The world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US is tapping into India’s medical research potential through a partnership with the local government’s Department of Biotechnology to create a new Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI) in India.

The institute, to be modelled on the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), “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”, MIT said.

Funded by the Indian government, the THSTI will be a multidisciplinary, multiprofessional research and training centre interconnected with regional centres of excellence. It will build on “HST’s pioneering model of medical education that integrates science, medicine and engineering to solve problems of human health”, explained MIT president Susan Hockfield.

“Tremendous potential exists in India, with its excellence in engineering and science,” commented Dr M K Bhan, secretary for the Department of Biology in India’s Ministry of Science and Technology. “This partnership is an opportunity to create a long-term, synergistic relationship that will result in wide-ranging benefits to global health.”

HST will be helping to recruit and train new faculty members for the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute. Starting in September 2008 and continuing until 2011, four recruited THSTI faculty fellows each year will join the Division of Health Sciences and Technology faculty in the US and will train there for two years. During their stay the fellows will develop translational research programmes, design courses and curricula for THSTI, and form close relationships with HST faculty and students.

According to HST director Martha Gray, this kind of exposure will help to drive innovations that can make a real difference in global public health. “I don’t believe we can have a global impact on health if we don’t have international partners as part of our community,” she said.