We write to draw the attention to the need for increased support for biological research of ageing and improving healthy longevity for the population in India. This subject is pressing and urgent for the global society, and for Indian society and economy in particular.
Although it is a positive sign that the life expectancy is increasing around the globe, the rapid ageing of the world population could have grave consequences for the global society, in particular economy, which forces the society to seek solutions. On the other side, biomedical science and technology are developing rapidly as well, fostering our hope that medical and biotechnological solutions to ameliorate those problems may be found. These forces warrant increased interest and involvement in research of ageing and healthy longevity.
India has only begun this demographic transition, with an average life expectancy of about 66 years, compared to about 80 in “high-income” countries. Yet, it is rapidly advancing in the direction of population ageing. Just since 1990, the life expectancy increased by about 9 years, and further large gains can be expected soon. Hence foresight in addressing this issue, before it becomes acute in India, can be critical.
Furthermore, we believe India is poised to become a critically important player in the global effort to address the challenges of ageing, not only because of the tremendous potential brain power that can be dedicated to this area, but also because of the strategic ability to make biomedical and biotechnological developments in the field widely accessible for the public of lesser means, not only in India but in the entire developing and developed world.
Developed countries, including USA and UK, are facing tremendous economic burden trying to support their ageing populations. The White-House expects healthcare spending to account for almost 40% of GDP by 2040. Other countries in Europe are facing similar insurmountable economic pressures for healthcare. Advantageously, India has previously been able to avoid economic pressures in the information infrastructure domain by leap-frogging the developed countries and building the world’s largest wireless communication network. Today almost every Indian has access to mobile phone. Similarly, India can leverage its enormous talent-pools, and inexpensive engineering infrastructure to get ahead of the developed countries in the healthcare arena. India can strategically fund preventive and regenerative medicine to tackle the chronic diseases of ageing, before they impair the ageing population. This will help India maintain a healthy and productive population, and avoid the economic-healthcare catastrophe faced by the developed countries. This will also ensure India’s integral and prominent place in the collective bid of nations together facing this task.
In particular, strong engagement in this area can help create bi-national and international research and development programs between India and other countries, including US, EU, UK, Israel – all the countries endeavoring to address the medical problems of the ageing population.
Hence, we call to increase broad public interest in ageing and longevity research (also in the media), improve networking and collaboration among and with researchers from India and abroad, as well as to address potential decision makers in India, perhaps in a proposal to form a national ageing and longevity research program, mainly focusing on biological, biomedical and biotechnological aspects of ageing, with the establishment of dedicated centers of excellence based on existing research and development institutions.
We hope for broad support in fostering collaboration and dialogue for the advancement of the vital field of ageing and longevity research in India.
Professor Kalluri Subba Rao, Indian National Science Academy Honorary Scientist, the School of Medical Sciences, University of Hyderabad
Dr. K. R. Gangadharan. Chairman. Heritage Medical Centre & Heritage Eldercare Services. Hyderabad. Advisor on Ageing for United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) India
Dr. Avijit Guha Roy. President. Biogerontology Research Foundation, Oxford, and London, UK
Dr. Ilia Stambler. Outreach Coordinator. International Society on Aging and Disease (ISOAD). Department of Science, Technology and Society, Bar Ilan University, Israel
Dr. Miriam Leis. Think Tank Manager. Fraunhofer Society for the Advancement of Applied Research, Munich, Germany
Dr. Shubha Gokhale. Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, South Korea. Co-Chair. Solutions for the Future (SFF), Seoul, South Korea
Sonali Gokhale. Co-Chair. Solutions for the Future (SFF). New Delhi, India
Avinash Kumar Singh. Co-chair. India Future Society (IFS), India.
Siddartha S Verma. Co-chair. India Future Society (IFS), India.
Professor. Ashok K. Shetty, Associate Director and Professor, Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Texas A&M University College of Medicine, College Station, Texas, USA
Professor Anand K. Kondapi, Professor, Department of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, School of Life Sciences, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India
Professor Mahendra Thakur. Banaras Hindu University. Faculty of Science. Department of Zoology, Varanasi, India