India To Move Towards Product Based Global Collaborations

New Delhi, Nov 14: | Updated: Nov 15 2003, 05:30am hrs
In a major shift in the strategy in international collaborative projects, the country is embarking on product-based programmes with active industry involvement, the first of its kind is to start with Denmark. Official sources have informed that the agreement is expected to be signed in January-February, 2004, when the Danish Science & Technology minister will visit India.

This is subsequent to the bilateral discussions as a follow-up of the visit of the Prime Minister to Denmark during the third EU-India Summit at Copenhagen, where an MoU for cooperation in the field of biotechnology has been agreed.

The thrust areas under the collaboration are in the health and agricultural segments. The specific projects envisaged under the programme fall in diverse areas including genomics & proteomics, vaccine & diagnostics and bioinformatics. However, as the pact is yet to be sealed, the detailed work plan is not ready. For the project that comes under the umbrella of S&T agreement, the Department of Biotechnology is said to be currently working on a joint work plan. So far, most of the projects remained at the academic research level, and hence, now the move is to make the projects product oriented, informed an official source. Although, the funding varies from project to project on the Indian side, the upper sealing is Rs 50 lakh per annum.

Under the ongoing Indo-US collaborative programme there are three new projects that will become operational, wherein the Indian organisation involved are National Institute of Immunology (NII) and AIIMS, New Delhi. The projects at NII are spermato transgenesis in primates for developing animal models to study HIV-AIDS and apoptosis in male fertility and male contraception - molecular dissection of pathways of induction and execution of cell death in germ cells.

AIIMS will undertake case management of reproductive tract infection in India - an analysis of clinical protocols and costs.

The collaborations that emerged last year include Brazil, Mauritius and Sudan and joint work plans have been formulated. As a follow-up of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in science & technology signed between India and Brazil, an agreed work plan for cooperation in biotechnology was signed on October 23, 2002 at New Delhi between the Department of Biotechnology and the Ministry of Science and Technology, Brazil.

The collaboration is in agricultural and medical biotechnology, bioinformatics, functional and comparative genomics. Joint projects on rice and maize, medicinal plants and bioprospecting for genes and molecules are areas of high priority. Joint research, training and exchange of scientists, workshops and technology transfer are the implementation modalities of the areas. Official sources said that both sides are now interacting with each other to shape up the programme.

As a follow up of the agreement in biotechnology signed between India and Mauritius on March 25, 2002, the potential areas of cooperation have been identified. A Joint Committee has been formed by the two sides, which will overlook the implementation of the joint programmes. Food safety analysis and food biotechnology, micropropagation, biological control of pests in IPM system, biofertilizer technology are identified as immediate priorities on Mauritius side. Experts have been identified by India in the respective identified areas to visit Mauritius for training and consultancy services.

It has been agreed at the highest levels of government to provide help in setting up a Bioinformatics Institute at Mauritius. Following the visit of secretary, DBT and a three-member Indian delegation to Khartoum in May, 2002, time schedule for implementation of work plan for collaboration in biotechnology between the two countries was agreed.