Curing TB has always been a tough fight. India happens to share one of the heaviest burden in the world, killing two Indians every three minutes and more than 1,000 people every day. The Global Tuberculosis Report 2016 released in October 2016 by the World Health Organisation updated the estimate of incidence – that is, the number of new tuberculosis cases in a year – to 2.8 million in 2015. The updated estimate of tuberculosis deaths, excluding deaths of HIV-positive people, is 478,000 in 2015 and 483,000 in 2014. People are reluctant to complete the whole course of treatment as it is still considered a social stigma. The bacterial strains associated with TB is also prone to undergo mutations, that makes it drug resistance, making it still harder to deal with the available medicines.
The “India TB Research and Development Corporation” (ITRDC), a flagship initiative by Indian Council of Medical Research, aims to bring together all major national and international stakeholders to develop new tools (drug, diagnostics, vaccines) for TB. The vision of the corporation is “To achieve Elimination of TB from India by investing in new tools (drugs, diagnostics, vaccines) as well as provide these solutions to the world.”
The “India TB Research and Development Corporation” (ITRDC), a flagship initiative by ICMR, aims to bring together all major national and international stakeholders to develop new tools (drug, diagnostics, vaccines) for TB. The vision of the corporation is “To achieve Elimination of TB from India by investing in new tools (drugs, diagnostics, vaccines) as well as provide these solutions to the world.”
Elaborating on the initiative, Soumya Swaminathan, DG (ICMR) stated that under the guidance of the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi , TB has been taken as a national priority. The aim is to reduce the incidence on new TB cases by 95% and reduce mortality by 95%. She also stated that research will be accelerated to improve cure rates and to accelerate decline in new cases. She added that implementation research will focus on finding and framing strategies to treat TB patients by involving al stakeholders. The aim is to ensure that all TV patients get assured quality diagnosis and treatment.
The initiative has been undertaken after a consensus from the various Government, Non-Government and international research organizations in a high level meeting with officials from MOH&FW, DBT, CSIR, DST, TDB, WHO, Gates Foundation in Feb 2016 wherein all the members agreed to support the Corporation. The concept also has an in-principle by PMO for setting up a new entity.
In a few months time the detailed landscape analysis of the national and global leads in four thematic areas namely diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics and implementation research has been done and most advanced leads have been identified for taking forward. The first International Scientific Advisory Group (ISAG) meeting was convened on 9th and 10th November in New Delhi bringing together the eminent international and national TB experts from four thematic areas. The ISAG consisted of 6 international experts and 3 experts from India. Members of International Scientific Advisory Group include the following: Dr. Barry Bloom, Distinguished Service Professor, Harvard University, USA, Chair ITRDC , Dr. Madhukar Pai, Director, McGill Global Health Programs, Canada, Dr. Samir K. Brahmachari, Founder Director, CSIR – IGIB, & Chief Mentor OSDD, Delhi, Dr. Christian Lienhardt, Senior Research Adviser, Global TB Program, Geneva, Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India, New Delhi, Dr. Stefen H. E. Kaufmann*, Professor, Max Planck Institute, Germany, Dr. Peter Small, Founding Director, Global Health Institute, USA, Dr. P. R. Narayanan, Former Director, NIRT, Chennai, Dr. Lalitha Ramakrishnan, Professor of Infectious diseases,University of Cambridge , UK , and Dr. Abdool Karim, Caprissa Professor,Epidemiology & Public Health, Columbia University,USA.