Indian and Australian scientists are working together to develop a vaccine for malaria
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard met with a team of Indian scientists working with their counterparts in Australia to develop a vaccine for malaria, which afflicted 1.6 million Indians in 2010 and is a global problem.
Speaking after meeting the scientists during her three-day visit to New Delhi, Prime Minister Gillard said, “I was able to see how scientific communities are working together to fight the scourge of malaria.”
The joint research project is one of 90 supported by the Governments of Australia and India through the two countries’ flagship fund for collaboration in science, Australia India Strategic Research Fund.
Prime Minister Gillard met scientists working at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology led by Infosys Prize winner Dr Chetan Chitnis. The team is working with counterparts at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne to improve understanding about immune responses to the malaria parasite. Their research suggests new possibilities for vaccines that look more promising than others currently being considered for development or in clinical trials.
A commitment to education, research and innovation should be at the heart of our economic and social ties – indeed our Australia India Strategic Research Fund is another important example of this, Ms Gillard said.
The Australia India Strategic Research Fund is co-funded and co-administered by the two governments. With a $64 million commitment from the Australian Government to support the participation of Australian researchers in joint activities, it is Australia’s largest bilateral programme for collaboration in science with any country.
From the Indian side, the Ministry of Science and Technology meets the Indian teams’ costs, making this one of India’s largest sources of support for international collaboration. To date, the programme has brought together more than 90 top universities and research institutions on both sides and hundreds of individual researchers.
The Australian Academy of Science also announced the recipients of the Australia-India Fellowship Fund, which supports stays in India of up to 12 months for Australian early-career researchers and shorter visits for more senior scientists. Indian recipients of fellowships, to be announced soon, will visit Australia under a reciprocal scheme funded by the Indian government.
Malaria is a potentially life threatening disease, which is transmitted by the infectious bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. In India, malaria has been a major public health problem since ages.
The government launched the National Malaria Eradication Programme in 1958. Under this programme, the government makes extensive use of local bodies for fuller implementation that has since been renamed as National Anti-Malaria Programme. Malaria is also covered under the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.