Grand Challenges India (GCI) to promote scientific and technological advances in health through research and innovation exclusively for country researchers. It was jointly launched by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), union Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2013.
The first two grants focus on 'Achieving Healthy Growth through Agriculture and Nutrition' and 'Reinvent the Toilet Challenge,' while the latest grants have been under the initiative 'All Children Thriving', a statement said.
Collectively 17 researchers and social entrepreneurs from across the country are being funded under the partnership, it said.
In India an estimated 1.27 million children die every year before completing 5 years, 81 percent of under-5 child mortality takes place within one year of birth which accounts for nearly 1 million infant deaths, the statement said.
An estimated 57 percent of under-5 deaths take place within the first one month of life accounting for 730,000 neo-natal deaths every year in the country, it said, adding, globally India continues to be the country with the highest number of people (597 million people) practicing open defecation.
The release also quoted BIRAC Chairman and DBT Secretary Dr K Vijayraghavan as stating, "In the past two decades we have witnessed major advances in science and technology which have transformed the lives of millions in the country."
"We need to continue to drive innovation and research to meet existing challenges in health care... There is a need to create an enabling environment for research and innovation where creative confidence and inventiveness is praised and encouraged in order to harness the immense potential available in India", Vijayraghavan said.
"The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-DBT-BIRAC partnership aims to fulfill this vision through the Grand Challenges India initiative and encourage Indian researchers from across the country to work towards developing solutions with far-reaching social impact," Swarup was quoted as saying.
"We must recognize the need of innovation in developing societies," he said.
Encouraging innovation is of principal importance to tackle the problems of open defecation, child morbidity and mortality and malnutrition among mothers and children", said Trevor Mundel, President of the Global Health Division of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
"The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and DIB have come together to tap the vast potential available in India and drive health innovation in the country", said Mundel.