04 Aug 2010   |   News

Wellcome Trust sets up £45M scheme with India’s Department of Biotechnology

A partnership has been forged between the Wellcome Trust and the Department of Biotechnology in India to support the development of new healthcare products in India.

Wellcome Trust headquarters in London. Picture courtesy Wellcome Images.

A £45 million partnership has been forged between the UK charity the Wellcome Trust and the Department of Biotechnology in India to support the development of new healthcare products in India.

The agreement builds on an existing five year, £80 million alliance between the two, which seeks to strengthen Indian biomedical sciences through a series of fellowship programmes.

This deal was announced during a high profile trade mission to India, led by the UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Other collaborations announced during the trip included a £4 million R&D agreement between the medical research councils of the two countries and the signing of a letter of intent by the London Stock Exchange and India’s National Stock Exchange under which they agreed to evaluate joint strategic business opportunities and to co-operate more closely in the future. This will include an evaluation of whether to allow access to each other’s market, as and when regulatory frameworks permit.

The Wellcome/Department of Biotechnology initiative will support research and development projects aimed at delivering safe and effective healthcare products on a large scale, at affordable costs. The aim is to bring together researchers from both the public and private sectors, largely working in India, to develop devices, diagnostics, medicines and vaccines.

“India offers a vibrant and growing biotechnology sector, with a wealth of scientific talent and a skilled workforce to support scientific innovation,” said Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust. “India can make a huge contribution to solving its own healthcare needs and to global health efforts.”

The Department of Biotechnology and the Wellcome Trust are each contributing £22.5 million. The new initiative follows piloting of the concept by the Wellcome Trust, which has a number of awards in the pipeline in areas such as cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis and ophthalmology.

One such project involves collaboration between the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad and Sheffield University, to develop and use new biocompatible materials for a stem cell -based therapy to restore sight in eyes where the cornea is damaged by chemical injury or burns. The centre at Hyderabad has so far provided such limbal stem cell therapy to over 700 patients.

Meanwhile, the UK Medical Research Council and the Indian Council for Medical Research announced they will jointly fund a £4 million programme of research into chronic non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

Also during the trade mission, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh agreed to the extension of the UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI), which has already created almost 600 new partnerships between UK and Indian institutions at all levels of the education system.

The expanded programme, to be funded by both Governments, will include collaboration on higher education, skills, leadership and quality in education, and work to build on the existing UKIERI programmes, which have helped bring more students from the UK to India.

The programme will also contribute to the proposed development of 14 Innovation Universities in India, though partnerships with UK institutions. Universities that have shown an interest in forming partnerships include Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College, the Open University, Essex, Exeter, Birmingham and Newcastle.

Steve Smith, President of Universities UK, who was in India for the announcement, will be returning in November, with a delegation of university vice-chancellors discuss further how to increase university partnership activity between the two countries.

A new report commissioned by Research Councils UK (RCUK) published at the same time as the Trade Mission shows collaboration between UK and Indian researchers is growing and suggests that India will become increasingly important to the global research community.

The report, “Bibliometric study of India’s research output and international collaboration,” investigated the number of citations Indian research papers receive world-wide and showed that collaboration with the UK results in Indian research papers being more highly cited than Indian research in general.

Other findings of the report include:

  • UK collaboration with India is strong compared to other nations and takes place in a diverse range of UK institutions across a variety of subject areas.

  • The most highly cited India-UK collaborative research occurs across a range of subject areas including biological and medical sciences, business, social sciences, humanities, and is particularly strong in the physical sciences.

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