Bangalore: In an attempt to stem the exodus of young researchers to international post-doctoral programmes as well as to attract those abroad to return to the country, India’s department of biotechnology, or DBT, and the Wellcome Trust, the largest charity in the UK, have announced £80 million (Rs631 crore) partnership to boost biomedical research in the country.
The jointly funded Biomedical Research Career Programme, under the £80 million scheme over five years, will fund cutting-edge biomedical research. It will also complement Wellcome Trust’s ongoing investment in the country, which includes three “strategic awards” totaling £15 million.
“This initiative has the potential to have a significant impact on the health and prosperity of India and South Asia,” said Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust. “We aim to nurture and develop a world-class cohort of biomedical researchers.”
The UK charity has a long-standing association with the Indian biomedical community, having made its first award to Selwyn Baker at Christian Medical College in Vellore in 1957.
This initiative hopes to train Indian scientists in the best labs in the world through collaborative programmes and place them in starting and senior positions in Indian labs, said K. Vijayraghavan, director of the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, who has advised DBT on this. While he cautions that the programme will succeed “if it is autonomously managed with international standards being maintained,” he is also “certain” that this will happen.
And that’s because the programme will be delivered by an independent charitable trust in New Delhi that the two partners have established—Wellcome Trust/DBT Indian Alliance. Each year the alliance expects to award 40 early career fellowships, 20 intermediate fellowships and 15 senior research fellowships.
The trust currently funds 20 international senior research fellows based in India working in research fields as diverse as neuroscience, cell biology, cancer diagnostics, genetics and diseases of the developing world.
Concurrently, DBT is investing in development of infrastructure, says Vijayraghavan, but he thinks the institutes need to make their environment appealing to the best and the brightest. “The new places coming up will do this but the older ones must do this as well if they are to be attractive to good young researchers.”