|Health Officials Renew Indo-U.S. Vaccine Action
U.S. and Indian health officials have renewed the Indo-U.S. Vaccine
Action Program (VAP), a 20-year-old bilateral collaboration supporting
research on vaccines, immunology and related biomedical issues.
The VAP aims to reduce the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases
of public health significance in India, the United States and other
parts of the world, and to promote vaccines as one of the most
cost-effective health technologies.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias A. Zerhouni,
M.D., and Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology in India,
Maharaj K. Bhan, M.D., signed the Joint Statement on May 3, 2007,
renewing this historic program for another five-year period.
“The Indo-U.S. Vaccine Action Program continues to demonstrate
that international cooperation focused on outstanding research
and the development of critically important public health tools
can save millions of lives,” says Dr. Zerhouni. “The U.S. government
remains steadfast in its commitment to this program and its scientific
May 3, NIH and Indian officials signed a Joint Statement
to renew the successful 20-year-old Indo-U.S. Vaccine Action
program for another five years. (Standing from left) Dr.
S Natesh, Adviser Scientist, Indian Department of Biotechnology;
National Institutes of Health Director, Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni;
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director,
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci; Fogarty International Center Director,
Dr. Roger I. Glass; Secretary of the Indian Department
of Biotechnology, Dr. Maharaj K. Bhan; and Science and
Technology Counselor from the Embassy of India, Dr. Kamal
Kant Dwivedi. Image courtesy of Fogarty International Center.
Dr. Bhan, a former VAP grantee who currently oversees the government
department that implements the program, says that the VAP has been
one of India’s most important and successful international scientific
collaborations since the program began in 1987. “A total of 35
collaborative research projects have been funded over the last
two decades, and many talented young scientists have been trained
through relationships fostered by this program,” he notes.
VAP’s research priorities include acute respiratory illnesses,
hepatitis, rotavirus diarrhea, cholera, leishmaniasis, typhoid,
rabies, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and emerging and re-emerging
Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of
Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and Roger I. Glass M.D.,
Ph.D., NIH associate director for international research and director,
Fogarty International Center, also attended the event and welcomed
continuation of the program. On behalf of the U.S. government,
NIAID manages the VAP and has provided scientific guidance since
“The widespread use of existing vaccines and the development of
new vaccines are essential as we confront vaccine-preventable diseases
globally,” says Dr. Fauci.
Based on the success of VAP, several other NIH institutes and
another agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have signed similar
bilateral agreements with the government of India.
“These collaborations clearly benefit both countries and the global
biomedical and public health research community more broadly,” notes
Many VAP-supported research projects have directly addressed critical
health problems. Rotavirus is responsible for about 20 percent
of diarrhea-related hospitalizations and 100,000 deaths in India
each year. With VAP funding, Indian and American scientists discovered
novel strains of rotavirus in Indian newborns. Further research
confirmed that when these strains are used as a basis for candidate
vaccines, the vaccines might protect against the disease. Drs.
Bhan and Glass developed the candidate vaccine, which is being
tested in large-scale clinical trials in India.
Other successful collaborations include the development of a new
hepatitis C diagnostic test for Indian patients. As a demonstration
of the program’s commitment to move from discovery to public health
impact, VAP also will assist the commercial development of these
diagnostic measures. This is especially important because currently
available diagnostic methods that are reasonably effective in the
United States have shown low specificity in India.
Recently, three VAP scientific missions to India discussed cooperation
on HIV/AIDS, rabies and malaria. Since rabid animal bites and rabies-related
human deaths are common in India, U.S. experts helped review the
status of rabies prevention and recommended actions that might
reduce the number of people who die. Efforts also are under way
to develop collaboration on malaria vaccine research.
The Indian government’s Department of Biotechnology and the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services jointly fund the program.
Research proposals are peer-reviewed by both governments through
established systems. For more information about the Indo-U.S. Vaccine
Action Program, see http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/about/organization/dmid/indo/background.htm.
NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health. NIAID
supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat
infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted
infections, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and illness from potential
agents of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports research on basic immunology,
transplantation and immune-related disorders, including autoimmune
diseases, asthma and allergies. News releases, fact sheets and
other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit www.nih.gov.