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MIT and India to create health science and technology institute

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MIT and the government of India's Department of Biotechnology today launched a partnership that will result in the creation of a new Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI) in India.

This new institute, which will be modeled after the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), will include faculty from multiple disciplines and professions, offer degrees through multidisciplinary programs and develop strong ties with other institutions. Funded by the Indian government, the Indian HST will be a multidisciplinary, multiprofessional research and training center that is highly interconnected with regional centers of excellence.

The institute will increase India's capacity for translating scientific and technological advancements into medical innovations that have the potential to improve healthcare both in India and around the world.

HST Director Martha Gray and Dr. M. K. Bhan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India, signed a letter of intent for this partnership today at a symposium in New Delhi titled "India and MIT: A Conversation about the Future."

"Tremendous potential exists in India, with its excellence in engineering and science. This partnership is an opportunity to create a long term, synergistic relationship that will result in wide ranging benefits to global health," said Bhan.

"Launching this new partnership with India's Department of Biotechnology will build on HST's pioneering model of medical education that integrates science, medicine and engineering to solve problems of human health," said Susan Hockfield, president of MIT. "We look forward to a future of significant collaboration across disciplines, across institutions and around the world."

To foster a culture of innovation in THSTI, HST will help recruit and train new THSTI faculty members. Each year starting in September 2008 and continuing until 2011, four recruited THSTI faculty fellows will join the HST faculty. These faculty fellows will train at HST for two years. During their stay they will develop translational research programs, design courses and curricula for THSTI, and develop close relationships with HST faculty and students.

These fellows will benefit from HST's nearly 40 years of experience bringing together science, engineering and medicine in education and translational medical research. HST's success stories include medical innovations such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, a low-cost AIDS detection kit and novel implantable drug delivery mechanisms.

HST and MIT will also benefit from having these fellows on campus. "We will have people immersed in our program who actually know about the unmet medical needs in India and who will expose our students and faculty to those needs," said Gray.

This exposure will help drive innovations that can make a real difference in global public health, said Gray. "I don't believe we can have a global impact on health if we don't have international partners as part of our community."

MIT and India have embarked on partnerships before. The two joined forces nearly 50 years ago to form the India Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kanpur, one of India's top-ranked engineering and science schools. "THSTI has the potential to be a second success story that could revolutionize medicine in India the same way the IIT schools revolutionized engineering and science," said Shiladitya Sengupta, assistant professor of medicine and an HST faculty member at Harvard Medical School.

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