyle diseases. Diabetes, hypertension and cardiac diseases are on the rise. The third frontline is infectious disease. While we take on known infectious diseases, lesser-known ones threaten to expand. The final frontline is diseases of the brain. Factors that include urban stress and a significant elderly population have left India facing a mental health epidemic. Preventive measures, relevant to our genetics and our lifestyle, are in the realm of theory, waiting to be discovered. We must discover these if our people are to age well, with full mental capacities.
Union Science and Technology Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan while congratulating the partnership emphasized the need for added incentive for biomedical research and creating opportunities that encourage more clinicians to carry out research. The Union Minister said that he was happy to note that the DBT / Wellcome Trust partnership was addressing this issue in a major way.
Other dignitaries who were present at the event including Principal Scientific Adviser to the Govt Of India, Prof K VijayRaghavan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Dr Renu Swaroop and Director, Wellcome Trust, Dr Jeremy Farrar, expressed hope that the partnership in its next phase with increased vigour, will look to set up mechanisms to strengthen veterinary research, develop mechanisms to engage with Universities around the country to better equip researchers there to apply and receive competitive funding for their research, look for more effectively administering collaborative research Grants that aim to solve important scientific problems through an interdisciplinary approach among other things.
The current programme is being delivered by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), a public trust registered as the DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance. The Trust receives equal contribution from both DBT and WT for running the fellowship grant scheme. The joint commitment of DBT and WT has been up to UK £16 million each year (£8 million each), amounting to a total of UK £160 million / INR 1296 crore over a 10-year period. The scheme was announced in 2008. Fellowships are available across the full spectrum of biomedical research (human and veterinary) from fundamental molecular and cellular studies through to clinical and public health research. Research projects can be based in the laboratory, the clinic or the field and may involve experimental, theoretical approaches as well as translational approaches.
In the past 10 years, the alliance has awarded 320 fellowships to researchers in 93 institutions across 34 Indian cities. More than 900 PhDs, postdoctoral scientists, undergraduates and research technicians trained in the laboratories of India Alliance Fellows. Nearly 2500 researchers were trained in Science Communication workshops and more than 900 PhDs, postdoctoral scientists, undergraduates and research technicians were trained in the laboratories of India Alliance Fellows. Facilitating “Brain Gain” nearly 68% awardees are from India while the rest are from overseas.