Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: With an eye on the overlapping future of medicine and technology, three of the city’s premier professional institutes joined hands on Thursday to implement the “bench to bedside” research system by formalising their educational collaborations.

Sri Ramachandra University (SRU) signed Memoranda of Understanding with both Anna University and the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, to focus on “translational” education and research.

“Translational medicine is a rapidly emerging discipline focussed on bridging technologies and discoveries in the laboratory with clinical research and practice,” S.P. Thyagarajan, director and chief research advisor, Sri Ramachandra University, said, explaining the “bench to bedside” concept.

To meet the challenges, “a new breed of professionals conversant with the medical profession as well as the engineering profession is required”, Anna University Vice-Chancellor D. Viswanathan said. Under the agreement, his university will carry out joint research projects with Sri Ramachandra University in medical electronics, biomedical engineering, environmental health engineering, biotechnology and biomedical nanotechnology, besides using Sri Ramachandra’s facilities to conduct pre-clinical and clinical trials of bio-products it has developed.

Faculty and student exchanges, joint access to library resources, mutual consultancy activities and joint sponsorship of seminars and workshops are other features of the MoUs.

IIT Director M.S. Ananth pointed to the diabetic foot and the finite element model of the heart as success stories of the collaboration between professionals from the medical and technical fields. “In the area of implants, materials, DNA chips…we have a lot to offer, we can facilitate things considerably.”

Looking to the future, S. Thanikachalam, chairman and director of Sri Ramachandra University’s cardiac care centre, envisaged joint academic programmes. “The time is not far when you will see an abridged course in medicine and technology together…it is an emerging field.”

Dr. Viswanathan predicted an impact on the medical technology industry. “In India, we spend billions on importing medical technology and equipment…By 2020, I hope we can establish an indigenous industry so that we do not have to import any more,” he said. These MoUs serve to widen and strengthen the existing collaborations. The IIT’s Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering Departments already collaborate with Sri Ramachandra University’s Cardiology, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Orthopedics and Dentistry Departments for both Ph.D. and sponsored research projects, which have resulted in 10 publications. Similarly, Anna University’s Medical Electronics and Medical Physics Departments are working with Sri Ramachandra University’s Cardiology and Health Management Departments for Ph.D. programmes and electives in M.E. teaching programmes.

Sri Ramachandra University also released the first edition of its Journal of Medicine, which it hopes to develop into a world-class research publication devoted to all aspects of health science.