Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi, the apex body
in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical
research, is one of the oldest medical research bodies in the world.
As early as in 1911, the Government of India set up the Indian Research
Fund Association (IRFA) with the specific objective of sponsoring and
coordinating medical research in the country. After independence, several
important changes were made in the organisation and the activities of
the IRFA. It was redesignated in 1949 as the Indian Council of Medical
Research (ICMR) with considerably expanded scope of functions.
is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health
Research, Ministry of Health
& Family Welfare.
The Council's research priorities coincide with the National health
priorities such as control and management of communicable diseases,
fertility control, maternal and child health, control of nutritional
disorders, developing alternative strategies for health care delivery,
containment within safety limits of environmental and occupational health
problems; research on major non-communicable diseases like cancer, cardiovascular
diseases, blindness, diabetes and other metabolic and haematological
disorders; mental health research and drug research (including traditional
remedies). All these efforts are undertaken with a view to reduce the
total burden of disease and to promote health and well-being of the
The Governing Body of the Council is presided over by the Union Health
Minister. It is assisted in scientific and technical matters by a
Scientific Advisory Board comprising eminent experts in different
biomedical disciplines. The Board, in its turn, is assisted by a series
of Scientific Advisory Groups, Scientific Advidsory Committees, Expert
Groups, Task Forces, Steering Committees etc. which evaluate
and moniter different research activities of the Council (chart)
Council promotes biomedical research in the country through intramural
as well as extramural research. Over the decades, the base of extramural
research and also its strategies have been expanded by the Council.
Intramural research is carried out currently through the Council's
30 Research Institutes/Centres/Units. These include (i) 19
mission-oriented national institutes located in different parts
of India that address themselves to research on specific areas such
as tuberculosis, leprosy, cholera and diarrhoeal diseases, viral diseases
including AIDS, malaria, kala-azar, vector control, nutrition, reproduction,
immunohaematology, oncology, medical
statistics, etc; (ii) 6 Regional Medical Research Centres
regional health problems, and also aim to strengthen or generate research
capabilities in different geographic areas of the country; and
Unit/Centres dealing with food & drug toxicology, viral diseases,
handling microorganisms of highly infectious nature, prenatal
diagnosis for neonatal retardation etc and supply of
various animal models and feeds for experimental purposes.
Extramural research is promoted by ICMR through
(i) Setting up Centres for Advanced Research in different research
areas around existing expertise and infrastructure in selected departments
of Medical Colleges, Universities and other non-ICMR Research
Task force studies which emphasise a time-bound,
goal-oriented approach with clearly defined targets, specific time
frames, standardized and uniform methodologies, and often a multicentric
structure.(iii) Open-ended research on the basis of applications
for grants-in-aid received from scientists in non-ICMR Research Institutes,
Medical colleges, Universities etc. located in different parts
of the country.
addition to research activities, the ICMR encourages human resource
development in biomedical research through (i) Research Fellowships (ii) Short-Term Visiting Fellowships. (iii) Short-Term Research Studentships. (iv) Various
Training Programmes and Workshops conducted by ICMR Institutes and Headquarters.
For retired medical scientists and teachers, the Council offers the
position of Emeritus Scientist to enable them to continue
or take up research on specific biomedical topics. The Council also awards prizes to Indian scientists, in recognition
of significant contributions to biomedical research. At present, the
Council offers 38 awards, of which 11 are meant exclusively for young
scientists (below 40 years).
the context of the changing public health scene, the balancing of
research efforts between different competing fields, especially when
resources are severely limited, is a typical problem encountered in
the management of medical research, particularly in developing countries.
Infectious diseases and excessive population growth have continued
to constitute the major priorities to be addressed in medical research
throughout the past several decades. In addition to tackling these
issues, in recent years, research has been intensified progressively
on emerging health problems such as Cardiovascular diseases, Metabolic
disorders (including diabetes mellitus), Mental health problems, Neurological
disorders, Blindness, Liver diseases, Hearing impairment, Cancer,
Drug abuse, Accidents, Disabilities etc.. Research on Traditional
Medicine/Herbal Remedies was revived with a disease-oriented approach.
Attempts have been made to strengthen and streamline Medical Informatics
and Communication to meet the growing demands and needs of the biomedical
community. The Council is alert to new diseases and new dimensions
of existing diseases, as exemplified by the rapid organization of
a network of Surveillance Centres for AIDS in different states of
India in 1986.