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Indo-US Vaccine Action Programme (VAP)

The VAP is an Indo-US bilateral program, which supports a broad spectrum of activities relating to new and improved vaccines. The programme was designed to encompass laboratory-based research, evaluation of candidate vaccines, testing for clinical development, vaccine quality control, delivery of vaccines and so on. All work is carried out within areas designated as VAP priorities by the VAP Joint Working Group (JWG) comprising of eminent scientists and policymakers from both countries.

Genesis

The programme resulted from the concerted efforts of Indian and U.S. scientists led by the Chief Science Advisors of Indian Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi and US President Ronald Reagan. In 1983, the India-US Science and Technology Initiative (STI) was established with a commitment of both countries to give high priority and financial support to the STI programmes which will be of mutual benefit to both the countries.

The programme is under implementation since July, 1987 under the Gandhi-Reagan Science & Technology Agreement.Its present tenure is upto August, 2017. VAP is being implemented to promote focused and applied research on new and improved vaccines and immuno-diagnostics by bringing together leading Indian and US scientists.

The programme primarily aims at developing and evolving joint R&D projects towards development of safe and efficacious vaccines against some of the major communicable diseases that presently take a large toll in India & USA.A Joint Working Group (JWG) was constituted to oversee the activities of the programme. Major projects were initiated under VAP in the areas of rotaviral diarrhoea, dengue, viral hepatitis, acute respiratory infections, tuberculosis, malaria, typhoid, E. coli, leishmaniasis, pneumococcal, HIV/AIDS, etc.

With completion of 25 years of its implementation, DBT celebrated the silver jubilee function of VAP in September 2012.

Implementation

Since its inception, one of the unique aspects of the VAP was its aim to move away from a donor-recipient model and create a true partnership in which the Indian Governments and United States fund activities of mutual interest for their individuals and global benefit.

It also recognised the equivalent yet complementary strengths of the US and Indian research enterprise and emphasised equal involvement and joint scientific contributions to the projects by the scientists from both countries.

The programme gives a challenge to investigators from both countries to generate ideas that not only address important public health needs of India and the United States but also the needs of global health.

Monitoring and mentoring

To oversee implementation of VAP programmes, a Joint Working Group (JWG) was established when the programme was initiated. This JWG is composed of scientists and officials from both countries. It determines policies and scientific direction for the programme, takes decisions on major activities, and provides scientific oversight and evaluation.

All work supported through the VAP is carried out within research areas identified as VAP priorities by the JWG. The Indian members of the JWG also serve as members of an “Apex Committee”, which is appointed by the Prime Minister, thus signifying the strategic importance the Government of India assigns to this programme.

Currently, the JWG is co-chaired by Dr. Harry Greenberg, Senior Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Medicine at StanfordUniversity, and by Dr. V. M. Katoch, Secretary, Department of Health Research (DHR) and Director-General, ICMR.

Other Key Officials
  • Dr Vijay Raghavan, Secretary, DBT,
  • Dr TS Rao, Adviser, DBT
  • Dr Carole Heilman, Director, Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, NIAID
  • Mr Gray Handley, Associate Director for International Research Affairs, NIAID

Since its inception, the Science Attachė at the US Embassy New Delhi has remained an active VAP leadership participant. All proposals submitted through VAP-specific solicitations at NIH (e.g., the VAP R03 grants) are peer-reviewed under the normal competitive process of NIH/NIAID. They also receive expedited clearance from the Government of India, due to the “Single-Window Project Clearance Authority” vested in the VAP, provided all work is carried out within research areas of the identified VAP priorities.

The Apex Committee in India, through its appointment by the Prime Minister, has the power to review and approve activities. This, coupled with the “nodal agency” authority bestowed on India’s DBT by the VAP MOU has given this programme an extraordinarily workable administrative system through which decisions can be made rapidly.

Currently, the VAP is primarily funded by DBT in India and by NIAID in the United States.