Record of the discussion
IMPRINT-India Healthcare Domain Call-for-Proposal Workshop
Jointly organized by IIT Kharagpur and ICMR
Place: Conference Room, ICMR HQ, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi
Date: 21st January, 2016
Refer to Annexure – I (Link)
Record of the discussion:
Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Secretary DHR and DG, ICMR as Chairperson welcomed all participants and observed that the country needs integration of medical sciences and engineering to address major challenges in medicine and healthcare. She then invited Prof. Partha P. Chakrabarti, Director, IIT Kharagpur to co-chair the proceedings of this workshop.
Prof. Indranil Manna, Director, IIT Kanpur and National Coordinator of IMPRINT-India made a brief remark through video conferencing. He described the objectives and domains catered by IMPRINT-India. The IMPRINT program has been designed to find solutions to engineering challenges in the country including those in healthcare. It is hoped that uneven access to modern medicine in the country can be resolved through engineering based medical interventions. This will also bring about self sufficiency in the country. It was emphasized that technological solutions in this program need to address the local needs. The IMPRINT program does not aim to undertake open-ended blue sky research but to translate knowledge to viable technology in terms of product or process. The aim of this workshop is to identify few topics/themes. He also suggested modalities to be followed for ‘Call for proposals’ and selection of projects. Dr. Swaminathan thanked Prof. Manna for addressing the participants and providing a brief overview of the IMPRINT program. She then requested Prof. Chakrabarti to steer the discussions as co-chairperson.
Following a brief round of introductions, Prof. Chakrabarti thanked the participants for coming forward in a big way to make this workshop and IMPRINT-Healthcare activities a success. He observed that given the small quantum of funding in the beginning, it may not be possible to address all the problems faced by healthcare in one go. Therefore, it will be important for the participants of this workshop to identify few thematic areas where engineering solutions can have a major impact on health of the population. The problem statement should be such that it can be addressed in two years and for which knowledge is available and research has reached a reasonable stage. He requested the participants to provide their inputs on which area they think should be addressed by IMPRINT- Healthcare and what they think is doable and should be done. Dr. Swaminathan added that the participants should not necessarily speak on the area of their research activity but what the country requires, specially to cater to underserved rural and poor communities through technology based interventions.
The participants suggested that low hanging fruits with maximum impact need to be identified. Hand holding of the applicants through Intellectual Property (IP) Rights Office/ Technology Transfer Office will be required to reach the desired goals. A complete mechanism targeting the entire innovation cycle from idea generation to commercialization and market uptake may be developed in the program.
Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health suggested that selection of Call for Proposal (CFP) topic/themes may be based on parameters like disease burden, regional problems, cost of treatment, etc. The target should be to have technology based interventions for improving accessibility and addressing gaps in the healthcare system. Areas where human resource and technical capacity exists in the country may also be given priority for this round of CFPs. The joint secretary suggested that technologies should be cost effective but should not compromise the quality. Non-invasive technologies may also be given a priority while selecting the topics/themes. e.g. non-invasive Hb meter that can address high anemia level of the country. For technology roll out, e-auction can be considered as an option.
The participants observed that synchronization with UN sustainable development goals for the country is required. Maternal and child health, reduction of mortality and morbidity related to non-communicable diseases like diabetes, CVD, stroke and cancer , communicable diseases like malaria and other vector borne diseases, tuberculosis and diarrhea needs to be taken up. Menstrual Hygiene and nutrition in women and children in rural India through local produce at rural level was envisaged as a key area. ICTs in Healthcare were widely advocated by participants as a short term achievable theme for this CFP.
Joint Secretary, Ministry of Pharmaceuticals briefly explained the activities of his Ministry and welcomed engineers, researchers in life sciences and clinicians coming together. He observed that medical field is increasingly becoming engineering oriented. He suggested that several working teams for novel indigenous drug development may be considered through IMPRINT-Healthcare program. He also suggested development of slow/ fast release insulin in tablet form, syringes and import substitutes. Drug design activity is required for long term success.
The participants suggested that drug discovery and regenerative medicine may not be considered for current CFPs as the fund available in IMPRINT program is very small. It was also felt that possibility of use of existing patents for drugs and devices through revalidation may be considered.
Scaling up and deployment were considered major issues. It was suggested that field practice area of Medical colleges may be utilized. Multi site feasibility studies of existing technology- ex.bio toilets, testing of diagnostic kits, IT MIS can be planned.
Industry linking was suggested by CII representative. IIT, Director, IIT Kharagpur clarified that higher priority would be given to projects that have industry involvement. It was shared that more than fifty companies are named in the 258 short proposals received so far and they were of different sizes, from start-up to big multinationals. Further, ICMR officials clarified that public private partnerships are encouraged in this program. The cherished goal of reaching healthcare to the masses cannot be envisaged without active participation of industry from the inception stage.
Dr PP Chakraborty welcomed participation of both national and international funding agency, like WELCOME TRUST, in this activity.
A list of areas suggested by participants is given in Annexure – II (Link).
Looking at the overwhelming response in this workshop, it was pointed out that due to paucity of funds, it will be difficult to pursue all issues in this round of Call-for-Proposal. However, more such calls with more funds can be considered depending on the on the success of first round of projects.
Director, IIT Kharagpur and co-chairperson requested that if anyone has any other idea then the same may be mailed to him at email@example.com by next evening†. He observed that a pattern is emerging where few big projects could be taken up providing enabling platforms and projects can be undertaken to develop technology that target specific sector like women, child, elderly, rural and urban poor. As the burden of non communicable disease is more than 50%, therefore weightage to this area may also be considered. Director, IIT, Kharagpur then thanked everybody at the end.
†Suggestions received in email are accommodated in Annexure – II.