Gates Foundation to back malaria, TB vaccine research in India

July 2nd, 2008 - 10:26 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Anbumani Ramadoss
By Arun Kumar
Washington, July I (IANS) Microsoft founder Bill Gates has responded positively to Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss’ request to support research programme in India seeking to expeditiously develop vaccines for malaria and tuberculosis. The assurance came at a meeting with Bill Gates and members of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation during Ramadoss’ just concluded visit to the US, according to the Indian embassy.

The meeting with Gates was part of efforts to explore the possibilities to developing cooperative relationships with key health care research and extension institutions to draw on their expertise to further key planned and on-going health sector initiatives in India.

Gates, the Indian embassy said, appreciated the efforts made by the minister for improving health services in India. He congratulated the minister for effective implementation of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

In response to a query from Gates regarding the polio situation in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Ramadoss elaborated the steps taken by the government for eradication of polio from the country.

Ramadoss also had a detailed discussion on the polio situation in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the National Tobacco Control Programme, the new Drugs Regulatory Authority, the HIV/AIDS situation in India with key officials at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation led by Tashi Yamada, Chief, Global Health Executive Team.

As part of its worldwide efforts to stem the spread of AIDS, the Foundation has announced that it would make a $23 million grant to India, which would be spent through National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in India over the next three years.

Earlier the Foundation had already announced a grant of $58 million for HIV/AIDS Avahan Programme for a period of five years, which targets risk groups in six states.

Besides Gates, Ramadoss met academic leaders at the UCLA and Stanford Medical Schools and important members of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPIO).

In a keynote address at the annual conference of AAPIO at Las Vegas, the minister sought the members’ expertise for projects like the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Diabetes, Cardiovasuclar Diseases and Stroke (NPDCS).

He made a special mention of the NRHM, the largest-ever health programme implemented anywhere in the world. The NRHM seeks to dramatically change the health scenario in the rural areas.

A new Department of Health Research has been created in the health ministry to promote and coordinate basic, applied and clinical research in areas related to medical, health bio-medical and medical practice and education through the development of infrastructure, manpower and skills in cutting edge areas.

Ramadoss noted that many members of AAPIO had expressed a desire to give back to their country of birth by sharing their knowledge and hoped that initiatives launched by the new department would provide a mechanism for this. He also solicited the assistance of AAPIO in promoting trauma care centres on the national highways to take care of the trauma cases including poison, snake bites etc.

Ramadoss said a highly successful pilot programme had already been implemented in the state of Andhra Pradesh with the assistance of Satyam Computers for emergency relief under which across the state a single phone number would provide ambulance and critical care facilities within a threshold time limit.

This programme is now being extended to all states in the country in parallel with the 911 service in the US.

Earlier, Ramadoss met Prof. Jeffrey D.Sachs, director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York and Special Advisor to UN Secretary General in New York, who is also the head of the International Advisory Panel (IAP) on the National Rural Health Mission and reviewed the implementation of the mission in India.

He visited UCLA Medical School, Los Angeles and Stanford Medical School to further collaborative arrangements with the new Department of Health Research to develop new curriculum for medical training institutions in India and specific research programmes such vaccine development.

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