Sunil Kumar M

Sunil Kumar

Senior Science & Innovation Adviser

Part of Global Science and Innovation Network

29th September 2014 Bangalore, India

Joining for global health

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending two days listening to top experts from UK and India discuss the challenges of drug discovery and challenges faced by patients, policy makers and researchers due to microbes that have become resistant to antibiotics. We had a large UK research delegation in Bangalore to participate in the Open Innovation and Drug Discovery and Anti-Microbial Resistance workshop and a Roundtable held on 11 and 12 September. The workshop and roundtable was organised jointly by the UK Science and Innovation Network and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Discovering new drugs is becoming costlier and takes a much longer time. Day one of the workshop discussed various approaches to Open Innovation to tackle these issues. Experts from UK and India deliberated the issues, and how initiatives like Open Source Drug Discovery, Medicines for Malaria Ventures and Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative were helping address the problem of producing novel drugs at affordable costs. There were also discussions around diagnostics for identifying AMR microbes quickly.

Day two began with a special address from Prof. Samir Brahmachari, chief mentor of the OSSD programme in India, who shared his experience of leading a large government funded drug discovery programme. The day also focused on funders’ perspectives (DBT-BIRAC, ICMR, Research Councils UK and Wellcome Trust) on research collaborations between UK and India in this area. Researchers from both the countries discussed the biology of the organism, mechanisms of resistance building, role of nutrition status and immunity in the host, and tracking AMR microbes in water bodies.

A UK-India Roundtable on antimicrobial resistance and controlling infectious diseases, chaired by Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, was held at the end of the day. This discussed the priorities for research in both countries and how the UK and India can collaborate. All agreed that research will play a critical role in addressing the challenge of AMR. There was a huge amount of enthusiasm for working together on this issue and a large amount of complementary between the research going on in the UK and India. Indeed, the UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC) and India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) are running a joint call for proposals to establish a number of new UK-India joint research centres, including one on AMR. The call closes today (29th September 2014). Further information on the call is available on the MRC and DBT websites

Beyond that, there is already a huge amount going on. The University of Dundee plan to work with the National Centre for Biological Sciences to develop a joint drug discovery programme, including training of Indian scientists in Dundee. The University of Cambridge are already working with the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis on a research programme on diagnostics to assist targeting of TB treatment and mechanisms of boosting host response as an adjunct to conventional TB treatment.

Kings College London and the Indian Institute of Science are working to develop ideas, with other Indian partners, to investigate immunotherapeutic adjuvant strategies to improve current antimicrobial therapies including antimicrobial resistance. And the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are already working with Advinus Therapeutics in Pune on drug discovery for kala azar, the Indian Institute for Chemical biology on a vaccine for kala azar, and the Rajendra Memorial Research Institute, Patna on elimination of kala azar.

The full report of the workshop will soon be available, and we’ll share it when it’s ready. What was abundantly clear was the huge potential for both countries’ research communities to work together on these important issues, so watch this space!

Images from AMR workshop

About Sunil Kumar

Sunil leads on developing research collaborations in Advanced Engineering, Information and Communication Technologies and space. He has varied interests ranging from aerospace, environmental sciences, media to life-sciences. He has a…

Sunil leads on developing research collaborations in Advanced Engineering, Information and Communication Technologies and space. He has varied interests ranging from aerospace, environmental sciences, media to life-sciences. He has a MSc in Environmental Science and diplomas in Environmental Law and Mass Communication. Sunil has a work experience of 17 years. He started his career working on ant ecology at Indian Institute of Science. Later he worked on areas such as conservation practices, protected areas and water pollution at the Centre for Environment Education. He also worked as a journalist at Deccan Herald writing on science and environment. Sunil has also worked on knowledge management with an IT company. Prior to joining the Science and Innovation Network, Sunil worked with UK Trade and Investment as a lead officer for the aerospace sector. Sunil has authored two books and more than 200 popular articles.

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