The U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum June 3 hosted a virtual session to discuss U.S.-India health cooperation.
The event, which ran live on a YouTube feed to an estimated hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. and India, was entitled “A Conversation of U.S.-India Health Cooperation,” and featured a number of high-profile figures.
Among the panelists at the event were U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci; Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Taranjit Singh Sandhu; Dr. K. Vijay Raghavan, principal scientific adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office; and Dr. Renu Swarup, secretary of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology.
The panel was moderated by USISPF Indian American director Mukesh Aghi.
Each of the panelists opened up and shared their thoughts on U.S.-India partnerships and their importance.
Sandhu said they were happy to see the help of the U.S., saying “it symbolizes the partnership between the two countries.”
“Collaboration brings together our best minds from institutions in both countries,” the ambassador added.
Raghavan added, “These are trying times and working together is very important.”
His speech emphasized the importance to continue to practice what we’ve been practicing as a society since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – wearing masks, washing hands, sanitizing and keeping physical distance.
In noting the new variants that have emerged, he said that the same practices will be as efficient to keep the virus from spreading.
Raghavan in closing urged everyone to get vaccinated now – it’s the most important thing.
Swarup noted that COVID has reinforced our strong conviction that collaboration is the key to success going forward.
“We collectively take on challenges to help globally. We hope that this dialogue (between the two countries) continues,” she said.
Unfortunately, the audio feed for Fauci was unable to work, and his speech was not accessible during the forum.
The panelists were then each asked questions as part of a Q&A with Aghi.
Raghavan said that the only way to deal with surges is to take any measure to prevent people from being hospitalized.
“It’s important not to be lulled into complacency,” he emphasized.
Swarup noted that U.S.-India “collaboration has been done and can be done again in the future.”
Following the Q&A, the forum shifted to industry leaders featuring Johanna Mercier, chief commercial officer at Gilead; Sai Prasad, president of biotech company Bharat Biotech; and Dr. Julie Gerberding, executive vice president and chief patient officer at Merck & Co. Inc.
Mercier talked about the swiftness of the discovery of Remdesivir, which was accomplished through partnership.
Prasad said they learned through partnerships how to conduct multi-faceted work in tandem. He talked about the need to make smaller doses for vaccines to deliver more vials of the vaccine to poorer countries.
“This partnership between the two countries is very robust and should continue,” Prasad said.
Gerberding said that the partnerships built have been long-standing and mutually beneficial. She added that Merck has contributed $12 million to date in aid for COVID-19. Gerberding said she believes that an oral anti-viral drug currently in Phase 3 clinical trials will help in India, and the hope is it will be available in the country soon.
ANI adds from Washington: According to his prepared speech at the event, Anthony Fauci said that India's contribution to global scientific knowledge is well known to all and the knowledge is already helping in COVID-19 prevention and care.
Speaking at the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum webinar on health cooperation, Fauci said: "Please accept my sincere empathy for the extremely difficult health crisis India is currently facing. As you know, the U.S. was in a similar position several months ago before our vaccines became available." Underlining the critical role of science in dealing with such a crisis, he said that the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has a long history of collaboration with its counterpart agencies in the Indian government.
"On the longstanding India-U.S. vaccine action program, we continue to work with India on research related to SARS-COV-2 vaccines. We are also eager to involve Indian investigators and insights in global clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of various COVID-19 therapeutics," he further said.