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February 18, 2019 (Indore)
'Need academia, industry interface to boost research'
India has advanced to such stage that the country seeks international collaboration only on 'equal partnership' basis, Dr R Chidambaram, former principal scientific adviser to Prime Minister and proponent of India's nuclear tests at Pokharan said.
"India is the only country in the world which has made nuclear weapons by itself without seeking nuclear knowledge from any other major nation. India was making nuclear reactors under the leadership of Homi Bhabha when the country wasn't even producing its own cycles," Chidambaram said glorifying India's scientific leaps in the past.
He also said that in India, universities had good research and development of ideas. There must be academia-industries interface so that firms promote research and universities ensure their research is delivered as a successful venture.
"The country generally has three parameters of success - GDP, per capita income and adult literacy rate. This should be replaced by just two parameters - female adult literacy ratio and per capita electricity consumption - which would give the idea of not just economy but also social status of the country," Chidambaram said.
Chidambaram along with other speakers was invited on last day of World Business and Economy Congress at Sage University.
Nutritionist Geeta Dharmatti defined healthy eating habits as homemade meals taken five days a week and not relying on packed foods to quench appetite. Swami Anubhanand Saraswati urged people to learn from experience and remain happy from within to spread happiness.
Motivational speaker from Delhi Vijay Batra suggested ways on how to remain happy and seize opportunities in life. He said that visiting a temple or any religious place for asking anything should not be the sole reason, and that cultivating such a habit increased value of commitment in an individual.
February 18, 2019 (Ranchi)
Ranchi science centre eyes state's maiden patent facilitation centre
The Ranchi Science Centre in Chiroundi situated at the capital's outskirts is set to host the state's first Patent Facilitation (information) Centre soon after the Jharkhand Council on Science and Technology (JCT), under the department of higher and technical education, has initiated steps in this regard.
Talking to TOI on Sunday, Raghuvansh Mani, technical officer at JCT who is handling this project, said they have begun scouting for a qualified agency who will provide consultancy services for this mission and help in setting the same. Mani said, "We have floated an expression of interest (EOIs) in this regard to evince proposals from interested parties. Authorities have zeroed in on a site within the Ranchi Science Centre premises to house this facility."
On the purpose behind patent facilitation centre, Mani said, "The idea behind rolling out this project is manifold. It is to create awareness about Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), enable inventors with proper patent searchers, analyse existing information regarding already available patents worldwide on regular basis so that it could be used for suggesting research and development programmes for institution among others." "This apart, once the patent centre comes up, it will also help bonafide inventors, scientists and also aspiring minds with all aspects of patenting their inventions," he added.
He said Jharkhand doesn't have any outfit/outlet related to patenting so far - be it at education institutions or public sector undertakings here engaged in research activities. As a result, information and awareness regarding this subject among public is non-existent. On the contrary, several other states like Chhattisgarh, Uttrakhand, Madhya Pradesh among others have their own cells for all needs related to patents
"Not that we (state) doesn?t have research and invention oriented minds but only due to lack of proper platform to hone those skills in want of knowledge and support, all those intellectual properties tend to remain unexplored or wasted," Mani said, adding that as per the eligibility norms set, they are aiming to hire an agency having an experience of at least five years in handling patent related projects commissioned directly or indirectly with government of India. The agency will initially be hired over a period of one year.
While the exact budget is yet to be chalked for setting up of patent facilitation centre, but the official said roughly they have estimated recurring expenses of around Rs 40 lakh annually. Simultaneously, officials are also in the process of contacting other states where similar facilities exist to take the project forward.
"We are now in the process of striking contacts with other states also to understand how patent cells function there to be able to choose an outsourced partner in a much informed manner," said Mani.
February 15, 2019(HUBBALLI)
'Impact factor of research should be based on usefulness'
Union Ministerfor Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan has emphasised the need to change the definition of the impact factor in science research.
He was inaugurating a two-day national-level conference with the theme,"Innovations of Bharat in science, technology and entrepreneurship", organised jointly by Prajna Pravah and KLE Technological University (KLETU) here on Thursday. Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that the impact factor of a research should be based on the impact the research had made on the lives of people or on the basis of its usefulness in solving the problems of society and not on the number of journals it had appeared in or been appreciated."Whicheverfield of science it might be, the approach should be people-centric. We need to take inspiration from our glorious past and move forward in the present to regain the past glory," he said.
Referring to advancements in the field of science and technology made by Indian scientists, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that India had become number one in giving accurate warning of tsunamis and had been ranked fourth in the world for accuracy in weather forecast
The Minister said that at present around 40 million farmers were benefiting by weather forecast they were receiving individually on their cellphones and in the next couple of years, 93 million farmers will be covered."A study carried out in 2014-15 covering 10 million farmers had revealed that the service had contributed Rs 50,000 crore to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. Now, with the facility reaching over 40 million farmers, the contribution to GDP has increased manifolds," he said.
Listing out the facilities created for carrying outresearch and advancements made in various spheres of science and technology, clean energy and related fields, the Union Minister appealed to young scientists and entrepreneurs to make use of their scientific acumen and the infrastructure created by the State to contribute towards nation building. Member of Parliament Pralhad Joshi emphasised the need to take the outcome of researches in laboratories to the people.
February 13, 2019 (Hyderabad)
JNTUH signs MoU with CII to create intellectual property ecosystem
The Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad (JNTUH) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the CII Telangana on Wednesday to create a complete and conducive intellectual property ecosystem at J-HUB.
According to a press release issued by the JNTUH, the initiative will support students and faculty innovations by way of creating awareness, counseling search and filing of intellectual property rights. "Applied research of faculty and industrial connect in related areas would necessitate IP protection with agreements. As part of the MoU, the satellite office of CII-IPR cell is being established at J-HUB. This would be a single window for all IP aspects of faculty and student innovation from awareness, advisory, counselling, search, filing to agreements and commercialization," read the press release.
Speaking after signing of the MoU, Sanjay Singh, chairman CII Telangana said -- "The MoU will facilitate regular interaction between the industry and the academia, help creating awareness on IPR, provide a platform for sharing best practices in IP management and foster IP based innovations."
The MoU will facilitate students for IP search and filing, support industrial connect for possible partnerships and applied research.
February 5, 2019 (Visakhapatnam)
NRDC keen on improving patent index ranking:CMD
'Cash prize of Rs 1 lakh announced for each patent'
With a majority of the patent applications filed in India being either by foreigners or NRIs, the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) has decided to encourage young talent to improve the ranking of the country in patent index, its Chairman and Managing Director H. Purushotham has said.
Giving the details about the the Global Innovation Index managed by World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), Mr. Purushotham said India is at the 57th place.
In patent filing, India is ranked 10th and among the States, Andhra Pradesh has improved its rank from 11th to 10th, with Maharashtra and Karnataka occupying the first and second positions followed by Telangana at the fifth place. Before bifurcation, the undivided Andhra Pradesh was ranked fifth owing to the location of premier R&D institutes in and around Hyderabad.
While the patent index is prepared by the WIPO, it is being done by the Indian Patent Office in the country. "The Department of Science and Technology has announced a cash prize of Rs1 lakh for each patent, Rs50,000 to researchers for publishing peer reviews in foreign publication and Rs20,000 in domestic publication," Mr. Purushotham told The Hindu on Monday.
It was unfortunate that of the 50,000 patents filed in India every year, almost 75% to 80% were applied by either foreign companies or NRIs. To create awareness on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), the NRDC was organising many educative programmes on patents, trademarks, designs and copyrights, he said.
Student startup award
"The NRDC recently announced student startup awards under 'Innovation India Programme'. Ideas and prototypes need to be submitted to the NRDC by February 10. A cash award of Rs50,000 will be given away to the best entry in March while the second and third best entries will get Rs40,000 and Rs30,000 respectively. Two consolation prize winners will get Rs10,000 each," Mr. Purushotham said.
The NRDC also gives tax-free awards of Rs3 lakh each to three persons for IP-driven and innovation in high-tech area. The National Budding Innovator Award has been instituted for students. A cash prize of Rs 1 lakh each is being given to five students.
"Our objective is to spread innovation culture and increase the ranking of India Global Innovation Index," he said.
"The Centre has already enhanced the amount for fellowships by 25% to 35% to encourage talent to pursue higher studies and undertaking research," he said.
In-charge of NRDC Intellectual Property Facilitation Centre at Innovation Valley, Bijay Kumar Sahu said they had signed into MoU with Andhra University, GITAM Deemed to be University and premier engineering colleges for holding IPR workshops and handhold around 60 young entrepreneurs to file patents for their innovations and commercialise the technologies.
January 18, 2019 (N. Delhi)
New analysis tracked papers in peer-reviewed journals
India ranks third in the world in terms of high quality research publications in artificial intelligence (AI) but is at a significant distance from world leader China, according to an analysis by research agency Itihaasa, which was founded by Kris Gopalakrishnan, former CEO and co-founder of Infosys.
The agency computed the number of 'citable documents' - the number of research publications in peer-reviewed journals - in the field of AI between 2013-2017 as listed out by Scimago, a compendium that tracks trends in scientific research publications.
China stands first
India, while third in the world with 12,135 documents, trailed behind China with 37, 918 documents and the United States with 32,421 documents.
However, when parsed by another metric 'citations'- or the number of times an article is referenced - India ranked only fifth and trailed the United Kingdom, Canada, the U.S. and China. "This suggests that India must work at improving the quality of its research output in AI," said Dayasindhu N., one of the authors of the report 'Landscape of AI/ML (Machine Learning) Research In India'.
Given India's traditional strength in information technology and AI said to pose a transformation in industry and academic circles, the report was an attempt at mapping the state of AI-based research in India.
There were only about 50 to 75 principal researchers in the AI-space in India and they were tended to collaborate with each other. The Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Information Technology were among the key centres for AI research.
The report authors interviewed 25 AI researchers across the country, who said that as of now "?there was adequate support and funding from the government and industry for AI research."
Healthcare, financial services, monsoon forecasting, retail and education were the key fields likely to benefit from AI and the field was "unlikely to lead" to a destruction of jobs - a key global concern regarding the field.
India's national think-tank, the NITI Ayog, last June released a discussion paper on the transformative potential of AI in India that said the country could add $1 trillion to its economy through integrating AI into its economy.
January 17. 2019 (Ahmedabad)
Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday said that the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) and universities in the country will mentor schools located close their campuses to ensure that students do not lag behind in mathematics and science-related subjects.
Highlighting the importance of these subjects in the 21st century, Javadekar said it is vital to foster research tendency among students right from the primary schools. "Maths can be taught in an entertaining way. For the students to study and understand maths and science properly, not very big equipment, but simple ideas are required. Hence, primary school teachers play a big role," he told reporters here.
"We have decided that IITs, IISERs, large and good universities will mentor 10-15 nearby schools and ensure that students in those schools are given proper training in science and maths so they do not lag behind (in these subjects)," he said.
Javadekar was speaking on the sidelines of the inauguration of exhibitions ? one on futuristic technology and another by the American Museum of Natural History on the future of space exploration, at the Science City as part of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit.
The minister said right pedagogy is required to cultivate the interest of primary school students in these two subjects.
"Study shows that once students lag behind in maths or science, the gap increases and they fall behind further. Therefore, it is important how you explain science and mathematics to them," he said.
According to him, the Modi government has taken many steps to promote the culture of innovation in the country by setting up innovation and incubation centres, allowing start-ups to run even from hostel rooms, launching IMPRINT India initiative, offering Rs 1 lakh per month to the PM Research Fellows, among others.He said over 100 research projects are currently going on in Indian institutes and universities, and the government has so far set up 2,000 Atal Tinkering Labs and will establish another 3,000 such facilities across the country. He said participation in Smart India Hackathon has grown from 40,000 to 1.5 lakh in three years.
January 6, 2019
India is getting ready for a project that is as small as it gets ? and as big. The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) will map trillions upon trillions of microbes ? bacteria, fungi, viruses, archaea ? that are found in Indians. On their skin. In the dark depths of their guts. Swarming on every inch of their body.
In a one-of-a-kind project in the country, researchers will take skin and oral swabs and collect blood and faecal samples from 20,600 individuals who belong to 103 endogamous communities (which marry within the group).
These will include 32 tribes as well ? from Changpa in Ladkah to Warli in Maharashtra and Mankidia in Odisha, and from Ao in Nagaland to Koya in Telangana. After collecting the samples, scientists will sequence the genome of these microorganisms.
(These microbes are called human microbiota and their genetic material are collectively referred to as the human microbiome.) The Union government-funded, Rs 150 crore project could get underway in the next few months, once the Department of Biotechnology gives it the nod. It wants to map the microbiome composition of India's different communities ? and how genetics, diet and environment impact it differently.
The ambitious project aims, at the end of it, to generate the baseline microbiome data of Indians. It will also define the core microbiome of tribal populations that are unaffected by modern lifestyle. It will even help us understand the links between microbial composition and disease risks and also create a repository of microbial samples from healthy individuals to help develop probiotic-like solutions.
The HMP is a collaborative effort between 11 research institutes and universities across the country, both public and private, including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, the Insitute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology in Guwahati and Symbiosis International University in Pune. The study is being led by Pune's National Centre for Microbial Resource (NCMR), which is part of the National Centre for Cell Science.
"It's a three-year project, but its repercussions will be there for many years to come," says Yogesh Shouche, principal investigator at NCMR, in his office in Pune.
Shouche, who has researched microbes for two decades, says this project is more challenging than similar projects in the West ? for instance, in the US, Britain and European Union. "Unlike in India, microbiome projects in the West work with genetically more homogenous populations whose dietary patterns are more or less uniform." India's diversity is staggering on many counts.
According to a study by the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics in Kalyani, near Kolkata, which is also involved in HMP, modern mainland Indians have descended from four ancestral populations ? Indo-European, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman and Austro-Asiatic ? and not two as earlier estimated. Indians' diets also vary.
For instance, according to a 2014 Union government survey, nearly 99% of Telangana's population eat meat, while only a quarter of those in Rajasthan do so. A comparison of urban and rural populations in HMP will also yield insights into changes in microbiota, if any, from consumption of processed foods, which is higher in cities.
"It will be interesting to study the links between microbiota and environment and diets," says Rakesh Sharma, senior principal scientist at the New Delhi-based Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology.
It is the microbe that could unlock our understanding of diseases, disorders and differences but there is no definitive figure for the total number of microbes in a human body. We know that dominant among them are bacteria, a majority of which are found in the gut, especially the large intestine or colon.
One estimate by researchers at Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, pegs the total number of bacteria in a human body at 40 trillion, compared with 37 trillion human cells. The total number of bacterial genes in the gut outnumber human genes by at least 30:1. Gut bacteria, which are the most extensively studied among human microbiota, help in breaking down undigested nutrients, producing vitamins and controlling disease-causing bacteria.
India is already quite late to the microbiome research race. The Human MetaGenome Consortium Japan began in 2005 and the US Human Microbiome Project two years later. The US also announced a National Microbiome Initiative in 2016, committing a government investment of $121 million for two years and private investments of $400 million over an unspecified period. Similar initiatives can also be found in Canada and the European Union.
There are also projects like the American Gut project and, its offshoot, the British Gut project. They have received $2.5 million in individual contributions (as of May 2018) and crowdsourced samples from over 11,000 people (as of mid-2017). Among the observations made by American Gut were that those who had more than 30 plant types a week had more diverse gut microbiomes and fewer antibioticresistance genes than those who had 10 or fewer a week. Moreover, those who had antibiotics in the past one month had less diverse microbiota than those who had not had antibiotics for a year.
Antibiotic use is one of the causes, along with staying in a healthcare facility, of Clostridium difficile (C diff ) infections, whose symptoms include diarrhoea, nausea, fever and dehydration which could be life-threatening. Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, but if they kill more of the good bacteria, it could aid the growth of bacteria like C. diff. The study of gut microbe, for instance, has had interesting results. The first randomised controlled trial in C diff infection, published in 2013, showed the efficacy of faecal microbiota transplant (FMT), in which faecal bacteria from a healthy donor is transferred to a patient, usually through colonoscopy.
Bhabatosh Das, assistant professor at the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, Faridabad, believes people living in rural areas make for ideal donors. "Their guts have very diverse bacteria, while in urban areas fast food and antibiotics result in reduced diversity."
There are attempts being made to use FMT for obesity too. Dysbiosis, or an imbalance in the gut microbial composition, has been associated with obesity. According to a study published in Nature magazine in October 2018, FMT from mice, that were fed a normal-fat diet, to mice that were given a highfat diet resulted in beneficial effects usually caused by diet and exercise. Another study, also published in Nature, in April 2018, found that mice that were given chemotherapy and anitbiotic treatment treatment regained their pre-treatment microbial composition after being given FMT.
In another study from 2017, 34 pairs of twins were assessed, in which only one of every pair had multiple sclerosis. More of the mice which were given gut microbes from the twin with MS developed a disease similar to MS than those which got microbes from the healthy twin. Poor microbial diversity has also been linked to inflammatory bowel disease and Type 1 diabetes. But there are still questions. "We can't say whether diabetes is driving gut microbes or vice versa," says Dr CS Yajnik, a diabetologist in Pune.
Mind & Microbe
The other area where a lot of research is focused is the relationship between microbiome and mental health. In a 2013 study by scientists from the California Institute of Technology and Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, they found that when mice with symptoms similar to autism were given the bacterium Bacteroides fragilis, their microbiomes changed and they became more communicative and less anxious.
The American Gut project also observed that some types of bacteria may be more common in people suffering from depression than those who are not. It also found in an assessment of the gut microbiomes of 125 people ? who claimed to have a mental health disorder, like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder ? that their microbiomes had more in common with each than with that with someone of the same age, gender, country and body mass index.
Moreover, babies born through natural birth tend to pick up microbes from the mother's vagina and bowel, which could make them less likely to develop asthma, Type 1 diabetes, obesity and allergies. Similarly, breast milk is crucial to the microbial composition in kids' guts. While the human microbiome is getting a lot of attention these days, with reports of studies uncovering the relationship between the microbiome and a disease or disorder. But there are some who sound a word of caution and believe that the significance of the microbiome may be overstated.
"The hypothesis that variation in the gut microbiota can explain or be used to predict obesity status has received considerable attention and is frequently mentioned as an example of the role of the microbiome in human health...(but) we found that although there is an association, it is smaller than can be detected by most microbiome studies," said a metastudy of 10 papers, published in August 2016 in mBio, a journal published by the American Society of Microbiology.
It is quite possible that some of the recent findings about the role of microbes in our health may be disputed by future research. But a project of the scale and scope of the Human Microbiome Project could definitely advance our understanding of the complex world of human microbiota and what we do to each other.
January 6, 2019
Mind & Microbe