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Updated: April 28, 2014 00:31 IST

‘Innovation should be people-centric’

M. Sai Gopal
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Vishwa Mohan Katoch
The Hindu
Vishwa Mohan Katoch

We will give priority [for funding] only to research projects that hold lot of promise and are designed towards people-oriented medical research Dr. Vishwa Mohan Katoch, Director-General ICMR

Innovation, and affordable ones at that, should be the driving force for young researchers in the country, said Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Vishwa Mohan Katoch.

In an interview to M. SAI GOPAL, Dr. Katoch points out that preference would always be for research that is aimed at public good. Excerpts from the interaction:

On shortage of research funds in various ICMR institutions

There is a definite tightening of funds and hesitation in green lighting research projects due to financial trouble across the world. However, the impact on ICMR institutions has been minimal.

The total budget outlay for ICMR and other organisations under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is close to Rs.2,000 crore.

The 12th Five-Year Plan has earmarked close to Rs.10,000 crore for science and technology in the country. One thing is very clear, we will give priority only to research projects that hold lot of promise and are designed towards people-oriented medical research.

Recent developments in the ICMR

We have begun to acknowledge the fact that to inculcate a spirit of research among young postgraduates, we need to reach out.

That’s the reason why we have started collaborating with non-ICMR institutions, including government medical colleges in clinical aspects of research. From 16 ICMR institutions, we have now grown to nearly 210 through collaboration. The idea is to set up multi-research units at government medical colleges.

Ending use of animals in medical research

I have been quite consistent and clear in advocating the gradual weaning off of animals in research laboratories. We are definitely committed to the idea of introducing alternative methods.

A lot also depends on our scientific community that has to keep a close tab on what’s happening in other countries. There is the cell line technology and software models that are being used by scientists in other countries. I have also assured the Indian scientific community that there will be no holding back of funds if they want to take up research alternatives.

Regulation of clinical trials in India

I believe our regulations for ethical clinical trials are robust and are not anti-industry or anti-pharma, but people-centric. The idea is that none should take the patients for a ride.

We are introducing more regulations that will fine-tune clinical trials in India. We have tightened the system by making it mandatory for the ethics committee to register with us. In the last few years, to safeguard interests of patients, we have made the consent-process elaborate.

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