The joint collaboration between Indian and Australian scientific communities in developing a new vaccine to combat malaria has been welcomed by the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Gillard, who is here on her maiden, three-day visit, met a team of Indian scientists working with their counterparts in Australia to develop a vaccine for malaria, which afflicted 1.6 million Indians in 2010 and is a global problem.
After meeting the scientists, Gillard said, 'I was able to see how scientific communities are working together to fight the scourge of malaria.'
The joint research project is one of 90 supported by the governments of Australia and India to date through the two countries' flagship fund for collaboration in science, the Australia India Strategic Research Fund.
Gillard met scientists working at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in the national capital, led by Chetan Chitnis.
A team of Indian scientists from ICGEB is working with counterparts at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne to improve understanding about immune responses to the malaria parasite.
The research by scientists of both countries suggests new possibilities of vaccines for malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, that look more promising than others currently being considered for development or in clinical trials.
'A commitment to education, research and innovation should be at the heart of our economic and social ties - indeed our Australia India Strategic Research Fund is another important example of this,' Gillard said.
The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund is co-funded and co-administered by the two governments.
'With a $64 million commitment from the Australian government to support the participation of Australian researchers in joint activities, it is Australia's largest bilateral programme for collaboration in science with any country. Meanwhile, India's Ministry of Science and Technology meets the Indian teams' costs, making this one of India's largest sources of support for international collaboration,' a statement said.
Till date, the programme has brought together more than 90 top universities and research institutions on both sides and hundreds of individual researchers.
Appreciating the efforts, Gillard also welcomed the announcement by the Australian Academy of Science of the recipients of the Australia-India Fellowship Fund, which supports residential stays in India of up to 12 months for Australian early-career researchers and shorter visits for more senior scientists.
'The scheme is supported by the Australian government through the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund. Indian recipients of fellowships, to be announced soon, will visit Australia under a reciprocal scheme funded by the government of India,' the statement added.