The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India and the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), in partnership with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), organised a lecture at AIIMS by Dr Trevor Mundel, President, Global Health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
This was the second lecture in the newly launched DBT-BIRAC Leadership Dialogue Series – a platform where global leaders from various domains can share their experiences and interact with the scientific community. The lecture titled “Innovating for Impact: How India can lead in helping solve some of the world’s toughest health challenges” focused on India’s potential in addressing global health issues, and challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Speaking at the occasion, Dr Mundel said that due to its sheer size and population – nearly 20 per cent of the world population – India will play a key role in determining whether the world achieves the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including in maternal and child health. In addition, India’s success in fighting tuberculosis(TB), malaria and other infectious diseases like lymphatic filariasis will determine whether new drugs, diagnostics, vaccines and other prevention tools can be deployed effectively and affordably at scale, thereby eliminating these diseases in the world.
Dr Mundel emphasised the crucial role India’s rapidly emerging leadership in biotechnology and artificial intelligence can play in creating newer tools and technologies, which can help India achieve health equity and take leadership in addressing global health challenges. He added that the ongoing Grand Challenges India (GCI), a joint initiative of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation housed at BIRAC, is aimed at catalysing innovative health and development research within India.
Regarding India’s vaccine development capacity, Dr Mundel said, “No other country among the world’s emerging economies has the same combination of world-class biomedical research, effective translational research expertise, capacity to design and implement highly powered clinical trials, and capacity to produce health products that meet the stringent regulatory standards of the World Health Organization (WHO).”
Dr Mundel also stressed that partnerships are critical to the success of any public health intervention. He highlighted the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, AIIMS and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as key partners of BMGF in India. Dr (Prof) Guleria, Director, AIIMS said, “Technological innovations are at the heart of societal progress, and progress in health and healthcare is intimately tried to technological development. However, for many across the globe, these life-changing technologies are very costly, thereby making them less affordable and accessible to poorer communities. Considering the high cost of healthcare, AIIMS is collaborating with scientists/researchers in frugal innovations – in the disciplines of biomedical engineering, nanotechnology, big data analysis, artificial intelligence and development of novel biomarkers – to develop efficient and low-cost treatment strategies relevant to developing world and emerging markets.”
The event was presided over by Dr Renu Swarup, Secretary, DBT, Government of India and Chairperson, BIRAC; and Prof Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS. Other participants included Dr Chitra Sarkar, Dean (Research), AIIMS; Dr Mohd Aslam, Advisor, DBT and Managing Director, BIRAC; senior officials of DBT, ICMR and AIIMS; and researchers, faculty and students from institutes, universities and medical institutes.