Population Science Partnership Center (PSPC)

Research : PSPC

Genesis of the concept

THSTI is a program-based organization. Its design requires pursuit of its mission through establishment of intramural and extramural centres, which are collaborative in nature, utilizing strengths of existing Indian not-for-profit organizations to complement its own capabilities. THSTI has strengths in biological sciences and platform technology. SAS is a research leader in India in the not for profit domain, specializing in interdisciplinary population sciences, regulatory product evaluation, nutrition and nutrition-infection interactions, neonatal health and infectious disease surveillance. THSTI (specifically Vaccine and Infectious Disease Research Centre) and CHRD-SAS have collaborated since the Year 2009 in a program mode to carry out clinical development of an indigenously developed and manufactured oral rotavirus vaccine (ORV 116E) and related studies on disease burden and molecular epidemiology.

This highly successful partnership has demonstrated the remarkable complementarities in the expertise and infrastructure of the two institutions in population based translational health research.

It would take a decade or more and a huge investment to develop the kind of field research experience and expertise that CHRD-SAS has, and in a similar manner it would require a huge investment for CHRD-SAS to develop the kind of laboratory infrastructure that THSTI has and the Faridabad cluster will have in the future. Therefore, PSPC potentially is a ‘cost saving, scientific productivity and health impact enhancing’ collaboration. In its character, the PSPC as a national resource centre of the DBT would gradually add to the on-going transformation of THSTI as a leader of translational science and technology and give it the health connectivity that it essentially requires. PSPC would also be a unique resource for all the DBT institutions in their quest to enhance the practical value of their science.

Aims and Objectives

  • 1. THSTI and CHRD-SAS will pursue collaborative research and innovation in population based science, focused on development, evaluation and diffusion of affordable technologies and solutions for improved health and nutrition.
  • 2. The collaboration will emphasize solutions and technologies of public health importance to India and to the poorest.
  • 3. Promote utilization of under-used existing technologies through appropriate modification and evaluation.

Governance

Research Domains

Fetal Growth Restriction
In South East Asia, 10 million low birth weight babies are born. They are at risk of stunting and high risk of chronic diseases including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cerebrovascular stroke. In India, despite enormous progress, 20% babies are born low birth weight (birth weight (2500 gm). Infant mortality in low birth weight babies is twice that of normal weight babies.
This sub-programme plans to elucidate the scientific basis of fetal growth and fetal growth restriction and its relationship with postnatal growth and development. We will evaluate specific preventive, diagnostic or therapeutic interventions. The scientific approach will be interdisciplinary and will employ biology, biomedical research, nutrition science, health research, and drugs and diagnostic technology

Neonatal Infections And Immunity
Neonatal mortality contributes to two-thirds of infant deaths in India, which is amongst the highest in the world. Infections also contribute to undernutrition and as a result impaired intellectual development. The environment of a newborn infant and the immune system of a neonate are unique and require focussed studies. New ways of prevention and treatment of neonatal infections have to be developed that can be applied not only in hospital born babies but also to those born in rural communities. This has been declared as a national priority.
This sub-programme aims to elucidate causes and causal pathways underlying neonatal infections, resistance to disease including immune function and to develop diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. The key disorders are neonatal sepsis, lower respiratory tract infections and diarrheal diseases.

Accelerating Linear Growth In Indian Infants And Children
Forty five percent of infants in India are stunted. This is higher than even what is seen in poor countries in Africa. The factors that affect linear growth include nutrition, alteration in the microbiome, placental transport, breast milk nutrient quality, epigenetic alterations as a result of environmental influence. The rate of linear growth in the first two years of life is an important determinant of all lifestyle diseases. This sub-program is therefore of critical importance to the country. Stunting shows strong correlation with intellectual capital in adult life.
This sub-programme aims to understand causal pathways underlying impaired linear growth in Indian infants and children and based on the scientific knowledge generated, develop ways to accelerate linear growth in postnatal life and early childhood.

Vaccine Preventable Diseases
Which vaccine to develop depends on the disease burden. Our knowledge of disease burden in India is rudimentary for several infections leading to controversy in vaccine policy and difficulties in planning vaccine trials. What kind of vaccine should be developed depends partly on molecular sub types of the pathogens in different parts of the country. Novel strains identified through disease surveillance need to be stored under scientifically valid conditions as THSTI will use these novel strains for development of new vaccines. In this sub-program, we will do trials of new vaccines developed by THSTI, Indian institutions and Indian Biotech Small and Medium Enterprises.
This sub-programme plans to determine the disease burden for diseases such as typhoid, cholera, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza, dengue and rotavirus and through application of infection science determine molecular subtypes of relevant infectious pathogens and develop a repository at THSTI.

Evaluation Of Novel Public Health Technologies
As a consequence of increasing government investment and promotion of innovation, diagnostic biomarkers, vaccines, drugs, devices are being developed in the country. Some of these are meant for hospital use and need to be evaluated in hospital settings. However, many are for use in the public health space and need evaluation in small health facilities. Scientists in the country expect THSTI to help in this endeavour. THSTI is unable to evaluate technologies that need evaluation in populations without partnership with an institute that has expertise in population based and regulatory trials. Population science is also critical to understand the product profile most suited in the health care system. The need for such a sub-program is highlighted by the success of evaluation of a rotavirus vaccine through the collaboration between THSTI and SAS.
This sub-programme will evaluate safety and efficacy of new technologies through population based studies and in the context of primary and secondary health care. These technologies will be those that have been development by Indian institutions across the country including THSTI.

Microbiome
Research on microbiome is amongst the top five priorities in human biology today. THSTI with DBT has established the Centre for Human Microbial Ecology (CHME) recently. In its current focus, most of the studies will be hospital based. However, hospital based populations are different from community populations in different settings with diverse characteristics. The relationship between diet, environment and microbiome and the contribution to risk of infectious and auto immune diseases must also be studied in population settings. Hospital based studies allow collection of a wide variety of biological specimens and population studies provide a true representation of the nation. These will complement each other. This sub-program will hugely improve the output of the recently established Centre for Microbiome Research at THSTI.
This sub-programme will study the contribution of the gut microbiome to altered growth and development and the effect of diet on the microbiome.

Strengthening Research Infrastructure For Population Based Studies
This programme will strengthen field infrastructure for sustained research under the centre. This will include establishing a birth cohort in peri-urban/rural populations, establishing field units and systems for handling biological specimens prior to transfer to THSTI, electronic data capture and transfer of data from field to the Advanced Data Management Centre of CHRD-SAS, regulatory support system and Good Laboratory Practice guidelines.