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DBT calls for LoI to support development of drugs to treat cancer

Gireesh Babu, New Delhi
Tuesday, January 31, 2023, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has initiated efforts to support research and development of affordable and effective therapies to reduce the incidence of cancer in the country, with an aim to make the nation cancer free by 2047.

The Department has called for Letter of Intent (LoI) on Cancer Disease Biology Research to meet the challenges to identify and quantify cancer risk factors in Indian population to better understand regional variations, enabling new approaches to cancer prevention; identify affordable approaches/screening tools to improve early detection of cancers; and generate affordable and effective therapies and outcome against cancer using small molecules.

The aim of the research should also be to understand the mechanism of cancer development and develop affordable artificial intelligence tools/computational methods to reduce the cost of cancer care delivery.

"Cancer disease is a major public health concern in India. India sees an incidence of more than one million new cases of cancer every year, a number that is likely to increase given the increasing age of the Indian population and lifestyle changes," said DBT.

Cancer is enormously complex and highly adaptable; many subtypes of the disease have distinct clinical features and susceptibilities to therapy. Many cancers are still not diagnosed until they are at advanced stages and some resist most attempts at treatment, it added.

DBT has been at the forefront of funding cancer research in India and the LoI is with an aim to make a Cancer Free India by 2047, and to further research and development (R&D) in this direction, added the Department.

Those who submit the letter should follow a format released by the DBT, which seeks details such as title of the proposal; details of institutions & investigators involved in the project; aims and objectives of the proposal - clearly defining the unmet need being addressed; specific biological/technological questions in the context of the unmet need and its rationale; current state of the proposed research in the Indian and international context; novelty of the proposal; expected outcomes and their potential applications in the Indian context; and scope of development of resources to be made available for the larger scientific community (if applicable).

Besides, the LoI should also include a brief curriculum vitae of the investigators (with details of 5-6 most relevant publications, patents etc.); and a tentative institution-wise budget (also budget break-up for recurring and non-recurring heads).

Scientist(s)/clinician(s)/researcher(s)/academician(s) with sound scientific/clinical and technical backgrounds and relevant publications working in regular capacity in recognized research institutions/medical colleges/academic institutions/universities desirous of undertaking research activities as enumerated above can submit LoIs against this call.

For non-government institutions, DSIR-recognition as a Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (SIRO) is a must. The host institution should undertake the overall responsibility of implementing the project including following of relevant statutory requirements/norms/guidelines/procedures.

The last date of submission of applications is March 15, 2023. Shortlisted LoIs will be invited to submit a full proposal for a period of three years through the Department's electronic project management information system (eProMIS) under the programme cancer disease biology, and it will be reviewed and evaluated as per the extant DBT norms, it added.

According to a report by multidisciplinary professional services organization, EY India, in October, 2022, India has a poor cancer detection rate of 29%, with only, 15% and 33% of breast lung and cervical cancers being diagnosed in stages 1 and 2, respectively, which is significantly lesser than that in China, the UK and the US.

EY, which collaborated with industry body FICCI for Call for Actoin: Making quality cancer care more accessible and affordable in India, said that while at one hand incidence is rising, deaths due to cancer has remained among the top 5 causes of deaths in India over the last decade. Estimates indicate that the total deaths due to cancer will be around 8 to 9 lakh in 2020, causing the mortality to incidence ratio for different cancer types in India being among the poorest compared to global counterparts.

"Based on reported cancer incidence and mortality across age groups and years of potential productive life lost (YPPLL) due to the same, estimates indicate that the economic burden in terms of GDP losses is in the range of US$ 11billion. (0.4% of national Gross Domestic Product [GDP]) in 2020. The same is projected to increase to US$ 36 billion to US$ 40 billion by 2030, driven by a projected increase in mortality, improvement in life expectancy and increase in GDP per capita," it added.


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