From the Director’s Desk

The National Institute of Research in Tribal Health (NIRTH), Jabalpur is one of the 30 health research institutes working under the aegis of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. Sprawling in a lush-green 44 acre campus located in the state of Madhya Pradesh - the heart of India, ICMR-NIRTH is surrounded by thickly-forested tribal dominated areas, and is the only publicly funded organization dedicated to research on health of tribes of the country. Considering health of aboriginals is of prime national importance, biomedical scientists of ICMR-NIRTH with diverse training and expertise, supported by 100-plus technical staff and several scientific staff of different time-bound research projects are putting tireless endeavor in collaboration with state government health officials, to not only diagnose and intervene different diseases prevalent in tribes, but also perform high-end biomedical research using modern tools to understand the mechanism of diseases and utilize the knowhow to devise novel methods of intervention and control. Apart from this, social scientists of ICMR-NIRTH are regularly involved in interacting with different tribal communities to campaign on the disease preventive measures, by which health issues can be mitigated before they emerge in a large way in communities.

In order to smoothen research activities, scientists and technical personnel of ICMR-NIRTH form small groups based on their training and expertise into six different divisions; viz., Communicable Diseases, Genetic Disorders, Non-communicable Diseases, Social Science and Ethno-medicine, Vector Borne Diseases, and Viral and Zoonotic Diseases. Not only ICMR-NIRTH provides free-of- cost laboratory-based diagnostic facilities using highly-sensitive methods to several diseases endemic to this region to tribal and non-tribal populations alike, regular counselling to patients and their relatives on personal protection, prevention and control of diseases is also provided. Apart from this, teams of scientists and technical staff of ICMR-NIRTH regularly make field-trips in hard-to-reach tribal areas to survey on the prevalence of different diseases in communities and where needed, help patients to undergo treatment at the local healthcare facilities. They also simultaneously collect biological samples, which constitute the raw material for research to find solutions and control by which health of tribes can be better managed.

Due to highly committed research in the area of tribal health, ICMR-NIRTH has been conferred with the prestigious ‘collaborating center for research on health of the aboriginal populations’ by the World Health Organization (WHO), Geneva. Furthermore, ICMR-NIRTH acts as the coordinating institute of the ‘Tribal Health Research Forum’ formed by ICMR, and is responsible to synchronize research on tribal health among other participating ICMR institutes working on heath of local tribes in India. Over the last 32 years of its existence, ICMR-NIRTH has significantly contributed to health research output of the country, especially on tribal health through dissemination of research in the form of publications, monographs and changing/formulating health policies based on research evidences. This is possible because of the geographical location of ICMR-NIRTH and tremendous facilities for biomedical and social scientific research created by the ICMR leadership, which is continuing till date. This might be the reason scientists of national and international repute are attracted to join hands and share expertise with scientists of ICMR-NIRTH, thereby building a strong network of collaborative research, evaluation of diagnosis and trial of vaccines etc. related to several diseases largely prevalent in tribes.

Effective integration and committed contribution of enthusiastic young professionals are keys to growth of every organization, especially scientific research institutes like ICMR-NIRTH. Hardworking and committed young medical, biological, social and natural scientists determined to make an impact to tribal health research are welcome to join hands with scientists of ICMR-NIRTH on their consistent effort to alleviate health issues of aboriginals, and contribute to the “Make-in- India for Healthy India” campaign of the honorable Prime Minister of India.

Dr. Aparup Das
Director, ICMR-NIRTH

Academic Profile of Dr. Aparup Das

Dr. Aparup Das is a population geneticist and molecular evolutionary biologist by training.  He has brought his extensive training and experience on genomics and DNA sequence analyses initially in Drosophila and later on in malaria, and applied these modern biological techniques to understand malaria epidemiology in India and Africa. After obtaining graduate and post-graduate degrees in Zoology from Utkal University in Bhubaneswar and doctorate degree from the Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, Dr. Das proceeded for a four-year post-doctoral study at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, to be trained in genomics and bioinformatics. After coming back to India in 2005, he joined as a scientist at the ICMR-National Institute of Malaria Research at New Delhi, where he served for 12 years to study molecular epidemiology of malaria. In May 2016, he joined as the Director of the ICMR-Centre for Research in Medical Entomology in Madurai, Tamil Nadu and thereafter shifted to the ICMR-National Institute of Research in Tribal health as its Director. Over past 14 years of his research on molecular epidemiology of malaria in India and Cameroon (Africa), Dr. Das and his research group had unravelled several interesting genetic features of the malaria parasites, drug resistance, mixed species infections, population dynamics of mosquito vectors, host susceptibility of malaria and pharmacogenomics related to malaria.

Dr. Das has been conferred with many national and international awards and involved in several research projects involving national and international scientists on both Drosophila and malaria models. He has authored more than 100 publications in population and evolutionary genetics and genomics, and supervised as many as 12 Ph. D. and more than 70 Master theses. He has organized several national and international workshops/meetings including two 15-days Global Exchange Lecture Courses on malaria genomics in 2010 and 2017 funded by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), Germany. He is serving as editor of many high impact international journals and continuously review manuscripts of several prestigious national and international journals of repute.

At present, Dr. Das and his group are involved in two different major international projects; one funded by the National Institute of Health, USA to unravel complex malaria in India and the other by the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability (IC-IMPACTS) to devise novel point-of-care malaria diagnostics.  Dr. Das is interested in leveraging the traditional tribal knowledge in medical practice and translating the knowhow to modern medical practice. The ultimate aim of Dr. Das is to utilize the population genomic information in Indians to design evolutionary (personalized) medicine in India through novel diagnosis and therapeutics.