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May 20, 2019 (Hyderabad)
CSIR labs played a key role during Cyclone Fani: DG
It was not just the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences and the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) which played a key role in tackling the recent Cyclone Fani which hit Odisha, but several labs of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) too pegged in.
“The cyclone was very devastating and apart from predictions, and where it would hit, these were done fantastically. But, what do you do before and after it hits? This is where our institutions played a key role which has been missed by many,” said CSIR Director General Shekhar C. Mande on Friday.
It begins with vulnerable sections shifted to 200 sturdy cyclone shelters built by the CSIR’s Structural Engineering Research Centre (SERC) in Chennai and implemented by the Indian Red Cross which could house up to 4,000 people at a time and keep them safe from the calamity.
After the cyclone passed, it left behind a trail of death and destruction and there were many people seeking potable water and food. Here too, the CSIR institutions contributed their mite.
“The mobile water purification bus developed by Bhavnagar-based Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI) housing a water purification and desalination system generating 4,000 litres per hour moved into all the affected villages,” he said. The water purification vehicle could purify any kind of contaminated water, including silt-laden left by floods, and brackish water along coastal areas to make it potable by removing viruses and bacteria explained Mr Mande.
Similarly, the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysuru, and the Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT) too joined the relief and rehabilitation efforts in supplying lakhs of food packets which could be stable for some time.
“It was a war-like situation and our labs helped in disaster management,” added Dr Mande.
May 17, 2019 (Mumbai)
IIT-Bombay researcher's smartphone lens can find fake notes, detect malaria
Researchers at IIT-Bombay have developed a 'smartphone microscope' that could help identify counterfeit notes, study blood cells on slides or even check contaminants in water. The fabricated lens has to be merely placed over the smartphone's camera to observe what is not visible with the naked eye.
The lens has been developed by Bhuvaneshwari Karunakaran as part of her PhD research under the guidance of professors Soumyo Mukherji and Debjani Paul from the Biosciences and Bioengineering department at IITB. They made use of a silicone elastomer called polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) to develop the lens. An elastomer is a polymer with viscoelasticity properties. The miniature lens developed by the researchers could find use in malaria detection, endoscopes, dental tests, etc
When water is filled in a glass test tube, the water surface is never flat, instead, it forms a crescent shape. Similar crescents develop at the interface of two fluids, which do not mix with each other. The researchers made use of this property to make their lens. They placed the PDMS on water, which does not mix with it. Instead, it forms a hemisphere at the interface of both the fluids. "Once this liquid polymer is heated, it solidifies and doesn't deform," said Mukherji. By applying additional pressure at one end of the fluid interface, the curvature of the lens could be altered to change the magnification. The technique used by the researchers was published in the Journal of Biomedical Optics.
While traditional methods of fabricating lenses are expensive as they require labour and costly equipment, "this is a simple, inexpensive and off-the-shelf approach to fabricate miniature lenses," said the professor. These microscopes can be used to see objects of about 1.5 microns in size.
Mukherji said these tiny lenses could be put to multiple uses. "Right from contaminants in water to the micro-features on a currency note, everything can be seen by just placing this lens over the smartphone's camera," he added. Karunakaran said these lenses can also be used in endoscopes and sperm counting.
April 30, 2019 (New Delhi)
India-Sweden industry-led R&D programme launched
The India – Sweden Collaborative Industrial Research & Development Programme supported by the Government of India and Sweden was launched by Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology and H E Klas Molin, Ambassador of Sweden to India at the 'AI for All summit', an India-Sweden partnership event at New Delhi.
The launch of this collaboration is in line with Niti Aayog’s National Policy on Artificial Intelligence (AI) ‘AIforAll’ which focuses on harnessing collaborations and partnerships and aspires to ensure prosperity for all. 'AIforAll' means technology leadership in AI for achieving the greater good.
Marching towards this direction, a discussion was held on using AI to address global challenges by Swedish & Indian stakeholders from public & private sector during the event.
In his keynote address, Shri Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog talked about the vision document on ‘ÁIforAll’ and said that artificial intelligence could serve India’s needs in areas like medical and health services, agriculture, smart cities, smart industries, security infrastructure and so on.
“With proactive government initiatives, robust startup and innovation ecosystem, India offers unique solutions which cater to diverse demography, and these can help it become the AI hub for the World. It can produce AI technologies which can be applied at scale and replicated across nations,” he added.
“India's data diversity is a big draw for global AI implementers as data is the fuel that powers current generation AI algorithms utilising deep learning,” he further pointed out. Prof Ashutosh Sharma stressed about a road map in AI and elaborated how DST could work with Sweden on several focus areas for India.
He mentioned that the creation of data hubs, the convergence of technologies and collaborations with the countries in different related areas can help leverage AI for the benefit of society.
"The India-Sweden Collaborative Industrial Research and Development Programme will see Swedish and Indian innovators work together and develop solutions that benefit both sides," Klas Molin, said.
He added that India, with its strong talent pool and scale with over a billion people, will play an important role in developing solutions that can address challenges related to healthcare, transportation and public safety.
The objective of the programme is to promote, facilitate and support co-development and commercialization of innovative technologies which can benefit both India and Sweden. This Programme is being implemented by Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA) on behalf of DST in India, and Vinnova in Sweden.
The launch of the Programme coincided with the launch of the 1st Request for Proposals 2019 with the following areas of focus:
1. Smart Cities and Clean Technologies, including but not limited to:
2. Digitalisation and Internet of Things (IoT)
Indian industry can avail funding up to INR 1.5 Cr (USD 250,000 approx.) per project for co-development of technologies with Sweden. Government’s contribution would be match funded by the Indian Industry. Similarly, the Swedish industry can avail a grant of up to 2, 500,000 Swedish Krona per project by their Government.
The deadline for submission of applications is August 19, 2019.
April 30, 2019 (New Delhi)
IOC's R&D centre patent filing crosses 1,000-mark
State-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC) Tuesday said its research and development centre at Faridabad has become the first public sector oil and gas company to cross the milestone of filing 1,000 patents.
The Centre filed the 1,001st patent this week, the company said in a statement here. "The R&D Centre's IP (Intellectual Property) portfolio comprises 794 active patents, of which 542 patents were granted abroad and 252 in India. The centre has also registered a healthy commercialisation rate for its patents, higher than the global average," it said.
Complimenting the R&D team for lending a competitive edge to IOC's business through innovative products, processes and technologies, company chairman Sanjiv Singh said several quality upgradation projects implemented at its refineries for the production of ultra-clean BS-VI grade fuels are based on deep desulphurisation, isomerisation and dimerisation technology patents developed in-house.
IOC's internationally-awarded INDMAX technology patent, successfully commercialised at Paradip Refinery, improves LPG yields by 40 per cent besides ensuring the highest propylene yields in its class, the statement said adding the centre's bio-methanation technology is best-in-class in methane yields and is being implemented at the Namakkal (Tamil Nadu) plant for production of compressed biogas (CBG).
Established in 1972, the centre is a pioneer in downstream petroleum sector R&D and has received wide acclaim for indigenising lubricants technology by launching the SERVO brand. With over 5,000 formulations and over 800 active grades covering all conceivable applications, including railroad and marine oils, SERVO has grown to be the largest selling lubricant brand in India.
From being the birthplace of the highly successful, fuel-efficient 'Nutan' kerosene wick-stove in the late 70s, the R&D centre has come a long way in the past four decades.
According to SSV Ramakumar, Director (R&D), IOC, the centre has been focussing on developing high-quality, environment-friendly products and innovative refinery processes that boost resource efficiency, enhance refinery-petrochemicals
integration, and offer flexibility in product pattern and yields in line with market demand.
With 50 per cent of its active patents in the refining category, followed by 16 per cent in biotechnology, the R&D team has made considerable progress even in the highly IP-crowded field of Ziegler-Natta catalysts, used in the production of polymers (plastics). "We have not only created white space here but succeeded in earning a rich haul of patent grants that are well recognised by global majors," he said.
In line with IOC's business objectives, the R&D centre has expanded its research domain to cover petrochemicals, nanotechnology, alternative fuels, energy storage solutions and Hydrogen-based fuel cell research, among others, the statement
April 29, 2019 (Thiruvananthapuram)
Kerala to have 3 more science centres
Science enthusiasts in the central parts of the State will no longer have to travel all the way to the capital or Kozhikode for the planetarium experience.
Work on three science centres under the Kerala State Science and Technology Museum (KSSTM), Thiruvananthapuram, is progressing at Chalakudy, Kottayam and Parappanangadi in Malappuram.
First of the centres
The first of these, on four-and-a-half acres of land at Chalakudy, is set for inauguration by November this year.
“Of the around 5 lakh visitors we have a year, a good share is from other districts. Also, many participants of our Summer Creative Workshops for children are from other districts. Due to the dearth of staff and space, we are often unable to accommodate all the applicants,” says G. Arul Jerald Prakash, Director, KSSTM.
The regional centres are expected to make informal science education accessible to more students.
The planetarium of the ₹25-30 crore Chalakudy centre is similar to the one in Thiruvananthapuram. It has a 15-metre diameter dome with 15 degrees tilt.
“The centre will have six high-end digital projectors. About 80% of the work on the centre is over. The observatory equipment will be reached within a fortnight and the planetarium equipment is expected to arrive by June-July,” says Mr Prakash.
The Science City at Kuravilangad in Kottayam is expected to be operational by January 2020. It will have a ₹13.5-crore 3D dome projector with 18-m diameter and 23-degree tilt.
“The planetarium at Kuravilangad is immersion type and visitors will have to wear goggles to watch the shows,” says the KSSTM Director.
The ₹120-crore centre is a Central-State partnership venture and the science centre is being built by the National Council for Science Museums.
Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and motion simulator theatres are part of the centre. Plans are also there to set up a snow city and rope car facility.
At Parappanangadi, the planetarium building work started in February. If things pan out well, the centre will be inaugurated by January 2021.
Science educators think such centres will take children closer to science. “Due to the expenses and travel time involved, we have to limit the visits to a planetarium to one or so a year. Opening of regional centres will definitely improve accessibility to scientific facilities,” says Anilkumar K.K., HSST(physics), GHSS, Mezhathur in Palakkad.
Innovation hubs, interactive science galleries, and astronomical observatories will be part of these centres. Visitor amenities like washrooms and cafeteria will also be set up.
With the opening of these centres, the State will have five planetariums, including the Regional Science Centre and Planetarium at Kozhikode, a project under the Government of India.
April 26, 2019 (Mumbai)
Developing countries like India face 'unfair US pressure': Health activists
India was again put on the 'priority watch list’ in US Special 301 report for intellectual property (IP) violations, which triggered a sharp response of "unfair US pressure" from health activists. United States Trade Representative on April 25 released its annual Special 301 Report, placing 36 countries on the 'priority watch list' and 'watch list’, basically those "trading partners that currently present the most significant concerns regarding IP rights".
India has been on the priority watch list reportedly for over 25 years, for "lack of sufficient measurable improvements to its IP framework that have negatively affected US right holders".
Stating that Special 301 undermines efforts to lower medicine prices globally, international medical humanitarian agency, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said developing countries like India ``once again face pressures’’ over measures taken to protect access to medicines. This year too, Special 301 names countries which are using public health safeguards in intellectual property laws, they added.
“Ironically the report comes at a time when the US is witnessing a campaign in which its lawmakers and patient advocates are seeking to make medicines more affordable domestically, and advocating compulsory licences to make therapies for HIV and other diseases more affordable”, says Leena Menghaney head-south Asia, MSF told TOI.
Not surprisingly, India is named in the report for the country’s patentability criteria, compulsory licensing criteria and absence of an additional intellectual property monopoly-data exclusivity. India’s patent and drug regulatory laws and policies have helped to protect price-lowering generic competition, so much so that the country is known as "pharmacy of the developing world" because it supplies affordable quality generic medicines globally.
Two-thirds of medicines supplied globally by humanitarian organisations including MSF, to treat TB, HIV and malaria are generic medicines made in India.
“Such pressure violates the integrity and legitimacy of the system of legal rights and flexibilities created by the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement, as reaffirmed by the Doha Declaration for the World Trade Organisation members to meet their rights and public health obligations”, an MSF statement said.
Health activists say US attacks on India’s patent laws began to intensify after India issued a compulsory licence in March 2012. These attacks –which aim to undermine generic competition –further amplified after Supreme Court’s in April 2013 upheld the rejection of a patent for a life-saving cancer drug. Subsequently, in 2014, it continued through USTR’s unilateral Special 301 Report and Out-of-Cycle Review, two US International Trade Commission (USITC) investigations at the request of US Congress.
April 22, 2019 (New Delhi)
MOU signed between Ministry of AYUSH and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Ministry of AYUSH and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi today for cooperation in research and education in areas of traditional systems of medicine and its integration with modern science. The MoU was signed by Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha, Secretary, Ministry of AYUSH and Dr Shekhar C. Mande, Director General, CSIR and Secretary, DSIR in the presence of senior officials from both the organizations.
Speaking on the occasion, Secretary stated in due cognition of the growing interest of traditional medicines worldwide, there is a need for multipronged and innovative approaches for the acceptance of this science. He said that the combination of traditional healthcare and modern basic science has a huge possibility to do innovative and path-breaking researches which can be used for the explanation of various basic concepts.
DG, CSIR appreciated the ongoing projects and programmes between the two organizations. He stated that enhancing the collaboration through joint R&D efforts ranging from fundamental science to validation and thereafter product development, will significantly help in the growth of the Indian contributions to this important sector, not only nationally but internationally as well. Futuristic efforts of this inter-ministerial cooperation shall include the pursuit of Data mining & analytics and Artificial Intelligence to enable and facilitate concepts such as “Traditional knowledge inspired drug discovery and development” and “Food as Medicine”.
Previously, CSIR jointly with Department of AYUSH (now Ministry) developed the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), a globally recognized proprietary database on Indian systems of medicine for preventing bio-piracy and misappropriation of our traditional knowledge. The constituent laboratories of CSIR and councils of the Ministry of AYUSH have also supported each other in the development of improved varieties and captive cultivation of the medicinal plants including rare, engendered and threatened (RET) species, Botanical Reference Standards and Pharmacopoeial standards, and Ayurgenomics, among many others.
In due cognition of the upward surge in the usage of herbal medicines and supplements globally, the endeavour of Ministry of AYUSH and CSIR today is to bring the organizations under an umbrella understanding for pursuing focused R&D efforts in the domain. Under the MoU, both organizations shall jointly endeavor to pursue: R&D covering fundamental research; AYUSH specific diagnostic tools; linking microbiome, gene expression and Prakriti; multi-ingredient herbal formulations, including their standardization; exploring modern scientific methods for integration with traditional Indian Systems of Medicine (ISM); linking disease signatures; etc.; Furthering the collaboration in preserving and protecting traditional knowledge related to the Indian systems of healthcare, through the existing TKDL platform; and Development of international standardized terminologies (disease-morbidity codes) in Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani (ASU), Database on Medicinal plants, Foods, etc
April 7, 2019 (New Delhi)
To shield patents, firms seek information on generic drug launches
In what is being seen as an attempt to delay launch of low priced generic medicines, multinational drug makers have asked the government to create a registry providing information about all drug applications pending manufacturing and marketing approval.
The proposal, if accepted by the government, will help ‘big pharma’ pre-emptively challenge generic drug makers in court for allegedly infringing upon their patents and in turn blocking or delaying the entry of the low cost version of the drug in the market. The health ministry has vehemently opposed the proposal on grounds that it will not only be “unfair to local drug manufacturers to disclose their product strategy” but also has “the potential to substantially increase healthcare costs for the public” as launch of generic products will get delayed through litigation, a senior official said. He added, such information about product applications filed for approval are not disclosed anywhere in the world.
However, the proposal is still pending with the department of pharmaceuticals (DoP) — another wing of the government that looks into pharmaceutical industry under the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers.
“It is pertinent to point out here that inadequate information in respect of pending applications for such market authorisations/manufacturing licenses and grants on the CDSCO website poses a significant challenge for the innovators in tracking potential infringers and obtaining timely reliefs from the appropriate court of law,” the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) said in its proposal.
OPPI — which represents multinational pharmaceutical companies and advocates issues related to research and protection of intellectual property rights — recently tabled the proposal in an industry consultation meeting with the drug regulator. “OPPI is seeking to outsource its task of finding potential patent infringers to the drug regulator. The regulator’s mandate is to work towards safe medicines and not to be a tool in the hands of innovator pharma for sake of ‘pre-emptive patent litigation’,” says Malini Aisola of All India Drugs Action Network, a public health group advocating access to medicines.
April 5,2019 (New Delhi)
Indian Navy signs MoU with Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
The Indian Navy and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) today inked a MoU to undertake joint research and development of advanced technologies for the Indian Navy. This will be a collaborative arrangement between labs of CSIR, the Indian Navy and Indian industry.
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Vice Admiral GS Pabby PVSM, AVSM, VSM Chief of Materiel of Indian Navy and Shri Shekhar C Mande, Secretary DSIR and Director General, CSIR. The event was attended by Directors of Seven CSIR Labs, Flag Officers and Heads of Directorates of Indian Navy and eminent scientists from distinguished CSIR Labs.
The MoU provides a formal framework for interaction between Indian Navy and CSIR. It would facilitate joint R&D activities in diverse fields of Mechanical, Electronics, Communication, Computer Science, Propulsion systems, Metallurgy and Nanotechnology.
Speaking on the occasion, Vice Admiral GS Pabby congratulated CSIR for its yeoman service to the nation in the field of Scientific Research and Development and noted some of the futuristic technology being developed, which could be used for enhancing operational availability and combat capabilities of Naval platforms. He emphasised on the necessity of such partnerships between the armed forces and world class National Institutions like CSIR which would allow Indian Navy to leapfrog towards latest technologies as well as jointly engage under ‘Make in India’, and other innovative programmes of our Government. Signing of this MoU would form the foundation for exchange of ideas and development of new technologies in the future, he added. Shri Shekhar C Mande complimented the joint efforts and emphasised that defence remain a priority area for CSIR with an aim towards indigenisation and self-reliance in advanced technologies.
Some of the immediate projects to be progressed under this MoU include development of alternative desalination technologies, installation of wireless MEMS based sensors for remote operation, Residual Life Assessment studies of Gas Turbine Generator blades to improve reliability.