Research

Indian biomedical research gets British funding

Biomedical research in India has received a shot in the arm with the Wellcome Trust, Britain’s largest health charity, entering into an agreement with the Indian government’s biotechnology department to fund cutting-edge research. The partnership was announced here Wednesday by M.K. Bhan, secretary of the biotechnology department, and Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, in the presence of Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal. The 80 million pound (USD 140 million) scheme jointly funded by the biotechnology department and the Wellcome Trust over five years aims to strengthen the research base of biomedical science by providing fellowship programmes to support researchers and senior fellows. “We aim to train the best of scientists in India because the prospects for bio-medical research are very strong. India has a wealth of academic talent and it is important that we can support the best researchers throughout their careers. “This is a catalytic activity to develop science to its full potential in India. It is meant for both resident and overseas Indians – as an incentive to lure them back to the country,” Walport said. The programme will be uted by the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance. Each year, the alliance is expected to award around 40 early career fellowships, 20 intermediate fellowships and 15 research fellowships. The Wellcome Trust has been funding bio-medical research for the last 70 years. The Indian initiative was built on the trust’s long-standing relationship with Indian biomedical research, stretching back over 50 years since it first made an award to Selwyn Baker at the Christian Medical College in Vellore in 1957. The trust currently funds 20 senior research fellows based in India working in research fields as diverse as neuroscience, cell biology cancer diagnostics, genetics and diseases of the world. In addition to the fellowships, the trust has recently made strategic awards totalling 15 million pounds for biomedical research in the South Asian region. These include a five million pound partnership with the Public Health Foundation of India for the creation of new Indian Institutes of Public Health, 4.5 million pounds for the South Asian Centre in India to increase infrastructure to carry out advance research to prevent and control chronic diseases. Sibal said the scientists working as Wellcome/DBT fellows will retain their intellectual property rights even if their projects are translated into effective healthcare schemes. He assured that if a scientific project is sold to pharmaceutical companies, the scientist, institutes and the people will benefit. A part of the money earned will be ploughed back for further research. “We assure full transparency. Once a scientific probe is completed, its results will posted on the public domain – the Internet – within six months. Only the best can avail of it,” the minister said. The Wellcome Trust claimed the scholarships had a huge global outreach, especially for young scientists who were willing to return to India after completing their doctoral studies. It will also allow overseas placements in the best laboratories in Britain and US if research necessitated it. “But all overseas Indian scientists will have return to India and work here,” Bhan said.

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