'Innovators of medical diagnostic tools can approach us for finances'

Mohammad Aslam, managing director of Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council, tells Down To Earth how the government-aided non-profit hand holds researchers when it comes to medical diagnostics 

By Banjot Kaur
Last Updated: Friday 26 April 2019

MOHAMMAD ASLAM, managing director of Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC),

How does Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) support research and development in medical diagnostics?

We work in three verticals. We support the researchers in funding, right from the incubation of the idea, to the development of the diagnostic tool, and even in getting through the regulatory processes. We help them in patent filing and technology transfer from the developer to the company for commercialisation purpose. The third vertical is to bring all the stakeholders of innovation on one platform.

Who do you support and how much funding do you provide?

From startups to established firms to even government organisations, we support innovative researchers. Individuals who are not registered with a company can also approach us. In 2018-19, BIRAC has devoted Rs 40 crore to medical diagnostics

What is your biggest achievement in diagnostic tools?

We have worked on conventional tools like TB and antimicrobial resistance to cancer and vector borne diseases. There is a diagnostic tool that can detect hearing loss at neonatal stage. This is crucial as that's when the problem can be treated. Our tool is 90 per cent specific and is cost-effective. It has won a number of awards.

Does BIRAC also work with international agencies?

Yes. We work in collaboration with UK-based Nesta, Wellcome Trust, USAID and IKP Knowledge Park which support research in diagnostics. We collaborate with Nesta in providing the famous Boost Grant. This year, three Indian teams have won the grant.

What role does BIRAC see for itself in future diagnostics?

We will direct all our efforts to provide a platform that will converge innovators, academia, research groups, funding organisations and regulatory agencies. We will ensure an ecosystem that would provide suitable infrastructure and facilities at par with any other country so that research and innovation in diagnostics gets a boost.

(This interview was first published in Down To Earth's print edition dated April 16-30, 2019)

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