Press release

£45 million initiative to support development of affordable healthcare products

A £45 million partnership between the Wellcome Trust and the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, is unveiled today to support the development of innovative healthcare products at affordable costs.

This new initiative, announced in Delhi during the UK Prime Minister's visit to India, builds on the existing Wellcome Trust-DBT Alliance - a five-year, £80 million initiative which seeks to strengthen Indian biomedical sciences through a series of fellowship programmes, supporting the most promising researchers at three specific career stages.

The new R&D for Affordable Healthcare initiative will support research and development projects aimed at delivering safe and effective healthcare products on a large scale at affordable costs.

The aim is to bring together researchers from both the public and private sectors, largely working in India, to develop innovative new devices, diagnostics, medicines and vaccines that will reach the greatest numbers of beneficiaries, without compromising on quality.

"India offers a vibrant and growing biotechnology sector, with a wealth of scientific talent and a skilled workforce to support scientific innovation," said Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust. "India can make a huge contribution to solving its own healthcare needs and to global health efforts. The Wellcome Trust is delighted to partner with DBT to fund the development of affordable healthcare solutions."

The Indian Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Wellcome Trust are each contributing £22.5 million. The resulting five-year fund will be used to support the development of healthcare products that will benefit India, as well as having application for other low- and middle-income countries.

"Affordable healthcare requires purposeful and responsible alliances to ensure the convergence of life sciences and other scientific and engineering disciplines for improving clinical care and public health," said Dr M K Bhan, Secretary of DBT. "DBT and the Wellcome Trust together offer a unique combination of experience and resourcefulness for ensuring success."

Affordable healthcare is of importance to all countries, but particularly so for low- and middle-income countries, where many people still live in poverty.

The new initiative follows successful piloting of the concept by the Wellcome Trust, which has a number of awards in the pipeline in areas such as cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis and ophthalmology.

One such project involves collaboration between the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad and Sheffield University, to develop and use new biocompatible materials for a stem-cell-based therapy to restore sight in eyes where the cornea is damaged by chemical injury or burns. This advanced tertiary eye care centre in Hyderabad offers high-quality, comprehensive eye care on an equitable basis to millions across the state of Andhra Pradesh, through its pyramidal network that involves 17 secondary eye care centres in towns, and 65 primary care centres in large villages. The centre at Hyderabad has so far provided limbal stem-cell- based therapy to over 700 patients.

The scheme is now open to applications from for-profit or not-for-profit institutions, governmental or non-governmental organisations, and international organisations operating within the territory of India.