The Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and the Department of Biostatistics organized the Vellore Birth Cohort (VBC) workshop on April 08 and 09, 2013. It involved active participation of the Departments of RUHSA, Community Health Nursing, Paediatric Endocrinology, Ophthalmology and Clinical Biochemistry. Extramural faculty included Professor Fredrick Karpe from Oxford University, Dr. Caroline Fall from Southampton University, Dr. Erick Ingelsson from Karolinska University, Dr. Giriraj Chandak from the Centre of Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, Dr.C.S. Yagnik from Pune, former Heads of Biostatistics- Dr. P.S.S. Sunder Rao and Dr. Richard and Dr. P. Raghupathy, former Head of Child Health.

The Vellore Birth Cohort is a longitudinal birth cohort that was established by Professor Sundar Rao, from the Department of Biostatistics, in 1967 and is India's longest standing birth cohort with a rich source of scientific contribution to Indian research. Historically, the cohort initially recruited about 10,000 pregnant women in Vellore town and adjoining rural villages (KV Kuppam Rural Development Block). The off-spring born to these pregnant women (about 2,500) were then followed up from birth through infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The adult follow-up was held between 1998-2002 under the leadership of Dr.Antonisamy, Professor of Biostatistics and Professor P. Raghupathy. This was funded by the British Heart Foundation, UK. Data obtained from this cohort resulted in several research articles in the field of maternal mortality, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In the recent years, the cohort was also used to investigate genetic associations with obesity, diabetes and related phenotypes.

The objective of the current workshop was to retrace the cohort and study in detail phenotypes relating to other noncommunicable diseases (NCD) especially diabetes, ageing, cardiovascular disease, bone health, Vitamin D deficiency and ophthalmic outcomes The two-day workshop included discussions on various non-communicable diseases of interest to the participating investigators and ways by which research could be carried out using VBC. The second adult follow-up of the VBC participants was planned and it is proposed to commence in June. Besides focus on the VBC, the team also discussed strengthening research collaborations with national experts and international universities interested in studying Noncommunicable diseases in Indian population. The future studies would include epidemiological, genetic and epigenetic studies among participants in the VBC.

A working team comprising of field workers, social workers, nutritionists, medical officers, research officers, lab technicians, statisticians and data-entry operators will engage full-time in the follow-up of the VBC. The cohort participants would have reached an average age of 40 years during the current follow-up, which also means that newer cases of NCDs will begin to appear and it is expected that research on the cohort in the coming decade will be very illuminating for NCD research in India. This workshop has initiated new avenues for collaborative research within India and strengthened existing international collaborations with Universities in Sweden and the UK.