Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF): Offering Progressive Research and Training Facilities

research and development| Diabetes Research|
Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF)

A chronic metabolic non-communicable disease (NCD), diabetes is a widespread lifestyle disorder. It is well known that there are two types of diabetes viz type 1 and type 2. However, around 95% of adults with diabetes have type 2 diabetes (T2DM). According to recent research, around 28% of the population in  metropolitan cities like Delhi and Chennai are affected by diabetes.

The cost of treatment for diabetes is huge and isn’t affordable by all socio-economic groups. To bring therapy within everyone’s reach, Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF) is dedicatedly working on the research and development. Founded by Dr. V. Mohan and his wife late Dr. Rema Mohan.,  MDRF is one of India’s and perhaps Asia’s largest research institutes entirely devoted to diabetes and its complications.

The Spine of the Institute

The founder, Dr. V. Mohan is one of the internationally recognized diabetologists. He has a vast knowledge with over 40 years of experience in the field of diabetes. His interest in diabetology grew as he saw his father (Prof. M. Viswanathan) bring a significant change to society. Prof. M. Vishwanathan is widely considered as the ‘Father of Diabetology’ in India for his exceptional contribution.

Dr. V. Mohan soon joined his father in the field of diabetology. After spending 20 years with his father, Dr. Mohan and his wife, Dr. Rema Mohan, established Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre in the year 1991. Later in order to take diabetes research to a higher level, they established the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation.

Taking Ahead the Legacy

Established in 1996, MDRF has now grown to provide distinct research facilities. It started off in a single room at the hospital – Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre. However, due to the overwhelming response and space constraints, it had to move to a bigger space. The institute was soon allotted six and a half acres of land in the Women’s Biotech Park at Siruseri. Around 32000 square feet is dedicated to the research and development section.

The building encompasses numerous departments such as epidemiology, biostatistics, clinical biochemistry, tissue culture labs, genomics, proteomics, cell and molecular biology and vascular biology. Apart from this, there is also a dedicated biorepository established at the Siruseri MDRF complex. In addition to these two facilities there, one facility of MDRF located in Gopalapuram is specifically allotted for various clinical trials. Another facility is specific for community-oriented prevention of diabetes and gestational diabetes mellitus.

Distinct Programs

There are various programs offered by MDRF. Numerous Ph.D. and summer internship programs are provided to students. At any given time, around 15 to 20 Ph.D. students get trained. Many of the students are from the universities in and around Tamil Nadu pursuing their Postgraduate degree in a diverse field related to diabetes. Here, students learn various research methods. They are trained to select a project depending on their interest and then work on it.

Many a time, students use the internship and short-term training programs to help them decide if they would like to pursue a Ph.D. Adding to this, Dr. V. Mohan says, “While most of our training programs are geared at Ph.D. students, at certain instances, special and shorter programs are offered to undergraduate and even to medical and high school students.”

Applaudable Achievements

Over the years, MDRF has pioneered in the field of diabetes while making technological advancement. This includes the use of electronic medical records to analyse large databases; the use of a simple diabetes risk score called as ‘MDRF Indian Diabetes Risk Score’ (IDRS) which helps in cost-effective screening of diabetes; use of artificial intelligence in screening for diabetic retinopathy; testing and validation of low-cost retinal camera made in India which helps to take diabetic retinopathy to screen patients in tier-2 and tier 3 cities of India.

Along with this, the institute, as well as the director, have received a number of awards. Dr. V. Mohan has received over 180 awards including the prestigious Padma Shri award by the Govt. of India in 2012 for his extensive contribution in the field of diabetes. He has also received the Dr. B.C. Roy National Award by the Medical Council of India; the Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Centenary Award from the Indian Council of Medical Research, the highest award for Biomedical research in India.

Dr. V. Mohan was conferred the Dr. Harold Rifkin Distinguished International Service in the Cause of Diabetes Award by the American Diabetes Association becoming the first Indian to receive this award. He was recently elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), of the highest awards for the scientists.

In addition, several of the alumni have gone to various countries like the US, UK, Germany and other countries. Many of them have become faculty at a prestigious institute or university as they are involved in several research studies.

Future Endeavours

With the aim to improve the lives of people with diabetes by translating research into community action, MDRF is planning on reaching out to the entire world. Furthermore, MDRF would be working towards making itself a global diabetes research centre by offering world-class research and training facilities. It envisions to convert itself into a university for diabetes in the coming years.

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