Last year, fallen IPL czar Lalit Modi sought for — and got — travel documents to Portugal, where his wife Minal was undergoing treatment at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown. The hospital has remained largely ‘unknown’ in India but is considered to be one of the most exciting centres of medical research.
The Centre, designed by architect Charles Correa, who passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday, is situated on the banks of Tagus river in Lisbon. It gets its name from Antonio de Sommer Champalimaud, a Portuguese businessman and financier, who, in his will, provided for the setting up of the Champalimaud Foundation to develop programmes of advanced biomedical research and provide “clinical care of excellence”. The Foundation was set up in 2004, after Champalimaud’s death, and on October 5, 2010, the Centre was inaugurated.
The Centre is known for its “translational research”, a link between scientific breakthroughs and improvements in clinical care. One of the most important programmes at the Centre is on the biology of systems and metastasis that “seeks to understand and prevent cancer at a cellular level”.
Dr P K Julka, professor of oncology at the Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital in AIIMS, says translational therapy is cutting-edge research. “It is what we call bench to bed. A new molecule that has been tested in the laboratory is administered on a patient. It is not a trial; it is a new option. The patient is told about the side-effects. This comes from research that is directly correlated to clinical practice rather than being in the domain of academics,” explains Dr Julka.
The Indian Express wrote to the Centre asking for details of the kind of treatment options offered to patients and its patient inflow. Maria Joao Soares, the person in charge of the Centre’s media relations, responded with a nine-page brochure. “Research and clinical trials are already underway in a number of areas as the Champalimaud Foundation works to make scientific breakthroughs available to patients,” says the page titled ‘Cancer’.
In reply to a query about the treatment of Minal Modi, Soares wrote: “The Centre does not comment on issues concerning patients”.
The Centre has a footprint in India through the Champalimaud Translational Centre for Eye Research (C-Tracer) in Hyderabad, the result of an agreement between the Champalimaud Foundation and the L V Prasad Eye Institute. The Department of Biotechnology has granted a five-year programme support to the Institute to aid the Centre in its activities.