World leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals or the Global Goals in September 2015 that aim to address problems like poverty, illiteracy, disease and overall lack of quality health care for all, among other key issues. In order to achieve these targets, it is crucial to intensify efforts to foster frugal innovation and research around the world. The Annual Grand Challenges meeting was held from 18-21 October in Beijing, China, served as a platform to discuss potential solutions centered on the power of research and development of innovative solutions to achieve the Global Goals.
Grand Challenges India was jointly launched by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2013 to promote scientific and technological advances in health through research and innovation, exclusively for Indian researchers. Under the initiative, the DBT and the Gates Foundation have pledged an investment up to US$25 million each, over the period of 5 years. Grand Challenges India seeks to promote and nurture innovations in vaccines, drugs, agricultural products, and interventions related to improving maternal and child health.
In India, an estimated 1.27 million children die every year before completing 5 years. 81% of under-five child mortality takes place within one year of birth which accounts for nearly 1 million infant deaths and 57 per cent of under-five deaths take place within the first one month of life accounting for 730,000 neo-natal deaths every year in the country. Globally, India continues to be the country with the highest number of people (597 million people) practicing open defecation. Dr. Renu Swarup, Managing Director, Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council and Senior Advisor, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India said.
“We must recognize the need of innovation in developing societies. Encouraging innovation is of principal importance to tackle the problems of open defecation, child morbidity and mortality and malnutrition among mothers and children. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, have come together to tap the vast potential available in India and drive health innovation in the country.” said Trevor Mundel, President of the Global Health Division, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The first two grants under Grand Challenges India focused on, ‘Achieving Healthy Growth through Agriculture and Nutrition’ and ‘Reinvent the Toilet Challenge’. The latest grants under the initiative ‘All Children Thriving’ were awarded in 2015. Collectively there are 17 researchers and social entrepreneurs from across the country being funded under the partnership. The aim is promote innovation aligned with achieving the SDGs 2, 3 and 6, i.e., end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture; ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages; and ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.