Tata Trusts to fund innovations, technologies to combat TB and malaria

SEM photo of Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. - Photo NIAD-Optimized
The India Health Fund aims to support new products and strategies that impact the entire lifecycle of TB and malaria

For the first time an Indian philanthropic organisation will be funding science to combat infectious diseases. The India Health Fund (IHF), an initiative by Tata Trusts, in collaboration with the Global Fund will financially support innovations and technologies designed to combat tuberculosis and malaria.

At a time when funding for science by the Indian government has not seen any increase, the India Health Fund (IHF), an initiative by the Tata Trusts, in collaboration with the Global Fund has come forward to financially support innovations and technologies designed to combat tuberculosis and malaria. This is the first time an Indian philanthropic organisation is funding science to combat infectious diseases.

The IHF aims to support new products and strategies that impact the entire lifecycle of TB and malaria, from prevention to post-cure recovery. It has invited applications working in four specific areas. “The IHF aims to support individuals and organisations with already germinated innovative strategies, services, products, such that they become sustainable and scalable solutions in addressing TB and malaria. It is not a fellowship to do research from scratch,” says Jayeeta Chowdhury, Programme Head- IHF, Tata Trusts.

While not disclosing the quantum of funding earmarked for the initiative, Ms. Chowdhury says a “large partnership building is under way” and is a “long-term exercise” aligned with the country’s goal of eliminating TB by 2025 and malaria by 2030. Elaborating further, she says: “IHF will promote innovative solutions such that they are widely accessible and are affordable.”

The IHF has committed to funding solutions that address TB and malaria as these two diseases pose the biggest and long-standing health challenges for India. The two diseases account for over 423,000 deaths and around 1.5 million lab-confirmed cases every year. India accounts for 26% of the global TB burden and 68% of all malaria cases in the Southeast Asia region.

On whether it will fund innovations and technologies only in the four designated areas, Ms. Chowdhury says: “IHF will continue to focus on TB and malaria, but the areas may or may not be the same. It will evolve as it grows. But this time, it will be restricted to the areas mentioned.”

The quantum of funding might increase in the future depending on new partners joining the initiative. “Effort will be to expand the partnership and have a wider base of donors/investors,” Ms. Chowdhury says.

Four focus areas

The four areas for which applications are invited are:

1) Use of technology and data science to strengthen surveillance of TB and malaria, inform early warning systems, and improve early detection and prompt treatment.

2) Promotion of robust molecular diagnostic facility/pathway feasible for primary healthcare in low-resource settings for expediting diagnosis and improving accuracy of results.

3) Innovations on effective communication strategies that will prevent transmission of TB and malaria, and enable populations to protect themselves from the diseases, and

4) Research to generate new knowledge on malaria on an innovative solution/approach in vector surveillance to understand vector dynamics.

The last date for submission of applications is March 19. More details can be found here.

Published in The Hindu on February 9, 2018

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