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India and the United States will sign an agreement on scientific collaboration next month after resolving disputes over intellectual property, India’s science minister said Friday. The disputes, resolved after 10 years of painstaking negotiations, had prevented the signing of the accord during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Washington in July. “We have now agreed upon the language and the finer points” of the agreement, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said at a seminar on the future of scientific cooperation between the two countries. Sibal said the pact — covering areas like health care, biotechnology and nanotechnology –will be signed when he visits Washington in October. It will conclude 10 years of negotiations between the two countries, Sibal said in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, the country’s technology hub. U.S. companies have often complained that Indian laws don’t sufficiently protect patents and copyrights, making the companies reluctant to invest in India. Earlier this year, India tightened its patent laws and plans similar amendments for data protection. This paved the way for the two countries reaching an agreement on collaboration in the fields of science and technology, Sibal said. Sanjoy K. Datta, GlaxoSmithKline’s director of clinical research and development for South Asia, said anything that raised the standards of clinical research was a good development. “This will level the playing field by ensuring that trials done in India are as good as anywhere else. And this will ensure whatever is done here is more aligned to the international standards,” Datta told The Associated Press. India-U.S. relations have been improving since the end of the Cold War, during which India was viewed as having close ties with Moscow. Now, annual trade between the two stands at about $22 billion — an amount Sibal described as “next to nothing, but with potential to increase several times.” Under the collaboration agreement, the United States will help India set up a body similar to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to certify clinical trials performed in India for automatic acceptance in the U.S. market. While a number of U.S. companies are farming out drug trials to India — benefiting from nearly 50 percent cost savings — they are required to go through further procedures in the United States before their studies are accepted, Sibal said. The new body “will be an independent Indian entity, but it will follow world-class certification protocols, acceptable to the FDA and other authorities around the world,” he said. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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