The autonomous department will have own secretary-level officers and annual budget allocation for medical research.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which is the Indian equivalent of USA's National Institutes of Health (NIH), has been the apex body of health research in India.
Delivering presidential address on the occasion, Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said that although ICMR is primarily responsible for medical research in India, it is unable to translate the benefits of its research into policy and action because it was not a governmental authority.
"Neither can it develop partnership with various agencies in India and abroad, at the governmental level. It is unable to interact with the state Governments on various issues including those relating to epidemics and national calamities. Thus a need to reorganise ICMR on the pattern of other agencies was very well appreciated," he said.
"This (setting up of Medical Research Department) fulfils a long-standing demand of the medical research community in the country," said Ramadoss.
"The budget for Medical research will be five times of what it is today," said Ramadoss.
The huge procedure that ICMR had to go through to get their proposals cleared will no longer be so, since the Department of Medical Research would interact directly with the Ministry, Ramadoss told reporters.
ICMR Director General Prof. N K Ganguly, who will hold secretary-level post in the Department, said: "ICMR is presently funding nearly 2000 projects. With the new department, several new research institutes will be set up, including centre on chronic disease sand cancer institute."
"Main focus of the Department would be to promote research, build infrastructure, create global manpower and address healthy policy needs and international collaboration," Prof. Ganguly added.
"Thus the Department will address the entire health research fraternity, not only the ICMR institutes," said Prof. Ganguly.
Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, Director of the National Institutes of Health, U.S.A. was also present on the occasion.
In 1911, a handful of British officers of the Indian Medical Service created the Indian Research Fund Association. In 1950, soon after Independence, the Indian Research Fund Association was renamed as Indian Council of Medical Research. This today is Department of Health Research.