Indo-U.S. Joint Working Group on Vision Research Holds Meeting
"Global Partnerships: Expansion of Collaborative Vision Research" was the focus of the second meeting of the Indo-U.S. Joint Working Group (JWG), held on October 18, 2007 at the Lawton Chiles International (Stone) House on the NIH campus. Some attendees included: Roger I. Glass, M.D., Ph.D., director of the John E. Fogarty International Center; Maharaj K. Bahn, M.D., India's secretary of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology; Leon B. Ellwein, Ph.D., JWG secretary/convener and past associate director for applications of vision research at NEI; and Dorairaj Balasubramanian, Ph.D., director of research at the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute and initiator of the Indo-U.S. collaborative program.
The JWG grew out of two workshops in 2005 attended by leaders in eye and vision research from the United States and India. Workshop participants identified five core research areas:
- Molecular genetics of eye disease
- Clinical aspects of eye disease
- Standardization of clinical measurement techniques and terminology
- Translational physiology: bench-to-bedside applications
- Identification, development, and exchange of research resources
In August 2005, NIH director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., and Dr. Maharaj K. Bahn signed a United States-India Statement of Intent for collaboration on expansion of vision research. Since then, researchers from both countries have begun collaborations in the five core research areas.
In opening remarks at this meeting, Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., NEI director, emphasized the importance of transparency of the research planning process in both countries so investigators can collaborate successfully. "Imagine what creative scientists in two major countries of the world can accomplish," he said.
A wide-ranging discussion ensued covering numerous topics, including:
- The benefits to each country of collaborative vision research projects
- Funding mechanisms for Indo-U.S. research projects
- How to support and train young vision research investigators
- How to match researchers and foster interdisciplinary teams
- The importance of publicity to let investigators know about the Indo-U.S. joint program and to inform the public about the importance of vision research
Loré Anne McNicol, Ph.D., director of NEI's Division of Extramural Research, gave a presentation on an existing Indo-U.S. collaborative trial on corneal ulcers. She explained that the Indo-U.S. agreement has improved material transfer and joint grant application opportunities.
Sheldon S. Miller, Ph.D., scientific director of NEI's Division of Intramural Research, spoke on NEI's Overseas Scholars Program and the NIH Global Health Research Initiative Program (GRIP). Under these programs, researchers from low-to-mid-income countries can be trained at NIH for two or more years and then return home to broaden their research. This increases the pool of overseas researchers and helps develop research infrastructure in the home countries. A meeting is planned to sign an agreement with India for several post-doctoral fellows to conduct research in the NEI Intramural Program.
The JWG discussed a number of pending and potential joint Indo-U.S. research applications. The group plans to continue to facilitate new joint research projects through future meetings, Website content, and international workshops.
Information on the Indo-U.S. agreement is published on the NEI Website (www.nei.nih.gov/indo-uscollaboration/) and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Website (http://www.arvo.org).