[Editorial Analysis] India now a key player in neglected disease treatment

Mains Paper 2: Governance

Prelims level: G-Finder report

Mains level: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Context

• Developing new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics will be critical to achieving this goal.

• We have seen the power of science and innovation throughout history to dramatically improve health and lift generations out of poverty, from penicillin to the meningitis vaccine.

• But it is important to remember that breakthroughs require time, patience, partners and significant investment.

Key highlights of the G-Finder report

• The annual G-Finder report, the world’s most comprehensive analysis of neglected disease research investments, released by Policy Cures Research on 30 January highlights India’s leadership.

• According to the report, the Indian government scaled its contribution by 38% to $76 million in 2017, upholding its position as the fourth-largest public funder globally.
• Moreover, the report calls out India as a key driver of 2017’s overall increase in global public funding.

• A large part of this increase came from ICMR, which substantially increased its investments in malaria, TB and other neglected tropical diseases.

• For the first time ever, ICMR has been placed in the top four largest funders of TB research and development (R&D).

• It is also the only organization from low- and middle-income countries to feature in the top 12 funders.

Development process done by the government

• The Indian government is helping to build a thriving community of scientists working to solve health challenges and connecting startups to create a sustainable ecosystem.

• Apart from providing funding, the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council has developed an ecosystem of programmes and schemes that provide holistic support to startups and small and medium enterprises.

• The new triple drug therapy for eliminating lymphatic filariasis (LF) was launched in December 2018.

• Unlike traditional LF treatments, a single dose of the new triple-drug therapy is enough to kill the adult worm, making it significantly faster, easier and cheaper to cure people.

• India, which bears 40% of the global disease burden, is the first country in South-East Asia to introduce the new treatment regimen.

• In just the past year, two Indian manufactured vaccines (for typhoid and rotavirus) received WHO prequalification.

• India has also made strides developing affordable and accurate diagnostic tools, including a point-of-care molecular detection platform that can detect a variety of infectious agents.

• Such innovations will enable better diagnosis and treatment at the primary health centre level.

Way forward

• Scientific breakthroughs are possible, but far from inevitable. India’s leadership in this space is encouraging, as is its vision for the future: by 2030.

• The government aims to place India among the top three countries globally in science and technology.

• To realize this ambition, India will need to sustain science funding and find new ways to incentivize urgently needed innovation.

• The cutting-edge expertise and technology of the private sector and strong international partnerships will be key.

• And India will need to ensure that new and existing innovations reach the people who need them the most through parallel investments in its health system.

• With global funding in 2017 touching the highest level in more than a decade, there has never been more momentum behind research to speed up the fight against neglected diseases.

• From LF to TB, India is, and must continue to be, a leader in that fight.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is an international nuclear fusion research and
Engineering Megaproject. Which of the following statements are correct about ITER?

1. It is the world’s largest magnetic confinement plasma project.

2. It is designed to generate 500 MW power with an input of 50MW of power.

3. India is one of the seven member countries involved in this project.

Select the code from below:

a) 1 and 2

b) 2 and 3

c) 1 and 3

d) All of the above

Answer: D

Mains Questions:

Q.1) What is called the neglected diseases? How India aims to counter those diseases?

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