Department of Biotechnology
India and Denmark will soon embark on joint research projects in the area of human health science biotechnology to strengthen and intensify the research effort within the area of human health science biotechnology and to integrate the specific competencies of the Indo-Danish research groups involved.
Applications for funding of research should be directed towards human health science biotechnology specifically within chronic disorders – biology, prevention, diagnostics and treatment. Examples of topics that fall within the focus of the programme are stem cells and stem cell therapy; molecular epidemiology – host and pathogen components; biotechnology perspectives of traditional medicine; and vaccines and diagnostics.
The objective of the programme is to strengthen and intensify the research effort within the area of human health science biotechnology and to integrate the specific competencies of the Indo-Danish research groups involved. Further, for both countries it is of major importance to provide human health science biotechnology solutions that accommodates the related challenges in a sustainable way.
The programme is a cooperation between the Indian Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Danish Council for Strategic Research (DCSR). Both these institutions have invited the scientists from universities, research institutions and private companies in India and Denmark to apply for funding of joint Indo-Danish strategic research projects within the area of human health science biotechnology.
The programme is pursuant to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) of October 25, 2004, the Indian Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Danish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education have decided to further develop and strengthen the Danish-Indian research cooperation within health science biotechnology.
The total economical frame (DBT and DCSR funding) is around €2.6 million. €1.3 million is funded by the DCSR and €1.3 million is funded by DBT. One or two projects may be funded. Significant co-financing as well as the participation of relevant public partners and/or private enterprises other than the main applicants is expected.
The DBT and the DCSR will support joint strategic research projects for a period of three to five years covering direct project costs, e.g. research activities, research training (PhDs and post docs), travel costs, research stays abroad, courses and international conferences (according to national rules).
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), under its advanced technology scheme, Biotechnology Industry Partnership Programme (BIPP), has invited fresh proposals from biotech companies for providing support on a cost sharing basis targeted at development of novel and high risk futuristic technologies mainly for viability gap funding and enhancing existing R&D capacities of start-ups and SMEs in key areas of national importance and public good.
DBT is operating this scheme through Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Programme (BIRAP), a not-for-profit public sector undertaking set up by DBT to promote and nurture innovation research in biotech enterprises specially start-ups and SMEs. Major thrust of the programme is towards funding technologies which address a major national problem and/or involves high level of innovation. The proposals spanning across the spectrum of pre-proof-of-concept to validation of established technologies are considered for support in the form of grant and loan.
The scheme supports large, medium, small scale companies as well as start-up on cost sharing basis. It would push for high risk, discovery linked innovation and accelerated technology development. Varying models of grants, loans or grant plus loans will be made available under the scheme. It will be one of the most enabling mechanisms to promote R&D in biotech industry and public private partnership programmes.
The programme will also focus on the evaluation and validation of biotech products and indigenous discovery, innovation and technology to products with focus on the products of national relevance or public benefit. BIPP is an advanced technology initiative by the DBT for supporting innovative and challenging R&D in industry.
Under the scheme, support will also be available for setting up of infrastructure and facility. In cases where such a facility leads to R&D capacity building or is required for scale up of an innovative product/process of national importance developed through company’s in-house R&D, facility proposed could be in the area of agriculture, healthcare, biosimilars, industrial processes, energy, bioinformatics, genomics and other relevant areas in biotechnology.
A single or consortia of Indian companies–small, medium or large– having DSIR recognized in-house R&D units, alone or in collaboration with a partner from another company/university/ institute/organization can be part of the programme. The interested biotech companies can apply for the proposal till March 31 this year.
After more than two years of discussions and debate, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has finalised the much-awaited ‘Guidelines for Stem Cell Research’ and will eventually be issued in a day or two. The much-discussed final document will provide ethical and scientific directions to scientists and clinicians working in the field of stem cell research in the country.
Senior ICMR officials who were burning the proverbial midnight oil to finalise the Guidelines said that the National Apex Committee for Stem Cell Research and Therapy (NAC-SCRT), constituted by the health ministry in March 2011, has already finalised the guidelines and the final document will be released any day now. The health ministry constituted the NAC, under the chairmanship of Dr Alok Srivastava, haematologist, Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, for effectively reviewing and monitoring the stem cell research in the country.
Earlier, the ICMR and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) had jointly formulated a draft Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Therapy in the year 2007, prescribing strict procedures for sourcing and the use of stem cells by research institutions. After its constitution, the NAC felt the need for reviewing and revising the guidelines as the committee felt that several developments had occurred during the long period since the ICMR issued the draft guidelines.
After receiving several valuable suggestions and opinions from the stakeholders and experts on the draft guidelines, the NAC reviewed these suggestions and opinions to incorporate several valuable suggestions in the final document to make it a more acceptable and improved document.
According to experts, stem cell research holds great promise for improving human health by restoring cellular and organ function damaged by degeneration and various injuries. At the same time it also raises several scientific, ethical and social issues in the development of such applications. Apart from challenges of using the right kind of stem cells in the most appropriate way for a particular disease, there are also issues related to the use of human embryos to create human embryonic stem (hES) cell lines, potential for commoditization of human tissues and cells with inherent danger of exploitation of underprivileged people, and challenges related to prevention of human germ-line engineering and reproductive cloning.
There are also potential dangers of tumourigenicity with use of these cells keeping in view their potential for unlimited proliferation and possible introduction of genomic changes during in-vitro manipulations also limitations related to immunological tissue incompatibility between individuals. Research in this field, therefore, needs to be regulated with special attention to these issues.
Of utmost importance is assurance of safety and rights of those donating embryonic, fetal or adult stem cells for basic and clinical research. Safeguards have to be in place to protect research participants receiving stem cell transplants, and patients at large from receiving unproven stem cell therapies. In recent years societal concern regarding compensation for research related injury has also gained considerable momentum.
All these issues will be addressed by the final ‘guidelines for stem cell research’ which the ICMR is expected to be issued in a day or two.