Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Secretary, Department of Health Research and Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), pointed out to the Committee that the budget of National Institute of Health in the US (a body whose mandate is similar to that of ICMR) is 32 billion dollars a year, and a large amount of that budget goes into basic research. In comparison, the budget of ICMR for the current year (2017-18) is equivalent of a mere $232 million. Notably, ICMR spent an equivalent amount during the previous two years. Dr Swaminathan further informed that it takes two-and-a-half billion dollars to develop a new drug from scratch and it needs thousands of scientists working on it at different stages. So, that explains to some extent why the research output of ICMR leaves much to be desired.
Dr Swaminathan told the Committee that the Department would try to maximise the output with the given allocation of Rs 1500 crore in the year 2017-18. “Small amount of money would be distributed to many small projects across the country and hence a very big impact in health research may not be seen. Therefore, certain themes have been selected for the next 4-5 years including TB, MDR TB, drug resistance, viral infections, other vector borne diseases and other non-communicable diseases.”
The Committee observed that if the objective of providing affordable quality healthcare for the people and translating research outputs into measurable social and national outcome is to be realised, investments in health research will have to be increased substantially.