Speaking on the occasion, Shri Azad recalled that during its 100 years of history, the Indian Council of Medical Research has made many significant contributions in enhancing our knowledge about various health problems facing the country. He said while in the initial pre-independence years, ICMR had focussed on nutritional deficiencies and selected infectious diseases like Plague, Kalazaar, Malaria and Cholera, since independence it has strived to address almost all the health problems confronting the nation.
Shri Azad noted that over the years ICMR has now become a family of 31 Institutions, the latest two in the ICMR network being the National Institute for Research in Environmental Health (NIREH), Bhopal and National Institute of Disease Informatics, Bangalore. Through its network, ICMR is serving the nation through its field stations on virology, vector control, human reproduction and many other specialized centres established in various medical colleges and other institutions in the country, he noted.
Releasing a commemorative postage stamp to mark the centenary year of ICMR, the Minister of Human Resources Development, Communication & Information Technology, Sh. Kapil Sibal said Medical research, health and the economy are intrinsically linked. “Medical research has contributed to dramatic decreases in mortality rates, increased survival rates, new medications, vaccines to protect against infectious diseases, and many other advances in medicine. This in turn has made a positive impact on the quality and quantity of human capital in promoting economic growth” he elaborated. Shri Sibal said that in the light of the immense contributions made by ICMR towards a healthier India, the Department of Posts deemed it fit to honor ICMR by releasing the 45th commemorative postage stamp of 2011 on ICMR.
To mark the day, Shri Azad also bestowed ICMR awards for years 2007and 2008 upon 34 scientists for their outstanding contributions to biomedical research. These clinical as well as biomedical scientists were honoured for their work on wide ranging subjects pertaining to communicable, non communicable, maternal and child health and various other medical & biomedical aspects. The Minister also tasked the ICMR to speedily work out an economical solution for the diabetes screening strips so that the goal of screening atleast 150 million people under the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke can be achieved. ICMR started the tradition of honouring scientists for their outstanding contributions in 1953 with the start of Basanti Devi Amir Chand Award for senior scientists and Shakuntala Amir Chand Award for young scientists.
In 1911, the Government of India had set up the Indian Research Fund Association, as the premier national agency for the formulation, promotion and conduct of biomedical research in India. In 1949 it was re-designated as Indian Council of Medical Research. ICMR has since blossomed into a vibrant network of more than 30 permanent institutes/Centers and over 70 field stations, employing over 5000 personnel including 750 scientists. ICMR and its nationwide network of Institutes has not only done commendable work on several vector borne diseases, bacterial, parasitic and viral infections, nutrition related aspects, cancer, genetics, blood disorders, human reproduction and occupational health but also maintained respect for traditional medicine and herbal remedies. ICMR has provided critical research support whenever the health needs of the country demanded rapid responses e.g. SARS, HIV, influenza, and other new and emerging and remerging infections like dengue, and co-morbidities (HIV-TB) and the emerging epidemic of life-style diseases. In addition, the Council enjoys special relationships with international research and funding agencies as the most favored partner in India.