15 March 2018 New Delhi, India - The 2017 Kochon Prize was awarded on Tuesday, 13 March to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for building a tradition of excellence in TB research and development. The 2017 Prize celebrated those who have been pushing scientific boundaries to improve the lives of people affected by TB.
The Kochon Prize is fully funded by the South Korea based Kochon Foundation and Mr. Doohyun Kim, Chairman of the foundation presented the award along with Dr. Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership.
The 2017 award winner, ICMR is India’s agency specializing in funding coordination and promotion of biomedical research. During its long history, ICMR has built a tradition of excellence in research and development, working towards providing health solutions to the people of India.
"ICMR feels very proud for its direct and meaningful alignment with the national initiatives in TB prevention and control. ICMR’s Research and Development inputs of several decades had many programmatic and policy implications not only at the national level but at the international level as well", said Madame Preeti Sudan, Secretary of India’s Department of Health and Family Welfare and Director General, ICMR, as she accepted the prize on behalf of ICMR.
"Over the years, India has shown its leadership in research and particularly in TB. It began with the Madras trial which showed that TB can be treated at home. The BCG vaccine trial continues to be the largest vaccine trial ever conducted. ICMR has worked very hard for many years and we are grateful to receive the Kochon prize this year", said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director General, World health Organization (WHO) and former Director General, ICMR.
"I am deeply grateful to those, like ICMR, who inspire all of us in the TB community to dare, think big, and act boldly when we work to strengthen people-centered TB prevention and care. As we countdown to the UN High-Level Meeting on TB on 26 September 2018, we will keep your spirit and aim very high to reach our goal of ending TB because people affected by TB deserve it," said Dr. Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director.
In attendance from ICMR were also RR Gangakhedkar, Head of the Division of Epidemic and Communicable Diseases, Dr. Manjula Singh TB Program Officer and Srikanth Tripathy, Head of the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis.
Congratulating the award winners, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO said:" It is an exceptional honor to be here in India and participate in the Delhi End TB Summit and more so to attend it today when the excellence of Indian Council of Medical Research is awarded with the prestigious Kochon Prize. From your example and resolve we all learn that determination and dedication and hard work will lead to the end of TB."
The Kochon Prize, consisting of a USD 65,000 award, has been given annually for the past 11 years to individuals and/or organizations that have made a highly significant contribution to ending TB, a disease that is curable but still causes the deaths of 4, 500 people every day. Read about the previous Kochon Prize winners here.
This year, the Kochon Prize was handed out during the official dinner organized by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of India and following the first day of the Delhi End TB Summit, co-organized by the Stop TB Partnership, WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia (WHO SEARO) and the Government of India. The Delhi End TB Summit, which precedes the Stop TB Partnership’s 30th Board Meeting, convened world leaders in India’s capital to build on the momentum of ongoing efforts and accelerate action to reach the 2030 End TB goal. The official dinner was attended by over 200 high-level dignitaries and civil society representatives.
The Kochon Prize 2017 call attracted strong nominations from 18 outstanding and highly qualified research institutions and individuals.
The Stop TB Partnership and the Kochon Prize Selection Committee would also like to acknowledge the runners-up; Professor Stefan H.E. Kaufmann for his work on TB vaccines and the Tuberculosis Trials Consortium for their work on TB drugs. Professor Kaufmann is a leader in the field of cellular immunology to bacterial infections, who has harnessed his research findings for the design and development of a novel vaccines against TB. The Tuberculosis Trials Consortium research is noted for having improved care for people with TB, revolutionized prevention options and improved program delivery, making it a model for programmatically relevant clinical research.
A long tradition of research and development - ICMR
Founded at the turn of the 20th century, ICMR shifted the paradigm of TB treatment worldwide, allowing people with TB to receive treatment at home, moving away from the hospital setting. The ICMR also carried out hundreds of clinical trials of drugs and drug combinations in India, including the introduction of fluoroquinolones and rifapentine and established the most effective regimen for children with TB. Furthermore, the ICMR carried out the largest trial of the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, busting the myth that the BCG vaccine would end TB. This encouraged research for the development of new vaccines and a global effort to understand the necessary immunologic conditions for generating protection against TB.
Professor Madhukar Pai, Director, McGill Global Health Programs, McGill University, nominated ICMR for the Kochon Prize and commented that "It is critical for countries most affected by TB to step up, show leadership, and invest in TB control as well as research. I am delighted that this year’s Kochon Prize to ICMR recognizes decades of ground-breaking TB research by India, which shaped the global DOTS strategy. The award is richly deserved, and timely, as India has raised its ambition and political commitment."
India is among countries in South East Asia leading the effort to end TB, setting 2025 as the national target to end TB, five years ahead of the global 2030 target.