New Delhi: India and the US have tied up to explore traditional medicine systems like ayurveda in the search for cancer medicines. The two countries signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) during this week’s bilateral 2+2 summit that, ThePrint has learnt, provides for exchange of scientists, data and material on a regular basis for research to find complementary and alternative medicines for cancer.
The LoI was signed on 27 October between the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS), the apex body in India for undertaking, coordinating, formulating, developing and promoting research in ayurveda under the Ministry of AYUSH, and the Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM), an agency under the US government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The NIH is the largest biomedical research agency in the world and operates under the US Department of Health and Human Services.
In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the four ministers involved — Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Union External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper — were quoted as having “applauded the signing of the LoI”.
Reached for comment, AYUSH Ministry Secretary Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha said the collaboration “is a welcome move”. “It opens the door for long-term association in the area of research on AYUSH systems, particularly in the area of cancer prevention and treatments,” he added.
Details of the collaboration
ThePrint has accessed details of the collaboration through a note prepared by the CCRAS as a precursor to the LoI.
The pact seeks to promote bilateral collaboration on research programmes in mutually identified areas.
Through the arrangement, India will be able to access the OCCAM’s resources, lectures, conferences, and workshops, the organisation’s expert review on relevant institute-supported projects and programmes, and work on identifying gaps in existing cancer research.
The OCCAM will also collaborate with the CCRAS on work related to preclinical and clinical studies, and help the institute identify key areas where research work can be intensified, including potential cooperative initiatives and research programmes.
The LoI provides for exchange of technical inputs and human resources as well.
The CCRAS note refers to “exchanges of scientists in the field of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) research, including in ayurveda, through which the participants expect to gain from each other’s expertise”.
According to a government official in CCRAS, the collaboration “ensures extension of technical support by American organisation OCCAM to CCRAS in the field of complementary and alternative medicine research related to cancer etc”.
The participating agencies, according to the official, can also conduct “separate data transfer, material transfer or confidentiality arrangements” in areas other than those under the LoI.
‘Research work to be monitored on daily basis’
The LoI emphasises that collaborative research work should be monitored by the participants on “a regular basis”. “Both participants intend to assess the roles of both the participants and suggest mechanisms to achieve the objectives set out under this LoI,” said the note.
“The participants understand that all activities contemplated under this LoI are subject to the availability of personnel, resources, and appropriated funds. The participants intend for all collaborative activities under this LoI to be conducted in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and procedures in both countries,” it added.
The official described the LoI as “another milestone in the history of the healthcare industry”.
“Ayurvedic medicine will be a valuable contribution to the current goals for providing a better and safe healthcare system to the universe, specifically towards developing a safe and effective integration of ayurveda,” the official said.