ICMR releases National Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and ICMR Strategic Plan 2030, awards 86 scientists

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In order to promote scientific research in the country, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India has released the National Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and ICMR Strategic Plan and Agenda 2030 recently.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi, is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, is one of the oldest medical research bodies in the world. ICMR’s research priorities align with the National health priorities. These efforts are undertaken with a view to reduce the total burden of disease and to promote health and well-being of the population. ICMR promotes biomedical research in the country through intramural as well as extramural research.

ICMR’s Strategic Plan and Vision 2030 outlines ICMR’s vision for the next seven years aims to deal with health challenges faced by the country such as non-communicable diseases, anti-microbial resistance, emerging infections, maternal and child health and issues related to health systems and health care delivery.

The ICMR Strategic Plan and Agenda 2030 is based on 5 key pillars -capacity building, data management, leveraging traditional medicine, evidence to policy and strengthening program implementation through research. The renewed focus on innovation and translation of research into products and schemes of mass benefit is expected to touch the lives of the people in India.

Secretary Department of Health Research and DG-ICMR Dr Soumya Swaminathan said, “It has been ICMR’s endeavour for over a century now to promote scientific research as well as provide scientists with the necessary platform and tools to find solutions to the most difficult health challenges. It is indeed heartening to see the talent pool available in our country today. It gives us immense hope for the future. It will be our constant endeavour to create an enabling environment for the NextGen scientists to help them achieve their full potential and serve the nation.”

The National Guidelines for Stem Cell Research 2017 released will benefit all stakeholders including individual researchers, organizations, sponsors, oversight/regulatory committees and any others associated with both basic and clinical research on all types of human stem cells and their derivatives. The Guidelines which has been revised to ensure that while giving an impetus to stem cell research, it does not in any way compromise the safety of patients and vulnerable individuals. Responsible research must focus on harnessing the potential of science to improve our understanding of human health and illness, as well as discover newer ways to prevent and treat illness.

The 2017 guidelines, reiterate that any stem cell use in patients, other than that for hematopoietic stem cell reconstitution for approved indications, is investigational at present. Accordingly, any stem cell use in patients must only be done within the purview of an approved and monitored clinical trial with the intent to advance science and medicine, and not offering it as therapy. In accordance with this stringent definition, every use of stem cells in patients outside an approved clinical trial is unethical and shall be considered as malpractice. In framing this guidance document, utmost care has been taken to ensure that giving an impetus to stem cell research does not in any way compromise the safety of patients and vulnerable individuals. Also, going forward, sustained efforts will be made to proactively engage with all stakeholders to incorporate appropriate and timely revisions as per the needs of this ever evolving area of research.

On the sidelines of the occasion, government also awarded 86 scientists across India for finding solutions for the important health challenges of the country. Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare, Government of India Anupriya Patel was the Chief Guest, while Dr. V. K. Paul (Member NITI Aayog) and Dr. K. VijayRaghavan (Secretary, Department of Biotechnology) were the Guests of Honour on the occasion. Also present was at the event was Padmashri ‘Vaidya’Rajesh Kotecha (Special Secretary, Ministry of AYUSH).

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