An unprecedented row of five national communication spacecraft is slated to be put in space this year with hopes of vastly cutting the gap in satellite capacity for different users.
The first of them, GSAT-9 or the South Asia Satellite, will kick off the serial launches in the first half of April from the Sriharikota space port. (Officials said they had not yet set a date for it.)
A.S. Kiran Kumar, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, recently told The Hindu: "This year we are launching with five more communication satellites. With all of them coming up, there will definitely be a drastic, perceptible change in satellite capacity. In a matter of one year, the scene should be much better than what it is."
Mr. Kumar also said the ISRO has been taking conscious action to improve its overall communication transponders capacity; this space infrastructure supports broadcasters, telephone, Internet service and other businesses.
New satellites that are constantly put up for approval could ease up the scene in the next two to three years, he said.
For several years now, the space agency has been beset with a capacity deficit, caused by launch failures in which satellites were destroyed; and a galloping demand from public and private sector users.
The agency says its communication fleet of 14 provides 200-odd transponder equivalents. Another 95-odd transponders have been hired on foreign satellites to support Indian direct-to-home broadcasters and the agency aims to bring them back to its satellites.
Referring to last year's success and regularisation of the GSLV Mark-II rocket programme - that can put up to 2,000-kg satellites to space - Mr. Kumar said: "We have overcome some of the issues of launch vehicles, now we need to produce and make more use of them, and put more satellites into orbit."
GSAT-9 will ride on one such indigenous GSLV.
Historic and a rarity
Five communication spacecraft spread over less than a year is historic and a rarity for ISRO; all these years, it has launched one or two communication satellites a year.
GSAT-18 was the lone communication satellite sent up in late 2016.
Tentatively, ISRO has lined up the Internet user-friendly GSAT-19 for launch around May; GSAT-17 around June; GSAT-6A, which like GSAT-6, is for the Defence forces, in September; and its largest 5,000-plus GSAT-11 around December. GSAT-17 and GSAT-11 will be launched on the European Ariane launcher.
After INSAT-4CR was moved to a new orbital slot a few months ago, its efficiency has been improved and a little extra capacity created for select use, he said.
NRDC Meritorious Invention Awards were presented by the Minister for Science & Technology Dr. Harsh
March 25, 2017 (New Delhi)
The Minister for Science & Technology Dr. Harsh Vardhan has said that the Prime Minister has a lot of confidence in the youth to give the country a great advantage now. Speaking after presenting the Meritorious Invention Awards of National Research Development Corporation(NRDC) in New Delhi today, he said that in this context the Prime Minister looks forward for a new India by 2022. The Minister said that due to demographic dividend of the country, the next 5-10 years are expected to be a kind of golden era for the country. He urged all to move with a great self-confidence and zeal to achieve the glory that is due for India. He said that there is a need for greater innovation in institutes like NRDC.
Secretary, DSIR and DG, CSIR Dr. Girish Sahni, said that the NRDC with its good track record should further forge ahead to be a leader for taking the technology to the people particularly that which do not have sufficient financial support.
The National Research Development Corporation (An Enterprise of DSIR, Ministry of Science and Tech., Govt. of India) was organising its 43rd NRDC Meritorious Invention Awards Ceremony & Conference on "Leveraging Innovation Ecosystem for Accelerating Startups".
The aim of the event is to encourage the inventiveness and inculcate the spirit of invention in the country by giving them awards for meritorious activities in various fields. Various stakeholders, including governments and the scientific and academic communities, were present on this occasion.
IIT Bombay researchers find a novel target for blocking cancer metastasis
March 25, 2017 (Mumbai)
The biophysical properties of cancer stem cells are used to control the metastatic cancer
Researchers from IIT Bombay have found a novel pathway that is responsible for the progress of cancer metastasis - spread of cancer cells from its primary site of origin to new areas of the body. The finding holds potential in controlling metastasis to reduce cancer deaths. The study was published in the journal Oncotarget.
Surgical removal of primary tumours has long been used as a standard treatment for localised tumours, but treating cancer metastasis remains a formidable challenge. "Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are one cause of cancer metastasis. However, there is no study done so far to examine the impact of biophysical properties of cancer stem cells in cancer metastasis," says Dr. Rahul Purwar, Assistant Professor at Department of Biosciences & Bioengineering, IIT Bombay.
Contractile dynamics of a tumour cell represents one of the most important biophysical properties and is closely associated with cell spreading and cell adhesion properties of tumour cell. Increased cell contractility in breast cancer can initiate the escape of cancerous cells from their primary sites to distant organs, that is, metastasis.
Dr. Purwar's investigating team as well as other, earlier researchers have shown a close relationship between cell contractility (ability of cells to contract) and invasiveness in breast cancer cells, ovarian cancer cells and melanoma cells. Increased contractility is correlated with increased migration of cells which helps in metastasis.
However, it remains unknown whether contractile dynamics of CSCs are distinct as compared to the bulk tumour population and contribute in CSC-mediated metastasis.
Study lead author Dr. Purwar explains that "With this study, we identified a distinct pathway which CSCs use to invade the extracellular matrix and metastasise to other organs. Surprisingly, we observed that blockade of this pathway by pharmaceutical drugs completely abolished the invasion of CSCs as well as other tumour cells. Thus, targeting this distinct pathway may lead to the development of robust and long-term remission of cancer metastasis".
Cell contractility is regulated by two groups of enzymes including myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) and Rho associated protein kinase (ROCK). The team found that pharmacological targeting of ROCK prevents contractility and cell invasion potential of both CSCs and non-cancer stem cells, and is therefore a novel strategy for the treatment of cancer metastasis.
"Our work provides the first evidence of targeting biophysical properties of cancer stem cells for controlling metastatic cancer. However, further work is required to translate our findings before it goes to clinic," he says.
Government Aims To Make India A Global Biotech Hub By 2020 Impacting the Biotech Ecosystem
March 21, 2017 (New Delhi)
Government Aims To Make India A Global Biotech Hub By 2020 Impacting the Biotech Ecosystem: 5th Foundation Day Of BIRAC Inaugurated
The Minister of State for Science and Technology & Earth Sciences, Mr. Y. S. Chowdary, has said that biotechnology will be the leader among the knowledge based industries of the 21st century. He said producing affordable products will be major issue for India. He called for efforts to set up a proper ecosystem with sustainable systems, particularly in hubs of rural India. The Minister was speaking after inaugurating the 5th Foundation Day of Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), Department of Bio-Technology at New Delhi today.
Mr. Y. S. Chowdary, further said that - "Research and innovation has been one of the key areas emphasized by the Prime Minister. Globally, BIRAC has been hailed as one of the most effective government measures to create an enabling environment for research and development to flourish in a country. We aim to develop India into a global innovation hub by 2020 and BIRAC has paved the way to deliver on that mandate."
The 5th Foundation Day themed 'Impacting the Biotech Innovation Ecosystem' was presided over by and attended by a large number of dignitaries from the scientific and industry sectors both from within the country and oversees.
BIRAC is a not-for-profit public sector enterprise, set up by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India which acts as an interface agency to support emerging biotech enterprises to undertake strategic research and innovation, to address nationally relevant product development needs. Through the course of five years, BIRAC has supported over 618 projects, 850 start-ups, entrepreneurs, biotech companies and organizations and 20 incubators across the country, resulting in over 66 products and technologies and 120 Intellectual property rights being generated.
BIRAC supports entrepreneurs and start-ups at different stages of innovation - from the ideation stage to managing intellectual property rights and finally to the commercialization of products. Different initiatives of BIRAC target different stages of the innovation ecosystem from ideation stages to proof-of-concept and late stage validation to product development. BIRAC has 9 flagship schemes that are supported by funding from the Department of Biotechnology, and manages 7 collaboratively funded programs with international partners, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Nesta, the Wellcome Trust and USAID, among others. Social Innovation is a key focus for affordable and accessible product development.
Dr. K. Vijay Raghavan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology and Chairman, BIRAC said that Innovation and research must be directed toward addressing the most pressing problems of society. We're proud that BIRAC and the Department of Biotechnology are spearheading this effort in the biotechnology domain. Since its inception in 2012, BIRAC has created nearly two dozen incubators across the country and supported over 350 start-ups. We firmly believe that social entrepreneurship is the key to creating an inclusive society and our government is committed to providing all the necessary support.
The science and technology sector will play a key role in the government's Start-Up India Action Plan. The DBT, in line with the Start-Up India Action Plan has undertaken a number of initiatives centered on the three pillars of an ideal innovation ecosystem - funding, mentoring and capacity building, and the infrastructure to translate scientific research into commercial products. To this end, BIRAC implements its mandate through a wide range of high impact initiatives, providing access to risk capital through targeted funding, facilitating technology transfer, and supporting intellectual property management and handholding schemes for biotech firms to make them globally competitive.
Dr. Renu Swarup, Senior Adviser, Department of Biotechnology and Managing Director, BIRAC said that through initiatives such as Start-Up India and the Science and Technology for Harnessing Innovations or SATHI, the government is ushering in supportive policies and removing regulatory barriers to create an atmosphere of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country. The world as a whole stands to gain with Indian innovators stepping up and changing the way we address the grand challenges we face today. We are proud that BIRAC has created an enabling environment for the biotechnology industry to prosper.
The BIRAC Foundation will be followed by the Grand Challenges India Meeting to be held from 21st to 24th March, 2017 which will have the participation of BMGF, Wellcome Trust, USAID and Grand Challenges Innovators from Brazil, Canada, Bangladesh, Korea, South Africa, Kenya, Switzerland.
Dr. Harshvardhan inaugurates the 1st Grand Challenges India (GCI) Meeting
March 21, 2017 (New Delhi)
Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan presided over as Chief Guest and inaugurated the 1st Grand Challenges India (GCI) meeting here today. The meeting is being hosted by the Program Management Unit at BIRAC (PMU-BIRAC) from 21st to 24th March, 2017 and is jointly supported by Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Wellcome Trust.
The Grand Challenges India (GCI) is a mission-directed research initiative, collaboratively launched in 2012 under the umbrella of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the DBT and BMGF. As India transitions from Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals, the GCI partnership has ushered a new wave of innovative solutions to help address issues that are inextricably linked to social impact. This aims to achieve the said goals by reconnecting Science to People and available scientific data & evidences to the societal problems for finding tangible solutions.
Programs such as Grand Challenges India are providing global innovators and researchers a fantastic platform to collaborate and progress through the innovation ecosystem by developing their ideas and concepts. The PMU- BIRAC manages the complex portfolio of managing grants. The GCI provides financial support in the form of grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts to support the advancement of the GCI mission to enhance health, extend healthy lives, and reduce the burdens of poverty.
Addressing the distinguished gathering, Dr. Harsh Vardhan noted that the Department of Biotechnology and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have set up a very important strategic partnership, which is working towards funding innovative solutions to societal problems not only within India but also has a reference to the developing nations. Such partnerships bring together the strength of organizations and it is important to note that through this partnership, this initiative has been able to address issues around healthcare, sanitation and human development including nutrition and maternal child health brining nearly 45 organizations working together with a joint commitment. Shri Goyal also expressed great amount of confidence that Government of India reposts in the young scientific community and the seniors.
The GCI covers all kinds of health and developmental priorities, ranging from maternal and child health, infectious diseases, vaccines, point-of-care diagnostics, agriculture, food and nutrition to other related arenas of developing nations as per individual requirements. Most importantly, this partnership signifies a convergence between Indian and global priorities and synergistic new initiatives of the Government such as Swachh Bharat, Start-up India and others, Shri Harsh Vardhan added.
On the occasion, the Minister also released the booklet 'Grand Challenges India - Our Journey so Far', which describes the various achievements and success stories under the initiative including the 17 innovations across India that the GCI funds.
In his keynote address, Prof. K. VijayRaghavan, Secretary DBT and Chairman BIRAC, informed that Grand Challenges India, through PMU-BIRAC, supports flagship initiatives like All Children Thriving, Agriculture & Nutrition, Reinventing Toilets and the Healthy Birth Growth & Development Knowledge Integration (HBGDki) focusing on addressing stunting and physical, immunological and cognitive development with a particular focus on South Asia. He said that Governments, research experts, innovators are a facilitator to show multiple proofs of principle for various societal problems, which then need to be scaled up by the collaboration of efforts of all stakeholders to widely apply the demonstrated solution to the problem affecting all stakeholder cohorts.
GCI promotes scientific and technological advances which aim to find solutions to key health and development challenges through research and innovation, by funding Indian researchers. Projects are selected based on national and societal need and transparent calls are made for proposals seeking the best ideas. Under this initiative, the DBT and the Gates Foundation have pledged an investment of up to US$25 million each, over a period of 5 years.
Dr. Steven Buchsbaum, Deputy Director, Discovery & Translational Sciences, BMGF said that Grand Challenges not only seeks new ideas and new innovators to solve problems, but to be careful in defining the important problems worth solving. The GCI partnership with BIRAC provides India leadership for two goals - defining important problems to solve for India and India leadership in identifying ideas and innovators from the country to solve problems for both India and the world.
Dr. Renu Swarup, Senior Adviser, DBT and Managing Director, BIRAC said that through this meeting and future collaborations, the partners aim to build momentum for health and development initiatives via innovations and to foster scientific collaboration among national and international groups and researchers.
Other dignitaries present at the event were Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Secretary, Department of Health Research and Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Dr. Nachiket Mor, Country Director, India Office, BMGF, Dr. Shirshendu Mukherjee, Mission Director, PMU-BIRAC and other distinguished senior national and international personalities from the Ministry, BMGF, Wellcome Trust, USAID and Grand Challenges Innovators from Brazil, Canada, Bangladesh, Korea, South Africa, Kenya, Switzerland.
National Physical Laboratory(NPL)- CSIR dedicates the first - Pristine air-quality monitoring statio
March 20, 2017 (New Delhi)
National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has established an atmospheric monitoring station in the campus of Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT) at Palampur (H.P.) at an altitude of 1391 m for generating the base data for atmospheric trace species & properties to serve as reference for comparison of polluted atmosphere in India. At this station, NPL has installed state of art air monitoring system, greenhouse gas measurement system and Raman Lidar. A number of parameters like CO, NO, NO2, NH3, SO2, O3, PM, HC & BC besides CO2 & CH4 are being currently monitored at this station which is also equipped with weather station (AWS) for measurement of weather parameters.
This station has been dedicated to nation today by Dr. D.K. Aswal, Director, NPL and Dr. Sanjay Kumar, Director, IHBT. A number of senior scientist present included Dr. R.K. Kotnala, Head, Environmental Sciences and Biomedical Metrology Division of NPL, Mr. M.P. Goyal, Dr. S.K. Vats, Dr. Brij Lal, Dr Sanjay Uniyal, and large number of research students. Speaking on this occasion, Dr. Aswal stressed upon the need to promote quality measurements in atmospheric sciences which would help in developing appropriate policy measures for societal goods. He also underlined the need to develop synergies & interactions between all the agencies undertaking atmospheric monitoring for this purpose. Dr. Sanjay Kumar in his inaugural speech mentioned the need for setting up of such state of art monitoring systems in Himalayan region to assess the vulnerability of region's sensitive ecosystem due to climate change & pollution. During the function, Dr. R.K. Kotnala appreciated the collaboration between the CSIR-NPL & CSIR-IHBT in setting up this state of art monitoring facility which will serve as reference station. Dr. Chhemendra Sharma provided the perspectives and objectives of the CSIR's XII Five Year Plan Project 'AIM_IGPHim' under which this facility has been established and thanked the colleagues of NPL & IHBT for their contributions. The Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) has funded this project under its XII Five Year Plan projects.
In India, air quality parameters are mostly measured in industrial and residential areas, however, data for air quality of pristine atmosphere is not available in India. NPL's station will contribute to fill this important gap. The NPL's station will also serve as a base station for inter-comparison of air quality monitoring equipment being used in India to improve quality of monitored data in India. As the issues of atmospheric pollution has assumed a significant proportion of social concerns, it is utmost important to ensure quality of atmospheric monitoring so as to devise appropriate policies for abatement of air pollution based on sound scientific data for their effectiveness.
NPL has undertaken activities to contribute in improving the quality of atmospheric monitoring through providing traceable measurement facilities to various stake holders in the country and the NPL's monitoring station is an important step in that direction. In addition, NPL is also developing calibration standards for different pollutant gases and PM10 samplers for use in atmospheric monitoring.
The pristine CAAQMS station houses calibrated state-of-the-art-equipment for the continuous measurements of ambient and greenhouse gases (CO, NO, NO2, NH3, SO2, O3, PM1, PM2.5, PM10, hydrocarbons, black-carbon, CO2 & CH4), and weather parameters. Because of Palampur's pristine air, and the capability of the new monitoring station for detection of small amounts of pollutants, the impact of faraway pollution sources can be measured precisely. The data taken at this station during past one year shows that the pollution levels are far below the limits of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). In addition, this new station has the experimental facilities to investigate the aerosol/cloud interactions, and such investigations would be helpful in generating a better understanding of the Earth's climate system.
The data generated by pristine CAAQMS station at Palampur will act as background data for the measured pollution at various cities in the country. The generated background data will be shared with different pollution control boards and agencies in the country so that the more precise pollution mapping traceable to standard values can be done, which in turn, would assist policy decisions for the abatement of air pollutants.
'Significant incidences' of gold found in Uttarakhand
March 30, 2017 (Bengaluru)
Scientists at the Geological Survey of India (GSI) have discovered, for the first time, "significant incidences" of gold associated with copper mineralisation in parts of Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand.
"The gold values recorded from bedrock and stream sediment samples from the area are 475 ppb (parts per billion) and 1.42 ppm (parts per million), respectively," they have reported in the Current Science journal.
This part of Uttarakhand is in what is known as the "Lesser Himalaya" that is sandwiched, in the north, by the Main Central Thrust -- the major geological fault where the Indian Plate has been pushed under the Eurasian Plate along the Himalaya -- and in the south by North Almora Thrust.
The GSI scientists collected 355 samples from mineralised locales of Lameri-Koteshwar area of Uttarakhand. The gold and base metals were analysed at the GSI's chemical division in Lucknow.
"X-ray studies have indicated the presence of gold along with chalcopyrite, pyrite, sphalerite and galena in various samples," says the report, adding this "is the first record of in-situ gold incidence from the Rudraprayag area". Gold occurs as coarse, liberated particles and fine particles locked in pyrite and copper sulphide.
According to the report, the regions bearing gold are best exposed around Rudraprayag town in the Mandakini river valley. "Panning of stream sediments of Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers in Sumerpur-Ratura, Sari and Jugtoli areas revealed a few visible gold flakes."
The scientists also identified a cluster of five old workings in the form of shallow pockets around the Koteshwar area. "Near the old working site, one retort piece has also been recorded." Analysis of a sample of slag near the old working has yielded gold value of 45 ppb.
According to the GSI, gold is currently produced from three mines -- Hutti, Uti and Hirabuddni in Karnataka -- and, as a by-product, from the base metal sulphide deposits of Khetri in Rajasthan and Mosabani, Singhbhum, and Kundrekocha in Jharkhand.
Apart from the gold mines in the above-mentioned areas, some gold, although very small in quantity, is collected by "panning" from the sand and gravel of several rivers, including the Subarnarekha in Jharkhand and the Ambankadava Puzha and Chabiyar Puzha in Kerala.
Their finding on the occurrence of gold in alluvial deposits -- also called placer gold -- around Rudraprayag is indicative "of some probable potential auriferous (gold bearing) zone" towards the northern part of the region, the scientists say.
Pune-based institute to use novel recombinant BCG antigen.
In June this year, the Pune-based Serum Institute of India Pvt. Limited will begin a Phase II/III vaccine trial for tuberculosis using a novel, recombinant BCG (bacillus Calmette-Guérin) vaccine.
The double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial will be carried out on 2,000 adults who have been successfully treated (and cured) for TB. While 1,000 adults will receive the vaccine, the remaining volunteers will receive a placebo. A single dose of the vaccine will be administered, and the volunteers will be followed up for a year. The trial will be conducted in 15-17 centres across the country.
The new TB vaccine (VPM1002), which will be tested, is based on the BCG vaccine that is in use. However, it is more powerful and efficacious as it contains a gene, better recognised by the immune system.
"Adults who have completed TB treatment will be first screened and enrolled if found eligible 2-4 weeks after completion of TB treatment," says Dr. Prasad S. Kulkarni, Medical Director at Serum Institute.
"Traces of the drugs may be present in the body for two weeks after completion of the treatment. Since the vaccine contains live, weakened bacteria, the drugs can kill them if given earlier than two weeks after completing the treatment."
The vaccine will be first administered in 200 volunteers to test its safety, and safety of the vaccine will be tested. "If there are no safety concerns, the trial will continue in the remaining 1,800 volunteers," he says.
The safety of the vaccine has already been tested in two Phase I trials - 80 adults in Germany (2009) and 24 in South Africa (2010) - and one Phase 2a trial in South Africa in 2012 in 48 newborns who have not been exposed to HIV. "These trials have confirmed the safety of the vaccine and sufficient strengthening of the immune system against TB," says Umesh Shaligram, Director-R&D, Serum Institute.
The results of the Phase 2a trial in newborns in South Africa, published in February this year in Clinical and Vaccine Immunology, has confirmed the safety of the vaccine.
"The VPM1002 is a safe, well-tolerated, and immunogenic vaccine in newborn infants, confirming the results from the previous trials in adults," the paper says.
A Phase 2b trial on 416 newborns who have either been exposed or not to HIV is under way in South Africa. "The results of the Phase 2b trial will be known in August-September this year. So far, there have been no safety concerns," he says.
While the currently used BCG vaccine causes BCG-related disease in HIV-positive babies (due to reduced immunity), the recombinant version is expected to be safe in babies exposed to HIV.
Serum Institute is also planning to start next year a Phase III trial on newborns in India.
Livestock with superbugs pose threat to human health
March 30, 2017 (New Delhi)
Antibiotic resistance in humans is a known danger. Now, new research suggests that animals may also face the danger of a post-antibiotic era, where drugs don't cure infections.
Scientists at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Bareilly screened fecal samples of 112 piglets from 10 government farms across several states, and found that eight of them (7%) were carrying superbug New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM), which is not treatable with most antibiotics.
The isolates, which were collected from states including Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Karnataka and Kerala, also revealed that 23 of them (21%) were resistant to carbapenem, the last-resort antibiotic.
The study, led by O R Vinodh Kumar, has been peerreviewed and accepted for publication in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.
Common perception is that carbapenem resistance bacteria are found in humans, since high-end antibiotics are not allowed to be used in livestock. One of the researchers said resistant pathogens could have been transferred to the animals from human contact or through the environment. "Vice-versa is also possible," he added.
IVRI experts say their research findings point towards potential public health problems as antibiotics are used in large quantities for promoting growth and keeping the livestock disease-free.
According to Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, all animals carry bacteria in their intestines. "When food animals are slaughtered and processed, these bacteria can contaminate the meat or other animal products.
They can also get into the environment through animal stool and may spread to produce that is irrigated with contaminated water," it says, on how antibiotic use in animals affect people.
It adds that people can be exposed to resistant bacteria from animals while handling or eating raw or under-cooked meat, from contact with animal stool (either directly or when it gets into water for drinking, swimming or growing plants), and from touching or caring for animals.
Delhi-based vaccine research organisation Hilleman Laboratories has entered into an agreement with Kolkata-based National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED) to develop and commercialize a vaccine against Shigella, a bacteria that causes dysentery. The two aim to complete the development of this vaccine by 2024, according to Hilleman Labs chief executive officer Davinder Gill.
Shigella is the second most fatal organism that causes severe diarrhea in children after Rotavirus, said Gill. In February, the bacteria figured in the World Health Organisation's first ever list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that pose "the greatest threat to human health."
There is currently no approved vaccine for Shigella, according to Shanta Dutta, Director, NICED.
At the same time, a handful of companies and institutes like GSK Vaccines Institute for Global Health are already working on such a vaccine. Last June, Australia-based biotech company Immuron also entered into an agreement to produce a Shigella vaccine with Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, the US Army's biomedical research lab.
Hilleman's latest agreement marks a strategic shift for the organisation, which has so far focussed on optimising existing vaccines, said Gill. The organisation will now endeavour to develop an entirely new line of treatment, he added.
Under its agreement with NICED, an organisation under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Hilleman Labs will begin testing the institute's lead Shigella vaccine candidate on humans.
Unlike other Shigella vaccines under development, Hilleman and NICED's vaccine will be an oral vaccine that targets four strains of the bacteria, Gill said. It may also incorporate Hilleman's existing knowledge of heat stability and low cost manufacturing processes, he said.
"We think that, putting all of this knowledge together, we can come up with something very different from what others have tried. It would probably have a better chance of success," he told ET.
While he did not disclose how much Hilleman would invest in this project, Gill said that typically $50 million to 100 million is invested for a project at this stage of development in a country like India.
The potential market size for Shigella vaccines is expected to be close to that of Rotavirus vaccines, which is estimated to comprise a market of over $1.5 billion globally, according to Gill.
Diarrheal diseases were collectively responsible for 13 lakh deaths across all age groups around the world, according to the 2015 Global Burden of Disease report. Shigella reportedly resulted in 1.64 lakh deaths in total, mostly concentrated in African and South Asian regions, including India.
MET pulls out all stops to combat heat wave, Maharashtra sizzles at 46°C
March 30, 2017 (New Delhi)
Medical Council, Red Cross part of plan to address this, with action to begin right away
Changing school timings, compulsory availability of potable drinking water at railway stations and public places and shifting of hospital wards that houses women and children to lower floors are among some of the drastic steps which the India Meteorological Department, along with the National Disaster Management Authority, has suggested to state governments of 50-odd districts seen highly vulnerable to heatwaves and prolonged dry weather.
The Red Cross and the Medical Council of India (MCI) have also decided to chip in by distributing oral rehydration packets and regular updates to weak patients to ensure that disease and deaths due to soaring temperatures are kept at the minimum level this summer season.
The highly vulnerable districts are in Vidarbha, Telangana, north interior Karnataka, Marathwada, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Rayalaseema.
As many as 11 states have already developed their own heat action plan and are said to be implementing it; a national plan was missing. These places are part of what IMD termed the core heat wave zone, where its summer season forecast (issued last month) said the temperatures would be above normal.
"We will start working from Monday onwards, when IMD would send its advisories to the Red Cross and Medical Council chapters across the country, for action by doctors and others. It will also start issuing impact-based forecasts," said IMD director-general K J Ramesh.
Officials said temperatures would gradually start rising from April. By May, many parts of central, western and northern India could experience maximum temperatures over 42 degrees for most days.
In 2016, among the hottest recorded years since 1901, the country averaged annual mean land surface temperature of 0.9 degree Celsius above the 1961-1990 average. The heatwave last year caused 1,111 deaths of people, beside those of wildlife, birds and poultry, as also in zoos.
The IMD classifies a heatwave as when temperatures are 4.5-6.4 degrees above normal. For areas in the plains, a heatwave comes when the maximum temperature is consistently more than 40 degrees; in the hills, over 30 degrees; for coastal regions, more than 37 degrees.
"A temperature above 42 degrees is equivalent to having 102 degrees Fahrenheit fever, which is where the body's resistance starts breaking, making human life most vulnerable," Ramesh told this newspaper. He said the aim of their action plan was make districts and state administrations battle-ready, the same way as for a cyclone or floods.
Its components include the setting up of drinking water kiosks in public places like roads and railway stations. And, getting people to not move out of their homes for non-essential work between 11 am and 4 pm, when temperatures are at a peak.
The Red Cross has been asked to activate all its chapters in the 29 states and the Union territories. A climate outlook forum in it will establish long-term sensitisation procedures for people against a heat waves, and the precautions. The Red Cross will also distribute Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) packets and drinking water to affected people, give first aid, report daily and organise mobile medical camps forn open construction sites and the like.
MCI has 1,700-plus chapters and will use the daily, weekly and fortnightly heat wave forecasts of IMD to forewarn patients and others about possible fallout. And, build inventory of types of diseases that get aggravated due to hot weather and if any new symptom or health condition is noticed due to the heatwave.
"This exercise would help up in building a strong depository of heat-related diseases, their treatments and precautions, including any new condition which has developed in some region but could not get proper medical attention due to lack of coordination between agencies," explained Ramesh.
He said heat waves had always occurred in India but their intensity and severity has gone up in recent decades and years. Which was why the Centre and states had decided to pool resources and coordinate with all agencies.
Until 1990, India had experienced less than 500 heat waves. In 1991-2000, the number rose to 580. Between 2,000 and 2,010, around 670 such waves hit the country.
Keeping a cool head:
* Until 1990, India experienced less than 500 heatwaves. In 1991-2000, the number rose to 580; during 2000-2010, around 670 heatwaves hit the country
* IMD forecast temperatures to remain above normal between March and May this year in most parts of the country
* In May, temperatures in many parts of central, western and northern India could be over 42 degrees for most days
* The Medical Council of India will direct all its doctors across 1,700 chapters to get daily updates from IMD for giving correct treatment to vulnerable patients, mostly children and the old
Scientific Ballooning was started in India during the 1950's by Dr. Homi J. Bhabha under the aegis of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), an autonomous body under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and was established in the outskirts of Hyderabad in the 1970's. Since then, more than 490 balloon flights of various sizes have been conducted from this center till date. This is one of the unique facilities in the world where stratospheric zero pressure balloons are designed, fabricated with indigenous material, launched and the instruments recovered. The balloons designed and fabricated in this facility have also been exported to foreign scientific institutions and many foreign scientific missions have also been flown from the Hyderabad balloon facility.
Balloons supplied by this facility are used to measure vertical wind profiles at SDSC-SHAR before launch of satellites by ISRO and also for qualifying many instruments in near space environments before being incorporated in satellites. This facility is also involved in experimental strategic programs of the armed forces. Experiments carried out on the earth's atmosphere have also helped in rain prediction as well as pollution monitoring and control. Any scientific institution which desires to conduct scientific balloon flights can approach Balloon Facility, Hyderabad and send the proposal for conducting the scientific experiment. TIFR ensures that all the concerned agencies are kept informed about the flights, their expected trajectory and their likely recovery area.
At the time of the balloon flights, all Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) in the corridor allotted for balloon flights are kept informed by TIFR well in advance of the trajectory of the balloon flight. During the balloon flight, the ATCs are kept informed of the actual position of the balloon on minute by minute basis. The police stations in the vicinity of the expected landing of the instruments are also informed. Pamphlets regarding the instruments are attached to the instruments in various local languages and the persons to contact in case these instruments are sighted by any person, are prominently displayed. Also, an advance party of TIFR technicians is always following the balloon trajectory in a vehicle so as to reach the landed instrument in the shortest possible time. Care is taken to try and release the payload in sparsely inhabited areas of the corridor and only in broad daylight so that the instrument descending on a brightly colored parachute is easily visible to any person on the ground.
In addition, for every flight window season, the Balloon Facility communicates with the Chief Secretary of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, Police Wireless of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra for awareness of balloon drift and instrument recovery. In the case of balloon flights conducted for Government funded and private institutions, the cost is recovered from the institution concerned. With regard to in-house experiments and research and with regard to improving balloon design and efficiency and for procuring equipment for safely conducting balloon flights, funding from the Government (DAE) in terms of Plan Funds is about Rupees One crore per year.
This information was provided by the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh in written reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.
Keep action plans ready, say Met department and NDMA.
Even as the country braces for a scorching summer and temperatures in several States going up over the past week, the India Meteorological Department, along with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), is exhorting the States to implement Heat Wave Action Plans.
These describe step-by-step procedures the States ought to implement - from communication and ensuring first aid to imposing early summer vacations in schools and ensuring that labourers employed in MGNREGA schemes aren't assigned work during certain times of the day - in case of heatwave like conditions.
So far Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha and Maharashtra have committed themselves to action plans, which are implemented in varying degrees in their districts.
Advice to U.P., Rajasthan
"This year we're talking to Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to have such a plan," Madhavan Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, told The Hindu.
Several IMD officials from various States as well as representatives from municipal corporations are attending here a two-day workshop, meant to nudge more States into having a State-specific plan.
Cut in casualties
At a presentation, NDMA's Anup Srivastava said heatwaves killed 22,562 between 1992 and 2015.
"In 2016, the number of casualties came down drastically to 1,111 from 2,040 in 2015," he said in a paper. It was from 2016 that the IMD began giving heatwave forecasts and the States began considering plans.
In 2015, Andhra Pradesh had 1,422 heat-related deaths. This came down to 723 the next year.
While there are nuances and region specific differences, the IMD broadly defines a heatwave as when a place's temperature is 5-6°C above normal.
It already forecasts heatwaves on its website but a proper plan would mean that the States and district administrations would get warnings on the likelihood of temperatures rising to heatwave limits.
"For instance, a State like Gujarat would like to know when temperatures would hit 41-42°C and we give them a forecast," said S.C. Bhan, IMD meteorologist associated with the programme.
On February 28, the IMD forecast "above normal" temperatures this summer in Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana.
The summer forecast is in line with a generally warm trend over previous months; 2016 was the warmest year in a century, according to the IMD, with the country 0.91°C warmer than the 1961-1990 average. The summer months of March-May last year were 1.36°C higher than the historical average, making it the second warmest since 1901. The higher temperatures coincide with three, consecutive years of weak monsoons.
On Tuesday, the IMD said that "prevailing winds & clear sky conditions over northwest & adjoining central India" has led to heat wave conditions in West Rajasthan & Gujarat and at isolated places over West Madhya Pradesh. Delhi was already 7°C hotter than what's normal for the last week of March.
'India's temperature rose by 0.60 degree over last 110 years'
March 27, 2017 (New Delhi)
According to IMD, all India mean temperatures have risen nearly 0.60 degree over the last 110 yrs
Further IMD studies have highlighted that extreme events like heat waves have risen in the last 30 yrs
Similarly, trends in extreme rainfall events in last century showed significant positive trend
India's temperature has risen by nearly 0.60 degree celsius over the last 110 years and extreme events like heat waves have increased in the last 30 years, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Monday.
According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), in line with rising temperatures across the globe, all India mean temperatures have risen nearly 0.60 degree Celsius over the last 110 years. Further IMD studies have highlighted that extreme events like heat waves have risen in the last 30 years.
"Similarly, trends in extreme rainfall events in last century showed significant positive trend over the west coast and northwestern parts of peninsula," Environment minister Anil Madhav Dave said in a written reply.
He said as per the fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in 2014, globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature has risen by 0.85 degree Celsius over the period 1880 to 2012.
Many extreme weather and climate events like heat waves, heavy precipitation and tropical cyclones have been observed since about 1950, he said.
The government has launched the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in June, 2008 to deal with climate change and related issues.
NAPCC comprises of eight missions in specific areas of solar energy, enhanced energy efficiency, habitat, water, sustaining Himalayan ecosystems, forestry, agriculture and strategic knowledge for climate change.
These missions address the issues relating to mitigation of greenhouse gases and adaptation to the adverse impacts of climate change on environment, forests, habitat, water resources and agriculture, he said.
"All states and UTs have also been requested to prepare State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC) in line with the objectives of the NAPCC highlighting state-specific issues relating to climate change. So far, 32 states and UTs have prepared their SAPCC," the minister said.
CSIR-North East Institute of Science & Technology, Itanagar branch organised a skill development programme on "post training intervention for initial financial assistance and business link-up" under the CSIR-800 programme at the institute premises, Naharlagun on Tuesday.
CSIR-NEIST took upon itself the onerous task of developing a few simple technologies suitable for the micro-scale sector of the industry which are simple, easy to operate with low skill and minimum land, labour and capital, and are meant for the unskilled or semi-skilled entrepreneurs.
Accordingly, the institute had completed four awareness cum training programmes on mushroom spawn production and cultivation technology, vermicomposting, banana fibre extraction and products, solid and liquid deodorant, wood care, mosquito repellent incense sticks and candles, and cultivation of aromatic plants and distillation technology during February and March this year.
The basic objective of the programme of the post training intervention programme for the beneficiaries, entrepreneurs and farmers was to set up a business link-up and initial financial assistance to start or implement the CSIR technologies.
Around 60 farmers, villagers, and beneficiaries from different parts of Arunachal Pradesh and North Lakhimpur, Assam attended the day-long programme.
Dr Pinaki Sengupta, Chief Scientist, CSIR-NEIST Jorhat, while giving a brief introduction of the institute, urged all to come forward and take the advantages of technologies developed by CSIR-NEIST, Jorhat and Itanagar branch for societal benefit.
State Council for Science & Technology Chairman, Bamang Mangha appreciated the activities of the institute on skill development for the benefits of the entrepreneurs and socio-economic upliftment of the state with its latest technologies. He assured for help and cooperation from the State Council of Science & Technology to the entrepreneurs. He also talked about joint action programme in collaboration with state Council of Science & Technology, NEIST and the concerned departments of the Government of India.
Itanagar-Capital Complex ADM & CEO, Talo Potom assured to help maintain a peaceful atmosphere in the institute for scientific development to benefit the state. He also said that the unemployed youths can take the benefit by using its technologies and also to improve lifestyle.
He requested the authorities of NEIST to inform of its rural, micro and small scale technologies to the state Chief Minister and Chief Secretary in a meaningful way for implementation.