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July 12, 2020 (N. Delhi)
VNIR Biotechnologies Private Limited, a spinoff by Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India launched indigenous fluorescence probes and Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) mix for Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) detection which are molecular probes used in COVID-19 test kits. VNIR Biotechnologies Private Limited is incubated at Bangalore Bio-innovation Centre (BBC) of Government of Karnataka.
Prof. T. Govindaraju and Dr. Meher Prakash co-founders of VNIR have developed the Florescence probes and PCR mix for RTPCR detection. These molecular probes are used in COVID-19 test kits. A typical, PCR based test kit has three critical components (oligos, enzymes, molecular probes). The first two are partly available in India and partly imported while molecular probes used in COVID 19 tests, however are only imported. The molecular probes are used to track the amplification in PCR. Their immediate application is for COVID-19 testing, but they are general-purpose molecular tools for molecular diagnostic tests of several diseases.
VNIR has innovated synthesis protocols for a suite of molecular probes, which will be useful for PCR based COVID-19 testing. VNIR will be filing for the protection of its process innovation.
Molecular diagnostic tests used to be limited to research laboratories or for limited applications. COVID-19 has presented a unique problem that the finest level of molecular diagnostic test has to be performed almost at a complete population level if needed. Given the scale of tests required for COVID-19, it is very important to become self-reliant with the critical test kit components. Enzyme and oligo needs are partly met from Indian manufacturers, and VNIR envisions to address the third critical component, which is the molecular probes.
"The probes for RT-PCR based COVID--19 tests is an excellent example of leveraging our basic science knowledge for development of critical new products that are until now being imported. Nor is this knowledge limited to one particular virus, but would help us rapidly develop molecular diagnosis in the future for other viruses as well," said Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST.
Molecular probe development is a consequence of synthetic organic chemistry, by understanding several aspects of it ? the molecule, its target, the availability of chemicals, and optimizing the yields at each step of the synthesis by a judicious choice of protocols. VNIR used its core strengths in molecular probe development to develop the molecular probes using novel synthetic routes.
In March 2020, with the rest of the world, VNIR also came to a halt briefly. VNIR team used the opportunity of staying at home to contribute to address the problem of COVID-19.
"Investing on newer R&D, in addition to those ongoing, was overwhelming for us as a startup. However, we took up the risk and the challenge. Our team went back to the drawing board and planned the synthesis of these much-required probes for the COVID-19 tests. VNIR's R&D effort in line with the Make-In-India and Aatmanirbhar Bharat missions of the Government of India are meant to contribute to self-reliance in COVID-19 testing. To the best of our knowledge, there is no Indian company making these molecular probes." said Prof. T. Govindaraju.
July 10, 2020 (N. Delhi)
Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Science & Technology, Health and Family Welfare and Earth Sciences today released a white paper on ?Focused Interventions for ?Make in India?: Post COVID 19? and ?Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients: Status, Issues, Technology Readiness and Challenges?, prepared by Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), at a virtual function, here. Dr. V K Saraswat, Chairman TIFAC Governing Council, and Prof. Pradeep Srivastava, Executive Director, TIFAC, Dr. Sanjay Singh, Scientist ?G? and Shri Mukesh Mathur, Incharge (F&A), TIFAC were also present on the occasion.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan congratulated TIFAC ?for bringing out this White Paper document at a right time when India is gearing up for boosting economy with a new Mantra ?Local Solutions to Global Challenges - Policy and Technology Imperatives?. ?The road to national economy recovery would traverse through measures like Policy support to unconventional strategies, leveraging into new international partnerships in important sectors of Agriculture, Electronics, Health, ICT and Manufacturing and providing new technology stimulus?, he added. Dr. Harsh Vardhan requested ?our Industry friends, Research and Policy Bodies to refer this White Paper in designing the path for upliftment of economy.?
Pointing out that ?India has been largely successful in mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 so far?, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said, ?We got the opportunity to position ourselves as a Global manufacturing hub with a big push under ?Make In India? with adoption of appropriate technology and policy reforms and focused thrust in crucial sectors?. He emphasized that ?This calls for furthering investment in developing infrastructure, industrialization, strengthening supply chain mechanism, creating demand for goods and services, converting farming into a business proposition etc.? The Minister said, ?The current pandemic is global, but the solutions to the challenge should be local.?
Dr. V K Saraswat in his address said that "The White paper has highlighted five sectors that would be critical for India's economic growth, using technology stimulus and charted out sector specific as well as aggregate policy and technological recommendations." He said, "The document also presents models of recovery of Indian economy, leveraging new international partnerships in important sectors based on national priorities and technological strength."
Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST, in his message, said, "The White Paper by TIFAC presents a compelling map of high priority sectors, technologies, and strategies to fuel growth in the time of COVID-19 and immediately beyond. The sector-wise reports being worked on currently will also be an invaluable resource in defining the opportunities even more sharply."
Prof. Pradeep Srivastava, Executive Director, TIFAC gave a power-point presentation and explained that "The white paper by TIFAC will help understand, evaluate and define the impact of the pandemic on the Indian economy and provide policymakers (Government of India) and public with the guidance that can be taken to mitigate the widespread economic shock and boost the Indian economy, cut through the noise of fall and prepare the ground for recovery using self-reliance as the new mantra".
This White Paper captures sector-specific strengths, market trends, and opportunities in five sectors, critical from the country's perspective, includes healthcare, machinery, ICT, agriculture, manufacturing, and electronics with reference to supply and demand, self-sufficiency and mass-scale production capacity. It has identified policy options primarily in the areas of Public health system, MSME sector, Global relations: FDI, recalibrated trade alignments, new-age technologies, etc. This is precisely important for the development of technology clusters in champion segments, creating Technology Start-up Exchange, identifying, supporting, and piloting ten blockbuster technologies and collaborating with new dynamics with incubators of Israel, Germany, towards promoting import substitution as well as evolving technology platforms in sunrise technologies. The recommendations are directed towards giving immediate technology and policy impetus to make India "ATMANIRBHAR". Based on the linkages and interdependencies between the outputs of different sectors, output multiplier and income multiplier for various sectors have been presented in the paper.
July 7, 2020 (N. Delhi)
Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), in collaboration with Laxai Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd. Hyderabad, has sought regulatory approval to undertake four-arm randomized controlled phase III clinical trial. The design principle of the study is to rationally combine and repurpose antivirals (viral-entry and replication inhibitors) and host-directed therapies (HDTs) addressing the disease-spread and pathology simultaneously and to determine safety and efficacy of the three combination drugs (Favipiravir+Colchicine, Umifenovir+Colchicine and Nafamostat+5-ALA) and a control arm with the standard of care in COVID-19 patients. The clinical trial named MUCOVIN, to be carried out in the partnership with Medanta Medicity, will include a total of 300 patients in four different groups of 75 patients in the trials to be carried for 17 to 21 days including screening and treatment.
Dr. Shekhar C. Mande, DG, CSIR highlighted that this unique combinatorial strategy (antivirals and HDTs) with repurposed drugs having complementary, additive and synergistic role, has been adopted to increase therapeutic options for Covid-19 treatment and help recover patients faster. The partner CSIR institutes in this important clinical trial are the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad and CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, Jammu.
Dr. Ram S. Upadhayaya CEO, Laxai Life Sciences stated that "the study aims to target viral proteins essential for its replication as well as host factors that play crucial role in the viral life cycle and contribute to the cytokine storm". Mr. Vamsi Maddipatla, MD of Laxai Life Sciences adds "The co-sponsorship of this study by Laxai Life Sciences highlights the company's commitment in bringing life-saving therapies in the service of humanity".
These clinical trials add to the several contributions CSIR has made during the pandemic and if the trial is successful, it will provide more options for treatment of COVID-19.
July 4, 2020 (N Delhi)
Stevioside (STE), isolated from the leaves of Honey yerba and widely used as the non-caloric natural sweeteners, can sweeten our lives in more ways than one, say scientists.
Researchers at the Institute of Nano Science & Technology an autonomous institute of Department of Science and Technology (INST), Government of India in their recent study have found that stevioside, a natural plant-based glycoside found in leaves of Honey yerba ('Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni') when coated on nanoparticles can increase the efficiency of Magnetic hyperthermia-mediated cancer therapy (MHCT).
MHCT method of cancer therapy is based on heating the tumor tissues using magnetic nanoparticles in comparison to the routinely used surfactant moieties (oleic acid and polysorbate-80) and is based on generation of localised heat at the tumour site on exposure to AMF (alternating magnetic field) in the presence of magnetic nanoparticles.
Ruby Gupta and Deepika Sharma in their research published in the International Journal of Hyperthermia showed that coating the nanoparticles with the stevioside, a biosurfactant not only improved the cellular uptake of the nano-magnets in glioma C6 cancer cells (one of the most common and aggressive form of glial cancer cells) but also enhanced its retention time. The researchers have modified the stevioside structure to make it more effective as a biosurfactant for magnetic nanoclusters synthesized in the Lab. The Manuscript related to the same was submitted to the Journal of ACS Molecular Pharmaceutics.
The stevioside coating exhibited significant improvement in the calorimetric hyperthermia activity, through particle size reduction of magnetic nanoparticles, thereby intensifying the magnetic hyperthermia-mediated cancer therapy. Exposure of magnetic nanoparticles to alternating magnetic field leads to temperature rise from 37 to 42−45°C inducing tumour cell death by triggering activation of certain intracellular and extracellular degradation mechanisms.
Controlling the magnetic properties of a nanoparticle efficiently via its particle size to achieve optimized heat under AMF is the critical point for magnetic hyperthermia-mediated cancer therapy. The INST team has shown that the use of stevioside as a promising biosurfactant controls the magnetic properties of Fe3O4 nanoparticles by controlling the particle size.
The hyperthermia output measured in terms of specific absorption rate (SAR), defined as the power dissipation per unit mass of magnetic content (W/g), for stevioside-coated nanoparticles obtained was 3913.55 W/g Fe which was significantly higher than those for other existing nanosystems at a field strength of 405 kHz and 168 Oe. Stevioside coating increases the switching speed of magnetic spin of synthesized nanomaterial, increasing the thermal fluctuations and resulting in a higher amount of heat generated in comparison to other nanosystems.
Hyperthermia output of nano-magnets reduces dramatically on the agglomeration of nanoparticles. Hence, the INST team developed water-stable nanomaterial with a biomolecule as the surfactant to address two of the main concerns regarding translation of nanotechnology-based strategies to clinical applications -- biocompatibility of the material used and therapeutic response of these nano-systems. Stevioside stands out for being antihyperglycemic, immunomodulatory, and sports antitumor action. Therefore, surface modification of magnetite nanoparticles with stevioside may provide dual targeting of cancer cells, namely with magnetite nanoparticles based cancer therapy and antitumor effect of the stevioside coating onto the particles.
Stevioside-coated nanoparticles also demonstrated successful uptake and highest cellular persistence inside the glioma cells upto 72 h. Thus the research suggests that the nano-magnets are capable of being available inside the cells for a sufficient period (upto at least 72 h) during which further treatment strategies can be employed for cancer therapy, this avoiding the need to re-administer the nanomaterials.
June 30, 2020 (N. Delhi)
Scientists at CSIR have designed an oxygen enrichment unit that can be used in homes, hospitals and remote rural areas and can prove to be very important in COVID-19 times, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Monday.
He said the unit can help reduce the demand for oxygen cylinders and ventilators.
"Scientists at the CSIR (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research)-National Chemical Laboratory, Pune have designed an oxygen enrichment unit that can be used when needed in homes, hospitals and remote rural areas. This can prove to be very important in the COVID times," he said in a tweet.
"One of its features is that it does not require #oxygen cylinder. This unit may help reduce the demand for oxygen cylinders and ventilators. If #COVID19 patients get oxygen initially, they do not need ventilators later. @IndiaDST," Vardhan said in another tweet.
June 24, 2020 (N. delhi)
Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India, has invited nominations for the Innovative Student Projects Award 2020. The nominations are invited for the Innovative Student Projects Award 2020. Projects of students from three categories are eligible for participation -- Final Year (4th year) B.E, B.Tech or B.Sc. (Engg) projects completed up to July 31, 2020, for the academic year 2019-2020, M.E. or M.Tech, M.Sc. (Engg) thesis examined from July 1, 2019, up to July 31, 2020, during the academic year 2019-2020 and Ph.D. thesis examined and accepted/recommended for Award from June 1, 2019, up to May 31, 2020.
INAE instituted the Innovative Student Projects award in 1998 to identify innovative and creative research projects undertaken by the students at any of the three stages of tertiary engineering education, namely undergraduate, post-graduate and doctoral levels in engineering institutions. The award particularly encourages joint projects among industry, research laboratories, and academic institutions. The endeavour is meant to encourage young talent and accord recognition and incentives to them. Though the response to the award during the last twenty-two years has been quite encouraging, the Academy earnestly wishes to reach out to a wider cross-section of the community and profession.
The nominations are required to be sent by Principal, Deans, Heads, Registrar or Director of Engineering College or Institution where the candidate has carried out his project/thesis for the award of degree and not through the organization where the candidate is presently working. The nominations are invited for project/thesis pertaining to the Bachelors's, Masters or Doctoral level from the engineering College/Institutions. The last date for the receipt of nominations is August 31, 2020.
(For further details, interested candidates can visit INAE website www.inae.in and can download nomination forms from the link https://www.inae.in/innovative-student-projects-award/ )
June 19, 2020 (N. delhi)
Accurate testing is important to get out of the clutches of novel coronavirus. Stepping up efforts in this regard, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati, in association with RR Animal Healthcare Ltd and Guwahati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), has developed low-cost diagnostic kits. These are Viral Transport Media (VTM) kits, RT-PCR kits, and RNA isolation kits.
The VTM kits are the first-stop source used to collect nasal and oral swab specimens from an individual source to a laboratory safely for culture and testing. During this period, the virus, if present, in the sample specimens should remain intact until the testing procedure is completed. The kit consists of a comprehensive solution specially formulated for the collection and transport of SARS-CoV-2.
"To bring down the cost of kits, we have used material that are available in the local market and they are as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation. We have handed over two batches of these kits to the National Health Mission, Assam, and GMCH. We are making them in bulk to make it available to larger population," said Prof. Parameswar Krishnan Iyer, lead researcher, IIT Guwahati.
These kits comprise two transport media, one for nasopharyngeal and the other for oropharyngeal specimen collection swabs. Both of these are safe to use as they are recommended and validated by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well. . The complete package is suitable for the collection, transport, maintenance, and long-term freezer storage of viral specimens. The unique formulation of the transport medium helps in preserving the viability of viruses for up to 72 hours (at refrigerated temperatures).
The swabs have been designed ergonomically with a pre-molded breakpoint on their shaft for enabling secure sampling. These sterile VTM kits comply with the CDC-recommended configurations for viral specimen collection for COVID-19 and are packed in user-friendly individual packs. "These kits will spur development of affordable and high-quality healthcare products in Assam and provide access to world-class kits and career opportunities to healthcare professionals and students," said Prof Iyer.
In addition to the sterile VTM kits, the Institute has also developed RNA isolation kits and RT-PCR kits jointly with RR Animal Healthcare Ltd. The isolated and purified RNA is then converted to DNA by an enzyme Reverse Transcriptase (RT), which is used to confirm the presence or absence of COVID-19. The large-scale production of all these kits has commenced to meet the requirement of Assam and will be made available across the country soon.
June 18, 2020 (N. delhi)
National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) has licensed the manufacturing know-how of a PPE Suit being named as NavRakshak to five MSME clients: M/s Greenfield Vintrade Pvt Ltd (Kolkata), M/s Vaishnavi Global Pvt Ltd (Mumbai), M/s Bharat Silks (Bangalore), M/s Sure Safety (India) Ltd (Vadodara) and M/s Swaps Couture (Mumbai) to meet the ongoing country wide demand of quality PPE kits. These five manufacturers put together are planning to mass produce more than 10 million PPEs per year.
The manufacturing know-how of NavRakshak PPE has been developed at the Innovation Cell of the Institute of Naval Medicine, INHS Asvini Hospital (Mumbai) of the Indian Navy from where the name ?NavRakshak? is derived. The PPE has been tested and certified at the INMAS, DRDO which is one of the nine NABL accredited labs authorised by Ministry of Textile currently in India for PPE prototype sample testing as per the prevailing ISO standards and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare/Ministry of Textile guidelines and has been found to meet the synthetic blood penetration resistance criteria for both the fabric, suit, and seam. It is cost effective as it does not require any major capital investment and can be adopted even by gown manufacturing units using basic stitching expertise. The technology and quality of fabric is so superior that there is no need of sealing around the seam of the PPE suit, thus eliminating the need of importing costly sealing machines and tapes. The PPE fabric even does not require any lamination with polymer or plastic-like film. This enables the PPE to permeate heat and moisture from the skin of the user. It gives protection but does not compromise on comfort. This uniqueness of the PPE makes it way different from the existing PPEs which are being used during the ongoing COVID pandemic.
The PPE suit is available in single-ply as well as double-ply versions as per the need of the end use conditions. It also comes with a head gear; face mask and shoe cover up to the mid-thigh level.
With the country significantly ramping up the production of PPE suits to end its import dependence, there has been several news reports mentioning the flooding of market with dubious-quality PPE kits. While there has been a clarion call to strictly implement the testing and certification standards for manufacturers, a quality product is also the need of the hour. NavRakshak has been designed by a Naval doctor incorporating personal experience in using the PPE for the comfort and protection of the doctors. The enhanced breathability factor in the PPE suit makes it an attractive proposition to be used by the frontline health workers who are required to wear these suits for long hours and face extreme discomfort while working.
Intellectual Property Facilitation Cell of Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA), Department Of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence along with Indian Navy and NRDC partnered in protecting the IP and its commercialisation. Since the concept of using uncoated, unlaminated or untapped PPE has been provided for the first time, and using such PPE was not practised at all, there was a need to protect the IP rights of this innovation. A patent application has been filed for the NavRakshak PPE by the inventors through NRDC. This technology can resolve many issues at one go. It makes manufacturing easy without requiring big capital investment. It does not require coating and taping related equipment. Therefore, foreign import and costly machines are not required. It gives protection as well as comfort to the user. Above all, it gives self-sustainability to the country. In future, it may so happen that this simple yet highly effective PPE suit may become the benchmark standard of PPEs.
June 9, 2020 (N. Delhi)
An agreement has been signed between Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Breathe Applied Sciences, a company incubated at JNCASR for transfer of technology based on lab-scale research on reducing CO2 to methanol and other useful chemicals and fuels.
The research was carried out by Prof. Sebastian C Peter and his group from the New Chemistry Unit at JNCASR. The startup company Breathe was started from the generous funding from DST Nano Mission Project and will focus on scaling up the technology to the pilot level and then commercialization.
While signing the MoU on the occasion of world environment day Prof. G. U. Kulkarni, President, JNCASR said that the institute was happy to incubate the startup in its new campus, Chamundi. ?The Breathe team(Prof. Sebastian Peter, Prof. Umesh Waghmare and Dr Rakshith Raghavan) over the last few years has undertaken several translational activities, participated in global competitions, and has several accomplishments to its credit. I wish all success to the startup," he added.
Prof. Sebastian C. Peter, one of the Founder Director, Breathe Applied Sciences Pvt. Ltd said that the milestone has been achieved from the initial research activities on the CO2 reduction and with the guidance and encouragement received from Prof. C. N. R. Rao, generous funding of Technical Research Centre, JNCASRand various schemes of the DST includingSwarnajayanti Fellowship as well as funds received under Nano Mission project.
"In the pilot mode, the current capacity of CO2 conversion is 300 kg per day, which can be scaled upto 500 tons in an industrial scale. It will take almost a year to reach the level of industrial production. Companies like Tata Steel, and Coal India Limited are in discussion with us for potential use of our developed technology soon," he added.
The event was attended by Bharat Ratna Prof. C. N. R. Rao, Prof. G. U. Kulkarni, President, JNCASR, Prof. Chandrabhas Narayana, Dean, Rand D, Mr. Joydeep Deb, Administrative Officer, JNCASR, Founding Directors - Prof. Sebastian C. Peter and Prof. Umesh V. Waghmare and Members of Technical Research Centre, Faculty of New Chemistry Unit and other staff and officers from JNCASR.
The MOU will help in smooth translation of the research in the area of CO2 reduction to useful chemicals and fuels from the laboratory scale to pilot scale economically. It will highlight the scientific contribution of a research institute translating to the industry to solve the problems associated with renewable energy and environmental pollution. It will also help in developing an indigenous technology in line with government policy.
"Conversion of CO2 to clean fuels such as methanol and other useful chemicals on scale with cost-effectiveness is the holy grail of science to address sustainable development, environmental and climate. The developments at JNCASR is an extraordinary example of converting cutting-edge science into technological opportunities," said Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST.
The scientific activities which have been agreed upon as part of the MoU are the development of efficient catalysts for the conversion of CO2 to methanol and other chemicals, improvisation of the process engineering to enhance the production of chemicals and fuels from anthropogenic CO2 generated from various sources including coal and natural gas power generation sectors, steel industry, cement industry, and chemical industries and integrating multiple components involved in the CCUS (Carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration) to develop a complete solution for the environmental issues due to global warming.