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`Integrate Indian medicine with modern science'

By Our Staff Reporter



R. A. Mashelkar, Director-General, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, receiving the Dr. K. Anji Reddy Gold Medal Oration Award from N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu, in Chennai on Sunday. - Photo: N. Balaji

CHENNAI OCT. 26. Knowledge of traditional Indian medicine should be integrated with modern medicine and science, so it could be exploited by adding value and creating new products for a wider market, R.A. Mashelkar, Director-General, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, said today.

While the use of traditional medicine in primary healthcare in countries such as India, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda was about 60 to 70 percent, developed countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada, France and Belgium were moving towards alternative medicines, he said.``The world is going digital, herbal and spiritual.''

To capitalise on this, India should bridge the gap between traditional medicine, modern medicine and modern science. The country was rich in biodiversity and traditional knowledge, had high indigenous science and technology capacity, and could thus become providers even to advanced nations if its enormous informal knowledge systems were tapped, he said.

``If we create a connectivity between these systems, we can make a difference.''

Dr. Mashelkar, however, noted that while other countries were investigating into or adapting from Indian systems, there was little effort in this country to study them scientifically. He drew attention to scientific papers by foreign authors on receptors for rabies and other cutting-edge research, which were already hinted at in ancient Indian texts. He also pointed to recent scientific forays in Western countries on the medicinal and therapeutic effects of yoga and meditation, and the lack of such efforts in India, where the systems originated.

Dr. Mashelkar elaborated on the CSIR role in using modern science and medicine to study, patent and add value to Indian medicine.

Recently, the council launched a traditional knowledge digital library, an exhaustive database of medicinal plants and other native practices. Compelling international patent offices to include the database in their minimum search document lists would rule out the possibility of foreign claims to traditional Indian knowledge.

Dr. Mashelkar was delivering the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation's Third Dr. K.Anji Reddy Gold Medal Oration on `Building a golden triangle between traditional medicine, modern medicine and modern science.'

He later told mediapersons that the final report of the Mashelkar Committee on drugs, which would deal with patenting, creating a new central drug administration, neutrachemicals, ayurvedic cosmetics and related aspects, would be released early November.

N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu, presented the Dr.K.Anji Reddy Gold Medal Oration Award to Dr.Mashelkar.

Mr. Ram said the country had lots of talent, capability and resources but there were many gaps and problems in the pursuit of excellence. He also drew attention to ``attempts to push branches like astrology into the science curriculum'' and the modification of the curriculum without consulting scientists. ``These are revivalist attempts in the name of traditional science. India does not need this,'' he said.

K.Anji Reddy, Chairman, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories and Dr. Reddy's Research Foundation, said Indian drug companies were not only growing in the world market, but were also venturing into drug discovery. ``It is now possible for Indian companies to discover and license drugs to multinational companies.''

The citation was read by V. Mohan, president, MDRF. S.P. Thyagarajan, Vice-Chancellor, University of Madras, and Dr. Reddy, felicitated Dr. Mashelkar.

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