Press release

Wellcome Trust and Indian government announce £80 million partnership to boost biomedical research

The jointly-funded Biomedical Research Career Programme will fund cutting-edge biomedical research in India, and complement recent Wellcome Trust investment to support public health research in the country.

The partnership was announced in New Delhi by Dr M K Bhan, Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, and Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust. The £80m scheme, jointly funded by the Government of India's Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Wellcome Trust over five years, aims to strengthen the research base of Indian biomedical science by providing fellowship programmes to support researchers from newly-qualified postdocs through to senior researchers.

Each year, thousands of PhDs are awarded in the field of biomedical research in India, but the opportunities for researchers to continue postdoctoral work in their home country are limited. Many work outside India, only returning to fill research leader roles far later in their careers. The new fellowships aim to build excellent career pathways in India for scientists working in basic biomedical, clinical and veterinary research.

The programme will be delivered by the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, an independent, public charitable trust based in New Delhi and established by the two partners. Each year, the Alliance is expected to award around 40 early careers fellowships, 20 intermediate fellowships and 15 senior research fellowships.

The Wellcome Trust, which has been funding biomedical research globally for over 70 years, will use its expertise to enable staff from the Alliance to implement a robust, peer-review funding process.

"India has a wealth of academic talent and it is important that we can support the best researchers throughout their careers," says Dr Walport. "We are delighted to have this opportunity to work with the Indian Government. This initiative has the potential to have a significant impact on the health and prosperity of India and South Asia. We aim to nurture and develop a world-class cohort of biomedical researchers."

"India has embarked on a range of new institution building programmes," says Dr Bhan. "We are committed to ensuring that these and already developed places are nurtured to become centres of quality research and learning comparable to the best. By attracting the best scientists back to work in these locations, we hope to make research and discovery a real contributor to health and wellbeing of not only Indians but of humankind in general."

This initiative will build on the Wellcome Trust's long-standing relationship with Indian biomedical research, stretching back over 50 years since it first made an award to Dr Selwyn Baker at the Christian Medical College in Vellore in 1957.

The Trust currently funds 20 International Senior Research Fellows based in India working in research fields as diverse as neuroscience, cell biology, cancer diagnostics, genetics and diseases of the developing world.

In addition to the new fellowship schemes, the Trust has recently made Strategic Awards totalling £15m for biomedical research in the country. These are:

A £5m partnership with the Public Health Foundation of India for the creation of new Indian Institutes of Public Health. Collaboration with a UK consortium will help strengthen the capacity of the public health system in India as a whole, and of institutions within that system, by adopting a mentored 'train the trainers' approach, and by developing and strengthening education and practice networks within India and with international institutions. A new £4.5m South Asia Centre in India to increase the infrastructure to carry out high-quality research on the prevention and control of chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes, mental illness, cancers), the largest burden of preventable disease in India. A £5.5m award to reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity in high mortality populations in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers will build a global network of high-quality scientists and population field sites to generate research evidence to improve policy and practice for maternal and child survival in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Malawi.