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Stem cell research making progress in India

Business Standard:  February 19, 2008

Bangalore: “Stem cell research in India has achieved encouraging results. New players are entering with interesting findings and public-private partnership funding is on the rise,” said Dr Geeta Jotwani, assistant director general, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Speaking at the ‘UK-India Round Table on Stem Cell Research and Policy Guidelines’, Jotwani however cautioned that “so far the ICMR has not received any clinical trials or research proposals in stem cells and so we cannot consider claims being made presently for cure or therapy.”

Leading institutions active in this area are the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Reliance Life Science, Indian Institute of Science and LV Prasad Eye Institute.

Globally, stem cell therapy is mainly concentrated in tackling nerve disorders, diabetes, cancer and skin disorders. Market size for stem cell therapy in 2006 was estimated at $26 billion and is expected to touch the $96 billion level by 2015.

“In India, the new stem cell policy which came into force last year has put in place a mechanism for greater private participation and compliance. Review and monitoring of stem cell research has been decentralised at the institutional level,” said Jotwani.

Stem cell research and its funding have been classified into three levels — permissive, restricted and prohibited.

“Permissive research are disease-specific and are being addressed locally at institutional levels. Restricted and prohibited level proposals are to be referred to the central committee and this addresses broader issues like cloning, cell-based engineering and works on reproduction,” she said.

Delivering the Dame Anne McLaren Memorial Lecture, Colin McGuckin from New Castle Centre for Cord Blood, said cord blood-based stem cell therapy is being done on 85 conditions, mainly in blood and immune diseases.

“These therapies are exponentially rising as new trials are appearing every year. In 2007, work on type I diabetes trials have been taken up in Florida. It is not a cure but it has found evidence of support to tackle the disease,” he added.

McGuckin said, “Stem cell technology can reduce pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) by 25 per cent each year with savings of up to $225 million in each drug market. Our technology for pharma pre-clinical testing will help in better prediction of human adverse reactions early in R&D and reduce animal testing.”

To explore collaboration and commercialisation to advance drug discovery, clinical trials, stem cell technology and regenerative medicine, a team of scientists from the UK are in South India from February 18 to February 22 to meet public and private sector institutions and highlight UK expertise in life sciences.

The team is showcasing the UK as an investment destination for hi-tech R&D and exploring opportunities for collaboration and commercialisation of stem cell technology. The visits to Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad are part of a wider mission to Asia that includes Korea and Japan.

Disclaimer: This information has been collected through secondary research and IBEF is not responsible for any errors in the same.