Columns Indian Scenario

Fun in funding! The Wellcome Trust/​DBT India Alliance

Anuradha Lohia

The Wellcome Trust-DBT India Alliance, an independent, public charitable trust based in India that has been recently established by the Wellcome Trust (UK) and the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology. As the CEO of this new organization, I firmly believe that Indian scientists are at par with scientists in the developed world, despite being in the developing world. After my PhD in India and post-doctoral training at the NYU School of Medicine, I built my research career in India, working on the cell division of the protozoan parasite Entamoeba histolytica at Bose Institute, Kolkata. My experiences in setting up my lab under stringent conditions of funding, absence of mentors and collaborating groups near me sensitized me deeply about our needs. 

Until very recently, many Indian scientists did not have access to sophisticated infrastructure and a robust support system for managing their research projects. This made research an insurmountable ordeal, especially for the new graduate student. Thus young scientists tend to migrate to developed countries after completing their PhD, leaving their mentors to train graduate students all over again! Additionally, absence of a critical mass of scientists working in related fields in their institutes either prevents collaborative efforts completely or leads Indian PIs to seek collaboration with foreign labs. In order to foster collegiality, mentorship and to nurture successful working groups it is exceedingly important to have sufficient numbers of scientists with complementary skills working together. Finally, the absence of efficient and speedy purchase procedures have been prohibitive for the success of our scientists.

The good news is that a nation-wide understanding of these problems has led to huge investments by the Government of India in building the required infrastructure and creating many new jobs. While government agencies are the primary funders of basic research world-wide, independent agencies have provided extremely competitive support funding that has allowed successful individuals to position themselves as leaders in their fields. The Wellcome Trust (UK), The Howard Hughes (USA) and the HFSP fellowships are a few of such examples.

The WT-DBT India Alliance fellowships are modeled on the Wellcome Trust fellowships and are aimed to identify the current and future leaders of Indian science. Through our competitive schemes we will select the most promising young scientists and fund them generously- and flexibly, to accommodate unexpected experiments!! Our mode of funding, promises to ensure the fun of research in India.

We are looking for the current and future leaders of Indian science and to build global centers of excellence in India. Therefore, we are offering three types of fellowship, spanning key career stages from recently qualified post-docs to experienced researchers. These fellowships will be available to Indian nationals or overseas citizens of India. Exceptional candidates who are not of Indian origin, but who wish to conduct research in India, will also be eligible.

The India Alliance will consider applications from fellows working across the breadth of biomedical science including clinical and public health research. Our support is not restricted to work related to health issues relevant to India as long as the science is original, innovative and excellent!

I am also keen to ensure that this research will be carried out across India, rather than being concentrated — as it is now — in the metropolitan cities. We are aiming to support an even distribution of talent across the country, and hope that the infrastructure will also be distributed similarly.

In evaluating the very best scientists and their proposals, we lean on expert reviewers and selection committees that include leaders from all over the world including India, to ensure an international perspective along with sensitivity to Indian conditions.

The India Alliance has a very competent team of grants advisors and managers who are themselves PhDs with post-doctoral experience that has allowed them to specialize and therefore they have the required understanding in facilitating evaluation of the proposals. I invite all potential applicants to get in touch with our team at info@​wellcomedbt.​org and to visit our website www​.well​comedbt​.org. We may take up to a week to reply to your queries, but we will reply! If you are in a hurry and don’t wish to miss a deadline – call us. Our contact numbers are given at the website as well.

Heading up one of the major new initiatives to boost biomedical research in India is a massive challenge that I am ready to face head on. I am looking forward to bringing back a lot of talent to India and keeping them here.