New Foundation Offers Exciting Research Opportunities at University of Rochester for Scholars in India

October 08, 2010

A foundation that promises to offer opportunities for the best medical scholars in India and to bring new talent to the University of Rochester Medical Center has been created by businessmen in India working closely with their American counterparts who have long supported the University.

The Biomedical Foundation of India (BFI), based in Mumbai, is designed to create research opportunities at the University for graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, physicians, and other scholars in India. Among the offerings will be opportunities in the Medical Center’s graduate programs for top Indian scholars, and positions for Indian post-doctoral fellows and faculty members who are looking for advanced training with top biomedical researchers. An internship in veterinary medicine will also be offered.

The foundation is headed by Praful Patel, an international businessman and investment adviser based in London. Patel works on a wide range of political, social, cultural and religious causes, and is involved with many charities around the world. He promotes overseas networking among Indians and recently set up the Confederation of Overseas Indians, a group focused on trade, industry and commerce.

Patel also serves as general secretary of an independent non-governmental organization in the United Kingdom and India, the International Ayurveda Foundation (IAF), which promotes integrated research and development of traditional systems of medicine with modern medicine. Patel’s co-promoter in India is Dhaval Sanghavi, a commerce post graduate, chartered accountant and lawyer on international tax from Leiden University, Netherlands. The BFI intends to invite eminent medical and scientific luminaries from India to join its board.

The foundation’s partner – the University of Rochester – is a leading institution of higher education in upstate New York State. Its School of Medicine and Dentistry is ranked within the top 25th percentile of U.S. medical schools in terms of research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The University has long been recognized for its research prowess. Among its accomplishments is a technology that led to vaccines that have saved thousands of lives worldwide by preventing infection by two common microbes, Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) and Pneumococcus. The University’s physicians and scientists also helped to create the world’s first vaccine to prevent cervical cancer and have helped to revolutionize the treatment of heart disease by leading landmark studies expanding the use of devices known as implantable cardiac defibrillators or ICDs.

“This initiative will help place India at the forefront of modern biomedical research – one of the key frontiers of medical advancement – in an important partnership with the United States,” said Patel, promoter and head of BFI. “The benefits to the Indian economy and the quality of health care in India are very clear. This is a welcome Indo-U.S. initiative when both the governments have decided recently to put into motion the dialogue on the Indo-U.S. Health Initiative,” said Patel.

The program is designed to create world-class education and research opportunities in the United States for a generation of Indian scholars. Scientists will work side by side with their counterparts in University of Rochester laboratories and then return to India, bringing with them experiences, contacts, and exposure to the most sophisticated biomedical technology available, and continuing the collaborative research that they started with University of Rochester faculty members. Many will themselves likely become teachers, training more scientists in India; in this way, the fruits of the collaboration are expected to multiply far beyond those Indian scientists who actually spend time in Rochester.

“India is a country with an enormous history of accomplishment and rapidly growing strength in biological sciences,” said Medical Center CEO Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D. “We look forward to establishing collaborations with its scientists and helping to train its next generation of leaders in biomedical science.”

The collaboration will focus on creating research opportunities in several areas, including cancer, neuromedicine, immunology and infectious disease, cardiovascular disease, orthopaedics, and veterinary medicine. Additional areas of focus for visiting researchers will include stem cells, nano-medicine, genomics, systems biology, biomedical imaging, and biomarkers.

The program will draw students and scholars from select Indian universities and institutions, whose biomedical facilities are among the most advanced in the world. The collaboration offers researchers from India access to another set of world-class facilities and researchers, and offers scientists in Rochester the opportunity to work closely with outstanding researchers from India who regularly have access to some of today’s most modern technology.

The arrangement between the foundation and the University came about in large part thanks to Richard T. Aab, a long-time supporter of the University of Rochester Medical Center who is currently a trustee of the University and a board member of the Medical Center, and Tansukhv V. Ganatra, a member of the board of the University’s Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute.

Aab and Ganatra were colleagues at ACC Corp. (now part of AT&T), which Aab founded in 1982, and at US LEC Corp., a telecommunications company, which the pair founded in 1996. Both Aab and Ganatra serve on the board of directors of PAETEC Holding Corp., which merged with US LEC Corp. in March 2007.

Patel became interested in fostering opportunities at the Medical Center for Indian scholars as he learned more about the University through Ganatra – their friendship transcends 52 years.

“This arrangement makes sense for the University of Rochester, for top Indian scholars, and for India,” said Barbara Iglewski, Ph.D., director of International Programs for the University of Rochester Medical Center. “There are already more than 400 international scholars at our School of Medicine and Dentistry. Certainly, attracting some of the best and brightest students from one of the world’s most populous countries is an excellent opportunity for the University.”

Iglewski noted that the University has more than 1,700 students from more than 80 countries beyond the United States, and that currently Indian students make up more than 15 percent of the international students at the University.

For further information about the foundation or the partnership, please visit http://bfi.urmc.edu or http://www.bfi-urmc.org/.

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