Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research (CCGHR)
Number 13, January 2005
Greetings to all Coalition members (now numbering about 400) as we move into 2005.
This Bulletin will be mostly about India—I’ll explain why below. But first an update to last
month’s Bulletin (#12 December 2004) that featured the Coalition’s Task Group on
Partnership Development. This report included an invitation to any Coalition members
who were particularly interested in this topic to contact Dr. Jacques Girard, the task
group chair. I recently met with Jacques, who informed me that he has received about
100 e-mail messages from individuals expressing interest. So the issue of research
partnerships is obviously of interest to a significant number of our colleagues. Jacques
and his team have begun the next chapter of their work, and will be contacting all those
interested in due course.
HEALTH RESEARCH IN INDIA:
During the first two weeks in January, I was privileged to be part of a 9-person CIHR
team that had been invited by Prof. N. Ganguly, Director General of the Indian Council
for Medical Research (ICMR) to explore an India-Canada partnership in health research.
The team was led by Dr.Alan Bernstein (CIHR president). It included 3 CIHR Institute
directors (John Frank, Bruce McManus, Baghirath Singh) and several other Canadians
who are actively involved in collaborative research in India—including Naranjan Dhalla,
Salim Yusuf, Prabhat Jha and Peter Singer.
Because this year Prof. Ganguly is also the president of the Indian Science Congress, the
Canadian team was invited to attend and contribute to this annual meeting, held this
year in the city of Ahmedabad (from January 3 – 7); the Canadians each presented
some aspects of their work during the Congress. The delegation had a busy schedule,
meeting with various ICMR Institutes (in New Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad), the
Canadian high commissioner—Ms. Lucie Edwards, senior Government of India officials
(including the ministers of health and finance), and other health research groups.
The visit was capped by the signing of an official Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
between the ICMR and the CIHR, focusing in particular on the research related to ―life
style‖ diseases, and public health. The ICMR colleagues were also very interested in the
challenge of ―knowledge translation‖—which is part of CIHR’s official mandate. The MOU
features activities such as the exchange of scientists, sharing of information, and actual
collaborative research that will be jointly supported by the two agencies.
It was, of course, significant that the visit of the Canadian delegation took place a few
days after the December 26th Asian tsunami disaster. As can be imagined, this altered
the delegation’s plans to some extent. For example, High Commissioner Edwards and her
team at the Canadian high commission were quite pre-occupied with orchestrating
Canada’s response in India. This included managing the visits of both health minister
Dosanjh and Prime Minister Paul Martin (a bit later). Several key ICMR colleagues were
unavailable to meet with us, because of assignments to assist with disaster relief in the
southern part of India. At one point, John Frank (as a public health specialist) was asked
to alter his plans in order to accompany minister Dosanjh to Sri Lanka, to help assess the
Notably, this visit also coincided with the announcement of the CIHR ―Canada-HOPE
Scholarship Program‖. The program is made possible by a grant from Aventis Pharma Inc.
as a consequence of the ―HOPE‖ clinical trial led by Salim Yusuf and other Canadian
researchers. The program will provide young researchers from low and middle income
countries the opportunity to work with Canadian institutions and mentors. The pilot round
of this program will focus on South Asia. Five scholarships will be offered to selected
researchers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Nepal. [Please note that the
deadline for full applications is March 1st. Full details on the request for applications (RFA)
are available on the CIHR website. http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/25500.html
This visit impressed me in many ways—here are 3 brief observations:
• The available ―intellectual capital‖ in India is quite remarkable. A key challenge in
the future will be to engage this resource to address the nation’s significant health
equity situation—where more than 300 million people still live on less that one dollar
a day, and have limited access to effective health care.
• While there is a ―public‖ health research sector (in particular, the ICMR network of
research institutes), it does not play as prominent a role as does the CIHR does in
Canada. In contrast to the Canadian situation, there is quite a strong private sector
health research community. Some research institutes are directly associated with
private health care facilities. There is a rapidly growing pharmaceutical industry, with
its own research component. And there are a number of private health sciences
universities and medical schools—most of these have significant health research
capacity. So a challenge here is to bring together both the public and private
health research sectors to address an agreed upon national health research
• The ―India-Canada health research partnership‖ offers a remarkable opportunity for
these two countries to develop a creative and potentially far-reaching collaborative
research program. Stay tuned for further details.
HAVE YOU READ?:
Dr. Peter Singer (one of the members of the CIHR delegation) and his colleagues at the
Universityy of Toronto’ Joint Centre for Bioethics recently published the results of a 3-year
study: ―Health Biotechnology Innovation in Developing Countries‖. A supplement of the
journal Nature published the results of the study. See in particular the India case study:
Kumar NK, Quach U, Thorsteinsdottir H, Someskhar H, Daar AS, Singer P: Indian
biotechnology—rapidly evolving and industry led. Nature Biotechnology Volume
22 Supplement December 2004 DC 31-36. http://www.nature.com/nbt/index.html
• The Global Forum for Health Research has announced a call for abstracts for Forum
9 (Mumbai, Indai from 12-16 September 2005). The overall theme of Forum 9 will be:
Poverty, equity and health research.
• Garry Aslanyan, member of the GHRI Steering Committee and Ex-Officio member
of the CCGHR has been elected as the President of the Ontario Public Health
Association (OPHA) for the three-year term starting in January 2005 . Founded in
1949, the OPHA is a voluntary, charitable association that provides leadership on
issues affecting the public's health and strengthens the impact of people who are
active in public and community health throughout Ontario.
• A Coalition team has been invited by CIDA to comment on a draft HIV/AIDS
Strategic Framework document—with particular emphasis on a section on
―research‖. Any one interested in reading the Coalition’s initial 7-page response
document can contact Roberta Lloyd for a copy at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
As always, comments are welcome and can be sent to: email@example.com
Vic Neufeld, National Coordinator