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|LETTER TO EDITOR
|Year : 2021 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 513-514
COVID-19 Pandemic: A Wake-Up Call for Indian Medical Research
Siddharth Agrawal1, Vivek Tandon2
1 Department of Ophthalmology, King George's Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Department of Neurosurgery, AIIMS, New Delhi, India
|Date of Submission||20-Jun-2020|
|Date of Decision||22-Jun-2020|
|Date of Acceptance||16-Mar-2021|
|Date of Web Publication||24-Apr-2021|
Department of Neurosurgery, AIIMS, New Delhi - 110 029
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Agrawal S, Tandon V. COVID-19 Pandemic: A Wake-Up Call for Indian Medical Research. Neurol India 2021;69:513-4
The coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has not only exposed the fault lines in Indian healthcare but has also increased the interest of government and society in medical research. It is time for those involved in research to introspect and present a roadmap for its betterment.
While it is easy to understand that any significant development takes decades of focussed work by the best minds, it is difficult to accept that we have been lagging in contributing to the betterment of medical science. Not meaning to undermine the low cost, population impacting substitutes frequently developed or our traditional system of medicine, but we highlight the missing 'first in human' trials in our country.
Let us first list the benefits we Indian researchers enjoy over western counterparts. We have an unmatched diversity of population which provides us with large patient numbers to work with. They are usually willing for newer modalities when the conventional treatment doesn't work. Our ethical/compensation laws are still compliant, getting research approvals is relatively easy and treatment cost low. This, however, does not imply that one can be careless but thankfully, the lawyers here are still not actively promoting themselves for medical compensations.
Amongst limitations, firstly we're unable to attract and retain talent. The emoluments are minimum, positions temporary, limited infrastructure, unclear intellectual property rights and red-tapism are some of the factors that deter quality research in the country.
Patient care, teaching and research are considered as the 'Trinity of Mission' for an academic post in a medical institute. The truth is most physicians find clinical work more interesting and remunerative. Teaching and administrative responsibilities come next. Sadly, research comes last on the priority list of most talented clinicians.
Quality research is time-consuming and demands high-grade intellectual involvement. Lowly incentives for a highly demanding job, drives most clinicians to look to stop-gap research, just to fulfil the basic criteria for promotions/appraisals in their job. The funding agencies do not give an option of failure to researchers as they are desperate for publications and link further funding to it, making the investigators biased.
This pandemic should be a wakeup call to overcome our reliance on foreign resources for medical equipment, drugs and even research articles to frame the guidelines. One of the best examples of how research is promoted from 'bench to bedside' is the National Institute of Health in United States. This unique institute established with a vision to improve collaboration between innovative basic scientists and clinicians has led to 156 researchers receiving Nobel Prize for their life-changing discoveries and inventions. Indian Government has also been trying to establish institutes on similar lines. Development of Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), National Brain Research Centre and even Convergence Block in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (New Delhi) are some of the examples. High impact papers, path breaking research in the complex field of epilepsy, immunology and virology are some offshoots of these saplings of knowledge.
We still have miles to go before we make a mark on the world stage. To achieve this focus should be on removing bureaucratic hurdles, providing adequate incentives, and promoting public-private partnerships to motivate intelligent clinicians to full-time research. Industry collaborations have many advantages like improved funding, feedback, guidance, and future jobs for students. Efforts of Indian Council of Medical Research to protect the intellectual property rights of the researchers, technology transfer for commercialization and royalty sharing with innovator are steps in the right direction and worthy of applause. We hope this pandemic can galvanize the Indians to improve and focus on good quality research for a better future.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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