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UK's Trade Commissioner for South Asia highlights recent noteworthy collaborations between the UK and India in the life sciences sector.
Global health security is a global priority with outbreaks like the Coronavirus, and that is where the UK and India are making strides.
UK-India healthcare partnerships extend from antimicrobial resistance, the launch of the $13-million Fleming Fund in India, and through innovations in diagnostics.
Brexit offers the prospect of a new and exciting era in UK-India relations especially exploring new technology and digital tools to reimagine healthcare and life sciences.
Over the last two years, I have witnessed the deepening and strengthening of the India-UK trade relationship in health and life sciences for both mutual benefit and to become a force for global good. As the current Coronavirus outbreak has shown us yet again, global health security is a global priority for human survival, and that is where the UK and India are making strides.
We are building our partnership with India in the crucial area of antimicrobial resistance and improving global surveillance with the launch of the $13-million (£10-million) Fleming Fund in India, and through innovations in diagnostics with CARB-X and the Longitude Prize. This will make good use of our joint research investment of more than $26 million (£20 million) over the last five years.
There is also the Science Museum's excellent SUPERBUGS Exhibition, brought to India in partnership with the Indian Government, which shows the depth of engagement our two countries have in this field. The UK's departure from the EU offers the prospect of a new and exciting era in UK-India relations, and it is clear that exploring new technology and digital tools to reimagine healthcare and life sciences in all fields will be the best way forward. As India embarks on its ambitious Digital Health agenda, the UK government, and the UK's researchers and innovators are exploring ways of working with Indian counterparts. This includes setting up an India-UK Centre for Health Data and Bioinformatics with the Indian Government.
A recent delegation of UK healthcare businesses that accompanied NHS Chairman Lord Prior to India were able to showcase their Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology already in use in the country. This included AI tools from UK companies such as Macusoft - which is piloting screening for diabetic retinopathy in Bhopal - and Feebris, which is screening children for pneumonia in a primary healthcare setup in the slums of Govandi in Mumbai. Another example of smart technology is CMR Surgical who have a next-generation surgical robotic system that has been designed to support surgeons to deliver the benefits of minimal access surgery to patients.
What's even more impressive about these technologies is that not only are they accessible, they are also affordable. As the Indian government embarks on Ayushman Bharat 2.0, which will revamp India's healthcare regulatory structures for medical devices and prioritise technology leveraging and innovation to become a global leader in health, the time is right for the forging of a stronger and more strategic UK-India partnership in this crucial area.
The depth of this partnership is based on the “living bridge” of countless people from the UK and India who have lived and worked together and have rich stories that stretch generations. We have built on this bridge through government-to-government commitments such as the Tech Partnership, the UK-India Ministerial Joint Working Group on Health and Life Sciences, the agreements between our regulators and arm's-length bodies and the innumerable institutional and academic relationships such as those of Cancer Research UK with India's Department of Biotechnology. This rich and diverse relationship for global good between our two countries in health and life sciences is a high point of my career. I'm glad that the Department for International Trade along with the Consulate General of India, Birmingham, with the support of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, are organising the second India-UK Healthcare Conference. I encourage you to make the most of the opportunity this conference offers and be a part of this exciting story that promises to change the face of healthcare around the world.
Crispin Simon is British Deputy High Commissioner: Mumbai & West of India and Her Majesty′s Trade Commissioner for South Asia.