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India, UK can build stronger digital health tie-ups, says minister Mandaviya

India and the UK are natural partners in the healthcare sector and can build stronger collaborations across emerging areas of digital health, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya told the India-UK Healthcare Conference in London on Thursday.

Addressing the fourth edition of the annual conference at the Royal College of Physicians virtually from New Delhi, the minister flagged the Serum Institute of India (SII) producing the vaccine developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca scientists and the production of vaccines in the UK by India-headquartered Wockhardt to support the UK’s Covid vaccination drive as great examples of joint India-UK initiatives that provide a strong platform for further research and innovation in the field.

“India and the UK are natural partners and have a history and potential for collaboration in the healthcare sector, which has become even stronger during the pandemic situation,” said Mandaviya.

“Our collaboration on vaccine research and manufacturing has been not only a solution to beat the Covid-19 pandemic but also an example of what can be achieved with a close partnership… India and the UK can look forward to stronger collaboration in areas of pharmaceuticals in addition to the newly emerging area of digital health, genomics, use of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare, to name a few,” he said.

Pointing to the “exemplary success” of India’s National Health Mission, the minister highlighted the government’s Heal in India and Heal by India vision to position the country as a global hub for medical tourism.

“The Modi government has decided to boost India’s medical value travel segment and understand the varied aspects of the sector, its scope, challenges and identify some of the tangible steps the government can actively take to outline a strategic roadmap for Heal in India and Heal by India, aligned with PM Modi’s vision of positioning India as a global hub for medical value travel,” he added.

India’s position as the “pharmacy of the world” and a long history of traditional medicine such as Ayurveda were among the other aspects in focus at the day-long conference organised by the Indian High Commission in London along with the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) to explore areas of future India-UK collaborations and evaluate the lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic.

India’s role in bringing “affordable, adaptable and accessible” technology to all emerged as a central theme.

“In this sector, it’s absolutely appropriate to say that our strengths are synergistic. The UK’s expertise in biotech innovation, healthcare services, infrastructure provision, and healthcare education is complementary to India’s capabilities in drug and vaccine production, in contract manufacturing and medical training as well as our fast-growing ecosystem of technology start-ups,” said Indian High Commissioner to the UK Gaitri Issar Kumar.

The event was also virtually addressed by Biocon Founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who focussed on India’s huge collaborative potential for the UK in digital technology, which is now embedded in biosciences.

“Cell and gene therapies, medical devices and many, many other cutting-edge areas, where there is an urgent need to leverage the power of AI and other digital interventions to accelerate and abbreviate pathways, provide the ideal opportunity for both regulatory systems to harmonise and develop,” she said.

Professor Catherine Green, Associate Professor at the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics who was part of the Oxford University team behind the Covid-19 vaccine, described the India-UK partnership in the field as “thriving” as reflected in further vaccine collaborations in the pipeline with the Serum Institute of India.

The annual India-UK Healthcare Conference, backed by Indian industry groups FICCI and CII as well as the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) and pharmaceutical companies Wockhardt and Aurobindo, has been previously held in Birmingham and is now expected to travel to other cities of the UK in the coming years. PTI

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