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World Bank-funded Programme to Develop Devices to Combat Heart Ailments

In Health
November 28, 2018

Indigenous research institutions, scientists and product developers involved in the making of therapeutic and diagnostic equipment to combat coronary heart ailments and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the two leading causes of non-communicable disease morbidity in Indians, will get a financial boost under a new programme co-funded by the World Bank (WB).

The grant-in-aid scheme, to be implemented by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), is learnt to be backed by the WB under a US$ 125 million loan agreement signed early this year. The objective of the project is to accelerate innovation and commercialisation in the Indian healthcare sector to increase affordability.

The programme will focus on generating medical devices and equipment with greater cost effectiveness than current products in market. Various stages of innovation, including preclinical development, product manufacturing and human trials will get backing.

According to official sources, the products covered under the programme include heart lung machine, ventilator, pacemaker, defibrillator and anaesthesia machine. Besides, companies and R&D organisations can also submit proposals to set up facilities to address the needs of device developers for testing, verification and pilot batch production.

As per the project guidelines issued by the Department of Biotechnoloy, proposals must be budgeted on a milestone basis and the funding will be awarded for four years. Foreign nationals and entities can be included as technical consultants if they have a capability that is not available among the project partners.

All proposals will go through a peer-review process by national and international reviewers to assess merit. A scientific advisory group will collate results of the reviews and shortlist proposals for further screening.

The plan to focus on initiatives to tackle heart and lung diseases assumes significance as a recent research paper, a part of the Million Death Study project implemented by the Registrar General of India, showed that heart ailments caused more than 2.1 million deaths in India in 2015 at all ages, or more than a quarter of all deaths. At ages 30-69 years, of 1.3 million cardiovascular deaths, or 68.4 per cent, were caused by coronary heart disease. Adults born after the 1970s are much more vulnerable to such deaths than those born earlier.

The Indian medical devices industry is worth around US$ 6 billion and, according to industry estimates, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 15.8 per cent. However, the government’s steps to promote Make in India, including the relaxation on FDI norms, are failing to meet their objectives, as almost 75 per cent of the medical devices in the country are still imported, while only about a third is locally produced.