INDIA: Big grant for biomedical research

Biomedical research in India is in for good times. The UK-based Wellcome Trust, the world's largest private sector funding agency for biomedical research, has joined with India's Department of Biotechnology to create a new biomedical research career programme. The £80 million (US$148.3 million), five-year partnership will not only boost cutting-edge biomedical research but also complement the recent Wellcome Trust investment to support public health research in the country.

The partnership aims to strengthen the research base of Indian biomedical science by providing fellowships to researchers, from newly qualified post-doctorates through to senior researchers. In particular, the new programme will address the lack of opportunities for PhDs in biomedical sciences to find suitable openings within the country by building excellent career pathways for scientists working in basic biomedical, clinical and veterinary research.
Three levels of fellowships are planned:

* Early career fellowships: For the most promising newly qualified post-doctoral researchers, to help them make an early start in launching their independent research careers, working in the best laboratories in India and overseas.
* Intermediate fellowships: For high-flying post-doctoral scientists to undertake high-quality research and establish themselves as independent research scientists. Candidates must have made substantial contributions to their research field.
* Senior fellowships: For outstanding biomedical scientists who have an excellent track record in their field, working in the best research institutions anywhere in the world, and who can demonstrate their ability to carry out independent research.

A public charitable trust called the Wellcome Trust-DBT India Alliance has been formed to administer the fellowship programme. Each year, the New Delhi-based alliance will award around 40 early careers fellowships, 20 intermediate fellowships and 15 senior research fellowships.

The Wellcome Trust has been funding biomedical research globally for more than 70 years. It will use its expertise to enable staff from the alliance to implement a robust, peer-review funding process.

"This initiative has the potential to have a significant impact on the health and prosperity of India and South Asia," said Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust. "We aim to nurture and develop a world-class cohort of biomedical researchers."

Dr Maharaj K Bhan, DBT Secretary, said the fellowships would help attract the best scientists back to work in India.

At the launch of the programme, India's Science Minister, Kapil Sibal, announced that all papers written by the Wellcome-DBT Fellows would be made freely available on the Internet. Stevan Harnad, an open access champion, said this was in line with the Wellcome Trust's policy.

The new programme will complement the Wellcome Trust's recent investment of £15 million ($21 million) in three public health related projects