25th January 2013 New Delhi, India
Healthy Indo-UK research relationship!
Last week was Health Week for the British Deputy High Commission in Bangalore, with four separate delegations in Bangalore, all with a health interest. First we had Anna Soubry MP, the UK Minister for Public Health. She was in India (visiting Delhi, Trivandrum, Bangalore and Chennai) to explore opportunities for increased collaboration on primary healthcare and wider health-related issues.
In Bangalore she visited Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital, Biocon, and met Karnataka Minister of Health Aravind Limbavali to understand the state healthcare priorities and opportunities for partnership. Organising the visit involved a great team from accross the Deputy High Commission here with SIN, UKTI, political economy and protocol all contributing.
I was involved in the fascinating round table discussion the Minister held with researchers over lunch. We heard about the particular emphasis the Indian Institute for Science (IISc) place on research which contributes to affordable health care. With the majority of India’s medical devices being imported and at a price which puts them out of reach of most Indians, this is a vital agenda for India. But the principle IISc works by – cutting edge technology at lower cost – is just as relevant to the UK’s National Health Service.
We also heard from AstraZeneca, who have a major research operation in Bangalore, and their work on neglected diseases. My take home from the AZ team was that infections don’t recognise borders, so all governments have a stake in tackling this issue. However, lower returns available from developing treatments for neglected diseases means Governments, Universities and Industry must collaborate to spread the cost. As someone whose job is promoting collaboration, it was a stirring message.
On the same day we had the famed European Bioinformatics Institute from Cambridge in town. They were providing training to Indian researchers from all over India on analysis of massively-parallel sequencing data. They’d been doing the same thing in Kolkata the previous week; a great example of the kind of expertise sharing which is so valuable between India and the UK. The training also provided an opportunity for UK and Indian institutes to discuss potential for future collaborations in this area.
We also had a delegation from the University of York in town, led by their Vice Chancellor. They met with leading institutions in Bangalore, such as IISc and St John’s, to explore partnership opportunities in health, teaching and research. Speaking to Hilary Layton, the Head of Internationalisation at York, she told me:
“We brought senior staff from a range of health areas at York – medicine, nursing and health systems management – so that we could bring a rounded approach to developing partnerships in India. We have a strong emphasis on primary and community care, and the potential for faculty exchange, joint teaching, collaborative research and interesting opportunities for students is excellent. Shared teaching in diabetes nurse training and medical student elective exchanges will be the first of many joint projects.”
Finally we had a delegation of 12 Universities from the UK, under the banner of the Training Gateway, to see how they can contribute to healthcare training in Bangalore. Visits to St John’s and Vydehi Institute of Medical Sciences with appropriate networking and follow ups between interested departments in both institutes.
As a York alumnus and employee of the Deputy High Commission, I was wearing several hats in the evening – the Minister and the Vice Chancellor of York jointly hosted a reception at the Deputy High Commissioner’s residence for York alumni and leading health figures in the city. It was a fitting end to a busy, but very promising, week in Bangalore…
But it wasn’t the end for Indo-UK Health! The following day the Minister inaugurated the Indo-UK Diabetes Summit in Chennai with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, Keshav Desiraju. The Minister’s busy schedule ended with a visit to Apollo Hospitals, Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre and a brief call on the Tamil Nadu Health Minister Dr V S Vijay.