BUILDING A HEALTHY FUTURE
Majority of the research activities of the Indian Council of Medical Research are directed towards diseases that have significant links with socio economic development of the country
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known,” echoes the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the apex body in India known for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research. Set up in 1911, the ICMR was initially named Indian Research Fund Association (IRFA) but soon after Independence, with an expansion of its research activities and outreach, it was renamed as Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in 1949.
The ICMR has now transformed into a vibrant network of 32 permanent Institutes/ Centres including Regional Centres and around 111 field stations/units. Since its inception, the mission of ICMR continues to be to promote better health for the vast population through research. The Council has accepted a twin track approach to meet its objectives – intramural research (through its Institutes) and extramural research (through grants-in-aid to projects in NON-ICMR institutions). The permanent Institutes of ICMR strategically located in different parts of the country are mission-oriented discipline/diseasespecific laboratories. Extramural research is promoted basically to strengthen the biomedical expertise and infrastructure especially in medical colleges and the university system. It is aimed at developing and fostering a culture of research in academia.
The research priorities of the Council coincide with national health priorities. The Council works in congruence with the national health programmes, which have well designed targets for control, elimination and eradication of diseases. The majority of the research activities of the Council are directed towards diseases that have significant links with poverty. The Council has special focus on health of marginalised and under privileged sections of society and is responsive to issues of equity, gender, ethnicity and race. The ICMR has provided critical research support whenever the health needs of the country demanded rapid responses. With globalisation, international collaborative research has also increased in recent past.
ICMR is now one of the constituent bodies of the newly created Department of Health Research (DHR) in the Ministry of Health & Family welfare, Govt of India, whose vision is “to bring modern health technology to the people through innovations related to diagnostics, treatment methods and vaccines for prevention.
LAYING A ROAD MAP FOR ‘HEALTHY’ INITIATIVES
ICMR is working on various indigenously developed medical technologies/devices/kits, etc, which are cost effective and applicable in primary health care system. Following major technologies have been developed and released in recent years: First indigenously developed “Japanese Encephalitis vaccine (JENVAC)” under Public Private Partnership (PPP). The indigenous virus strain was isolated and characterized by the ICMR’S National Institute of Virology at Pune and the strains were transferred to Bharat Biotech for further vaccine development. An indigenous “Thalassemia Detection Kit” has been developed by the ICMR’S National Institute of Immunohaemotology, Mumbai. An indigenous device “AV Magnivisualizer for Detection of Cervical Cancer” has been developed by the ICMR’S Institute of Cytology and Preventive Oncology, Noida. Simple and affordable technologies for glucose monitoring—device and testing strip—suchek & Quickcheq” have been
developed by Nanobios Lab, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai & BITS, Hyderabad campus respectively with extramural funding from ICMR. An indigenous affordable technology “PCR Based Food borne Pathogens Detection Kit” has been developed by the ICMR’S National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad. This technology was developed in Joint collaboration with Bioserve Biotechnologies Pvt. Ltd., Hyderabad. An indigenous affordable technology “ELISA Kit for Ferritin Estimation” has been developed by the ICMR’S National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad. An indigenous affordable technology “Dried Blood Spot (DBS) Collection Kit for Vitamin-a Analysis” has been developed by the ICMR’S National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad. An indigenous affordable technology “Non – Invasive Rapid Diagnostic Tests for Kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis) using Urine as well as Oral fluid samples have been developed by the Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna.
TECHNOLOGIES READY FOR RELEASE
IGG ELISA diagnostic kit for paragonimiasis (lung fluke infection) developed at RMRC, Dibrugarh: Paragonimiasis is more common in crabs and crayfish eating communities. It is difficult to differentiate between pulmonary tuberculosis and paragonimiasis by X-ray chest. This is an ELISA based diagnostic kit for the differential diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis and paragonimiasis. The community where pulmonary paragonimiasis and pulmonary tuberculosis are co-existent and endemic, especially in tribal areas, diagnosing pulmonary paragonimiasis by this ELISA based test helps in getting the treatment correctly and cures the patients in couple of days at much cheaper cost.
Development of recombinant IGM ELISA for the diagnosis of leptospirosis developed at RMRC, Port Blair: Leptospirosis IGM ELISA is a diagnostic test for leptospirosis. It detects leptospira specific antibodies through the principle of ELISA. The test can be used as a confirmatory diagnosis in outbreak conditions. IGM ELISA can be performed at district hospitals, referral hospitals and corporate hospitals.
Diagnostic method for Chlamydia trachomatis developed at NIRRH, Mumbai: The technology involves use of a sensitive and specific Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) for detection of Chlamydia trachomatis, a sexually transmitted bacteria. This method is simple compared to available methods of detection. Time required for the test is 2 hours, much less compared to other available detection methods.
Personal Cooling Garment system developed at NIOH, Ahmedabad: The personal cooling garment (PCG) has been designed & developed to protect people who are exposed to hot environment. It is a battery operated cooling system that is easy to set up and use. Unlike other cooling garments it is light weight and allows person to move around freely at work place and perform his routine work comfortably.
Urine based diagnostic kits for fertility assessment developed at NIRRH, Mumbai: Measurement of key reproductive hormones namely estradiol (E2), progesterone (P), luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in serum forms an important adjunct in the management of infertility. The four indigenously developed ELISA based kits measure urinary estrone glucuronide, pregnanediol glucuronide, LH and FSH, thus making sampling totally non-invasive. The tests can be used at district level Centres equipped with an ELISA reader.
Resazurin Reduction Test (RRT) for assessment of metabolically active sperm developed at NIRRH, Mumbai: Resazurin Reduction Test can be used to assess the quality of sperm. So far no test which is as simple and cost effective as RRT is available in India. This test may be introduced in infertility clinics or even in Primary Health Care Centers in rural and urban set up as
a preliminary screening test.
REACHING OUT TO PEOPLE
Flagship Programs To connect with the people and better understanding of the health needs of the deprived and inaccessible population, ICMR has launched following flagship programmes for better health management: Tribal Health Research Forum: A Network of 16 ICMR Institutes. Research programme on hypertension and nutrition has been started & malaria and TB developed with a goal of improving health of tribal and other marginalized communities. Vector Borne Diseases Science Forum: Multi-centric programmes on malaria, filariasis, JE/AES initiated. The forum provides a common platform to work in synergy with the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme to discuss and find appropriate solution to various vector borne diseases.
ICMR in collaboration with DHR is striving hard to create a robust research atmosphere in the country through strengthening of infrastructure & providing necessary support & capacity building in remote/marginalized areas. The aim is to find better & affordable health care solutions for larger part of the population and helping Govt. in making health care a social movement.