Dept of Biotechnology Showcases India's R&D Potential in Berlin
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Dept of Biotechnology Showcases India’s R&D Potential in Berlin

  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), USAID, Wellcome Trust, and Grand Challenges Canada were notable participants.
  • The Grand Challenges India (GCI) program, started by BIRAC (Govt. of India), BMGF and USAID, aims to promote Indian innovators to fix crucial health and development challenges facing the nation.

October 23, 2018, Berlin, Germany: An important Unit of Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), Gov. of India in a roundtable meeting in Berlin brought together donors development partners and multiple organizations to explore avenues for collaborations to innovate in India. It saw high-level involvement from donor agencies like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), United State Agency for International Development (USAID), Wellcome Trust and Grand Challenges Canada, among others.

Dr. Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India said: “In the
last two decades, we’ve made significant advances in science and technology that have altered the lives of millions in the nation. As India aspires to be a leader in research and development, it’ll be important to continue to foster collaborations between nations and donor agencies that are interested, to attain common targets. This meeting was organized to showcase India’s immense research potential and we are happy to mention that the country is still a preferred partner for cooperation for research and innovation.”

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To bridge the gap between business and academia and promote innovation to deal with social needs in the biotechnology area, the Government of India set up BIRAC, a wholly owned company of the Government of India under the Department of Biotechnology. The
Programme Management Unit (PMU) in BIRAC was created to handle projects and initiatives on behalf of donor organizations such as the Department of Biotechnology,
Government of India and BMGF who have the potential to alter the lives of millions in India. In 2013, the BIRAC-PMU, BMGF and USAID began the Grand Challenges India (GCI) program, which aims to promote Indian innovators, to fix crucial health and development challenges that India faces. For a partner, Wellcome Trust joined PMU-BIRAC in 2016.

Dr. Steven Buchsbaum, Deputy Director, Discovery & Translational Sciences, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation stated that: “We are deeply encouraged by the increase of the Grand Challenges India initiative. India, with history and its research potential of innovation and science, has been an integral partner of the International Grand Challenges Community. Through our association with the Department of Biotechnology, we’ve taken great strides in addressing various public health and development challenges, and we expect to continue partnering with the Indian authorities in their endeavor to make India a global biotechnology hub.”

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Grand Challenges India (GCI) program has supported projects at various stages from Jobs to innovation projects, from basic science research from labs to projects and to scale-up at various stages in their lifecycle. BIRAC is currently pursuing research efforts across areas, including vaccines immunity, maternal and child health information systems diagnostics development, food and nutrition, sanitation and hygiene. GCI, which began with 2 apps, has funded over 20 projects across 4 applications in five decades and has dedicated over USD 30 million in financing.

Dr. Shirshendu Mukherjee, Mission Director, Programme Management Unit, BIRAC Said:”It’s heartening to see that the growth of BIRAC and the Grand Challenges India initiative. With support from the Government of donor agencies and India, we’ve contributed to creating a more enabling environment for entrepreneurship. These projects demonstrate incredible potential in addressing persisting social challenges, which are pertinent to not only the federal context, but global as well.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to Place India among the top few nations Government initiatives like Start-Up India And Make in India  Entrepreneurship in various sectors. From the biotechnology space, in The government launched its National Biotechnology Development Strategy 2015-20 with the aim of creating a business by 2020.