Interview with Dr. Maharaj Kishan Bhan

Dr. Maharaj Kishan Bhan, former secretary of Department of Biotechnology, Government of India is known for developing the Rota Viral Vaccine in collaboration with the Bharat Biotech International. A pediatrician and clinical scientist, he has carried out extensive post-doctoral research at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in the area of diarrheal diseases and child nutrition. As a keynote speaker on Industry Day, Dr Bhan will talk about the opportunities related to health care in India. In an interview he talks about the need for a robust academic-industry collaboration in the area of affordable health and more.

How do you see events like Industry Day forge better academia-industry collaborations?


Industry Day is useful for promoting awareness, connecting people in different domains and activity sectors, learning about opportunities for collaboration, accessing innovation resources – financial and technical. Innovation is a contact sport and intelligently designed and executed interaction among diverse actors and institutions can be very productive in promoting new collaborative initiatives. This will be a great opportunity to display the technical and scientific excellence of the institute and individuals.


Please give a brief about the subject on which you will be talking.


I have been asked to speak about "Health care challenges in India". I would like to change the title to opportunities related to health care in India. Briefly, our health policy talks about promoting wellness, preventing diseases, detecting illness on time through screening and systematic routine contact with the health system closer to home and facilitate referral care to all.

The strategy is to make primary health care comprehensive and of high quality by transforming the role of non-physician care providers and primary care physicians. The development and availability of affordable health technology such as vaccines, effective diagnostics and screening tools, drugs, tools and system for monitoring individual and population status, rehabilitation tools is emphasized and it is in these areas that engineering and science institutions can engage meaningfully with industry and others.

ICT can play a critical role in measurement, monitoring, vertical and horizontal connectivity within the health system, electronic data records, communication and education of end users, training and supervision, and so on. This requires not only readily usable hardware, but software and process innovation. Placing these promising tools and technologies in the context of a functional health system through effective process re-engineering is critical. Technology is useful only when it serves the purpose and this requires a systematic approach among people of diverse disciplines.


In the field of affordable health care specifically what are the major challenges in collaboration with academia?How can the challenges be overcome?


Collaboration within and across academia industry and other stakeholders has huge potential, much of it is however,unrealized. Institutions have to put innovation as their top ambition, measure the inventiveness of their research, design an innovation culture, build effective and accessible research resources, design connectivity to bring together those who can define the problems and opportunities with others who can design and develop solutions and prototypes. They have to connect many others with the capability to contribute at various stages of the innovation cycle including pre-clinical and clinical development for health related products.

Academic institutions should not engage in end product development and let the industry do it and support them. Industry often lacks critical expertise required for new product innovation. Academic institutions lack collaborative tool kit and training unlike industry where it is the core of in-house training. May be we should incorporate the training approaches used by some of the most innovative companies into our educational curriculum and practice.

Connectivity requires soft power and not bureaucracy. Institution must learn to be attractive and magnetic so that others reach out to them. Institutional governance should be such that even students learn to value collaboration as a highly valued quality.


How do you see the academia helping the industry in technological intervention or CSR initiatives with reference to affordable healthcare?


Academia can be most helpful if its science and technology efforts are truly innovative and if people are inspired by the notion of contributing to solutions for complex societal needs and problems. One has to desire a better world for all to enjoy working on shared goals.

Secondly, we often produce bright scholars with strong skills in their disciplines but little problem solving ability. Solution design requires imagination. When our young people grow in the right environment and our S&T is inventive and innovative then well designed collaborative processes and support systems make things happen. Knowledge of industry R&D systems is helpful in engagement. Innovation in the end is a team effort.