IGIB finds a protein with better precision in gene-editing
Oct 5, 2019 (New Delhi)
IGIB finds a protein with better precision in gene-
The new protein was able to correct sickle cell anaemia
mutation in patient-derived stem cells
Researchers at the Delhi-based Institute of Genomics and
Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) have discovered a protein
variant from a different species of bacteria that can edit the
DNA with very high precision. In the tool now commonly used for
editing disease-causing mutations in DNA (CRISPR-Cas9), the Cas9
protein behaves like a molecular scissors that cuts the DNA at a
specific location and inserts a foreign piece of DNA to correct
the mutation that causes the disease.
In addition to binding to the intended target on the DNA, the
commonly used Cas9 protein from Strepotococcus pyogenes bacteria
(SpCas9) and its engineered derivative tend to potentially bind
to DNA at multiple unintended sites thereby leading to
unnecessary alterations in the DNA.
The researchers found their new Cas9 protein, which binds and
cuts the DNA, was able to correct sickle cell anaemia mutation
in patient-derived stem cells. The protein (FnCas9) used by the
researchers to edit the DNA is derived from a bacterium -
The Cas9 protein is supposed to bind to the DNA only when
there is a perfect match between the DNA and the protein, thus
reducing the chances of the protein binding at non-target sites
on the DNA. But even when three mismatches exist between the
protein and the DNA, the currently used SpCas9 protein binds and
cleaves the DNA. In contrast, the team led by Debojyoti
Chakraborty from IGIB found the new FnCas9 protein showed
negligible binding when there exists more than one mismatch in
the target DNA. The results were published in the journal
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
"The high specificity of the new FnCas9 protein arises due to
reduced affinity to bind to DNA when there is even a single
mismatch. And when there is more than one mismatch, complete
absence of binding of the protein to the DNA is seen in many
cases," says Dr. Chakraborty.
"If the Cas9 protein remains bound to DNA at mismatched
locations for a long time, there is a possibility that it might
cut the DNA at these locations. Also, if it remains bound to
DNA, the protein might block the transcription (which is the
first step in gene expression) at that location. And if Cas9 is
bound at multiple unintended sites then the transcription
machinery gets stalled and the expression of genes at these
locations might be altered," Dr. Chakraborty explains.
In nature, DNA often gets damaged and is routinely repaired
through one of the two pathways. In the case of the homology-
directed repair (HDR) pathway, which is relatively less error-
prone, matching sequences are used to repair the DNA. "The
FnCas9 protein was found to increase the HDR repair rate
fourfold compared to the widely used SpCas9," says Deepanjan
Paul from CSIR-IGIB and one of the first authors of the
Sickle cell anaemia
The researchers tested the precision of binding and cleavage
at the desired sites on the DNA using mouse cell lines
(embryonic stem cells and brain cells), human kidney cell lines
and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSc). In the case of human
iPS cells, the FnCas9 protein was found to bind to the DNA at
the specific site, cut and repair the sickle cell anaemia
"The correction process is the same for any disease-causing
mutation and so our FnCas9 protein should theoretically correct
any mutation in the DNA. The efficiency might vary, so we must
test it for each disorder," says Dr. Chakraborty.
The efficiency of any Cas9 protein delivery as well the
ability to correct mutations is generally low in the case of iPS
cells. The efficiency of correction is about 1.6%. Though the
efficiency to correct mutations is low in iPS cells, the
corrected cells can be isolated, multiplied and converted
(differentiated) into haematopoietic stem cells. Once
differentiated into haematopoietic stem cells, they can be
transfused into patients.
"Differentiating iPS cells into haematopoietic stem cells is
not trivial. Plenty of experimental work is under way to make it
efficient for clinical translation," says Dr. Chakraborty.
Recalling how he started working on FnCas9 protein for genome
editing, Dr. Chakraborty recalls that he was looking for a Cas9
protein which can target RNA instead of DNA. There was one study
that reported that FnCas9 could potentially target viral RNA.
"We were not able to target RNA using FnCas9 proteins. So we
started to investigate whether it can target DNA as well since
it was not known if FnCas9 can be used for precise gene
correction. We found that not only does it target the DNA but
does so with very high specificity," he says.
"We are now proceeding for preclinical studies to establish
the efficacy of FnCas9 protein for genome-wide binding and
targeting using patient-derived cells and mouse models," he
President of India Ram Nath Kovind and Minister for Science
and Technology, Earth Sciences Dr. Harsh Vardhan on Thursday
presented the Technology Awards and other prizes for excellence
in science and technology, instituted by the Council of
Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The winners of the CSIR Technology Awards are - Central Drug
Research Institute, Lucknow; Central Salt and Marine Chemicals
Research Institute, Bhavnagar; Central Institute of Mining and
Fuel Research, Dhanbad; and National Aerospace Laboratories,
Bengaluru. The awards were instituted in 1990 to foster and
encourage multi-disciplinary in-house team efforts and external
interaction for technology development, transfer and
Prof. Amitabha Chattopadhyay of Centre for Cellular and
Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, bagged the G.N.Ramachandran Gold
Medal for excellence in biological sciences and technology;
Cadila Healthcare Limited and Carborundum Universal Limited got
the CSIR Diamond Jubilee Technology Award.
Nine young scientists were presented CSIR Young Scientist
Award: Dr Bidyut Purkait of Central Drug Research Institute,
Lucknow; Dr Lipi Thukral of Institute of Genomics & Integrative
Biology, New Delhi; Dr John Mondal of Indian Institute of
Chemical Technology, Hyderabad; Dr Sasidhar B.S. of National
Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology,
Thiruvananthapuram; Dr Amol Prakash of National Institute of
Oceanography, Goa; Dr Bodhisatwa Hazra of Central Institute of
Mining and Fuel Research, Dhanbad; Dr Divya Agrawal of Central
Scientific Instruments Organisation, Chandigarh; Dr Prabhat
Ranjan Prem of Structural Engineering Research Centre, Chennai;
and Dr. Shikha of Central Mechanical Engineering Research
In addition, 17 school children were awarded the CSIR
Innovation Award for School Children.
The first prize went to Anmol Rathi and Harsh Agrawal,
students of R.K. Sarda Vidya Mandir, Raipur for their innovation
on "novel technique for early detection of pancreatic cancer
through spermine level in human saliva".
The President also unveiled the first Indigenous High
Temperature Fuel Cell System developed by CSIR in partnership
with two Indian companies, Reliance Industries Limited and
Thermax Ltd, Pune under its flagship program named "New
Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative".
The 5 kW system generates power in an environmental-friendly
manner using methanol/bio-methane and produces heat and water as
bi-products for further use. The cells have been developed based
on high temperature proton exchange membrane (HTPEM) technology.
They are most suitable for distributed stationary power
applications such as for small offices, commercial units and
data centres, where highly reliable power is essential with
simultaneous requirement for air-conditioning.
This system can also help meet the requirement of efficient,
clean and reliable backup power generator for telecom towers,
and strategic applications in remote areas. It would replace
diesel generating sets and help reduce India's dependence on
Three CSIR laboratories were involved in the development :
National Chemical Laboratory, Pune; National Physical
Laboratory, New Delhi and Central Electrochemical Research
The President lauded the accomplishments of CSIR and its
technological interventions towards the socio-economic
development of the nation. He congratulated all the awardees and
urged them to address the challenges facing the country.
Dr Harsh Vardhan expressed pride in CSIR contributions and
said that the country has high expectations from CSIR in
developing solutions and technologies towards sustainable
development in the country. He released a book on on the winners
of CSIR's Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Awards from 1958 to 2018.
Dr Shekhar C Mande, director general of CSIR, in his opening
remarks highlighted the need of Science to connect to Society
and called upon the scientists and students to excel in pursuit
Scientists keen on setting up Cancer Genome Atlas for Indian population
Sept 12, 2019 (Pune)
Scientists keen on setting up Cancer Genome Atlas for Indian population
Scientists are hoping to set up an Indian version of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a landmark project in the US which has provided publicly available data sets to help improve diagnostic methods and treatment standards to prevent cancer. While Dr Renu Swarup, secretary, Department of Biotechnology under the Ministry of Science and Technology, said the government was keen on partnering with the initiative, several groups in Pune have come together to push this proposal forward.
"We haven?t had a formal discussion about India partnering in TCGA, but it is a complementary effort. We will be open to discussions on how our existing efforts on cancer genomics can bring in some value to the global initiative," Dr Swarup told The Indian Express.
In a first, the team from TCGA, led by Director Dr Jean Claude Zenklusen, is going to train 60 scientists at a workshop in Pune.
Several translational cancer scientists and onco clinicians from India and abroad will participate in the first TCGA-themed conference and workshop -- Multi-Omics Studies in Cancer -- Learnings from TCGA -- to be held from September 21 to 25 at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER). The event is also organised by the Centre for Translational Cancer Research, a joint initiative between Prashanti Cancer Care Mission(PCCM), IISER- Persistent Systems and TCGA, National Institutes of Health, USA.
TCGA, a collaboration between the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute, has generated comprehensive multi-dimensional maps of the key genomic changes in 33 types of cancer. The TCGA data set has helped the global cancer research community work towards prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Dr Santosh Dixit, a senior scientist with the PCCM and convenor of the conference, told The Indian Express that TCGA provided a gold mine of data and changed the face of cancer research. "In the world of biology, TCGA is equivalent to landing on the moon as the molecular analysis of each cancer is significant. Each cancer can be treated differently by knowing the molecular map of that cancer, studying the genes that have gone wrong and providing effective targeted drugs," said Dr Dixit.
While scientists are keen on setting up a similar TCGA for the Indian population, among the key driving forces are Dr L S Shashidhara, a developmental biologist formerly associated with IISER, Dr C B Koppiker, founder of PCCM, and Dr Anand Deshpande, founder and chairman of Persistent Systems, a technology services company.
Dr Deshpande said the project is socially relevant. "We need our own version of the cancer genome atlas. TCGA data is based on the caucasian population. We need to create our own data sets, build upon these initiatives and have our own equivalent of TCGA in India," Dr Deshpande told The Indian Express.
Persistent Systems is the software partner for IISER and PCCM and, according to Dr Deshpande, the software is among the key features of the TCGA initiative.
"We have been trying to get the team from TCGA and convince them to let us use their infrastructure, understand their methods and processes for setting up something similar in the country. They have agreed and while we will learn the same protocol and replicate them here, no biological sample will be sent out of the country. All tests will be done in India," said Dr Deshpande.
Dr Renu Swarup, CSIR director general Dr Shekhar Mande and others will be present during the workshop and participate in the discussion on creating a TCGA-like project in India.
The Ministries of Earth Sciences and Agriculture have launched a
mobile application that will provide location, and crop and livestock-
specific weather-based agro advisories to farmers in local
To begin with, the service would be available for 150 districts in
different parts of the country. It will be extended to rest of the
country in a phased manner over the next one year. The Ministries will
provide forecast to farmers relating to temperature, rainfall,
humidity, and wind speed and direction, which play critical roles in
agricultural operations and how to take care of the crops and
livestock. The information would be updated twice a week on Tuesdays
The app has been named Meghdoot and can be downloaded from Google
Play Store and App Store. The users will have to register their name
and location so that they can get area specific information. It has
been developed by experts from the India Meteorological Department and
Indian Institute of Tropical meteorology and the Indian Council of
The app would provide information in the form of images, maps and
pictures to help the farmer to have a clearer picture of what is in
store. It has been integrated with WhatsApp and Facebook as well to
help farmers share information among themselves. It will also be
integrated with YouTube in future.
In another related development, IMD has developed new website to
disseminate weather and climate information in user-friendly manner.
The website has less of technical information and more of important
information such as district-wise weather warnings in easy to view and
The site will also act as a centralized portal to all the
meteorological offices in India to update the warnings, bulletins and
other data in real-time.Minister for Earth Science, Science and
Technology Dr. Harsh Vardhan launched the agro-meteorology advisory
application and the new website at a function to mark the Foundation
Day of the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV MkIII-M1, successfully
launched the 3840 kg Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft into an earth orbit today. The
spacecraft is now revolving round the earth with a perigee (nearest point to
Earth) of 169.7 km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 45,475 km. Today's
flight marks the first operational flight of the GSLV Mk III.
After a smooth countdown lasting 20 hours, GSLV MkIII-M1 vehicle majestically
lifted off from the Second Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR
(SDSC SHAR), Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh at the scheduled launch time of 1443
Hrs (2:43 pm) Indian Standard Time (IST) with the ignition of its two S200 solid
strap-on motors. All the subsequent flight events occurred as scheduled.
About 16 minutes 14 seconds after lift-off, the vehicle injected
Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft into an elliptical earth orbit.Immediately after
spacecraft separation from the vehicle, the solar array of the spacecraft
automatically got deployed and ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network
(ISTRAC), Bengaluru successfully took control of the spacecraft.
ISRO Chairman Dr K Sivan congratulated the launch vehicle and satellite teams
involved in this challenging mission. "Today is a historical day for Space
Science and Technology in India. I am extremely happy to announce that GSLV
MkIII-M1 successfully injected Chandrayaan-2 into an orbit of 6000 Km more than
the intended orbit and is better."
"Today is the beginning of the historical journey of India towards Moon and
to land at a place near South Pole to carry out scientific experiments to
explore the unexplored. On July 15, 2019 ISRO intelligently observed a technical
snag, Team ISRO worked out, fixed and corrected the snag within 24 hours. For
the next one and a half day, the required tests were conducted to ensure that
corrections made were proper and in right direction. Today ISRO bounced back
with flying colours," Dr. Sivan said.
In the coming days, a series of orbit manoeuvres will be carried out using
Chandrayaan-2's onboard propulsion system. This will raise the spacecraft orbit
in steps and then place it in the Lunar Transfer Trajectory to enable the
spacecraft to travel to the vicinity of the Moon.
GSLV Mk III is a three-stage launch vehicle developed by ISRO. The vehicle
has two solid strap-ons, a core liquid booster and a cryogenic upper stage. The
vehicle is designed to carry 4 ton class of satellites into Geosynchronous
Transfer Orbit (GTO) or about 10 tons to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
Chandrayaan-2 is India's second mission to the moon. It comprises a fully
indigenous Orbiter, Lander (Vikram) and Rover (Pragyan). The Rover Pragyan is
housed inside Vikram lander.
The mission objective of Chandrayaan-2 is to develop and demonstrate the key
technologies for end-to-end lunar mission capability, including soft-landing and
roving on the lunar surface. On the science front, this mission aims to further
expand our knowledge about the Moon through a detailed study of its topography,
mineralogy, surface chemical composition, thermo-physical characteristics and
atmosphere leading to a better understanding of the origin and evolution of the
After leaving earth orbit and on entering Moon's sphere of influence, the
on-board propulsion system of Chandrayaan-2 will be fired to slow down the
spacecraft. This will enable it to be captured into a preliminary orbit around
the Moon. Later, through a set of manoeuvres, the orbit of Chandrayaan-2 around
the moon will be circularised at 100 km height from the lunar surface.
Subsequently, the lander will separate from the Orbiter and enters into a 100
km X 30 km orbit around the Moon. Then, it will perform a series of complex
braking manoeuvers to soft land in the South polar region of the Moon on
September 7, 2019.
Following this, the Rover will roll out from the lander and carry out
experiments on the lunar surface for a period of 1 lunar day, which is equal to
14 Earth days. The mission life of the lander is also 1 lunar day. The Orbiter
will continue its mission for a duration of one year.The orbiter had a lift-off
weight of about 2,369 kg, while the lander and rover weighed 1,477 kg and 26 kg
respectively. The rover can travel up to 500 m (half a kilometre) and relies on
electric power generated by its solar panel for functioning.
Chandrayaan-2 has several science payloads to facilitate a more detailed
understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon. The Orbiter carries eight
payloads, the lander carries three, and the rover carries two. Besides, a
passive experiment is included on the lander. The Orbiter payloads will conduct
remote-sensing observations from a 100 km orbit while the Lander and Rover
payloads will perform in-situ measurements near the landing site.
The ground facilities constitute the third vital element of Chandrayaan-2
mission. They perform the important task of receiving the health information as
well as the scientific data from the spacecraft. They also transmit the radio
commands to the spacecraft. The Ground Segment of Chandrayaan-2 consists of
Indian Deep Space Network, Spacecraft Control Centre and Indian Space Science
Today's successful launch of Chandrayaan-2 is a significant milestone in this
challenging mission. A total number of 7500 visitors witnessed the launch live
from the Viewer's Gallery at Sriharikota.
India to launch its 1st human genome cataloguing project
July 22, 2019 (Mumbai)
India to launch its 1st human genome cataloguing project
India will launch its first human genome mapping project by October, a move
that will help researchers get closer to developing effective therapies for
treating diseases such as cancer. In the first phase of the initiative called
the Genome India project, the genomic data of 10,000 Indians will be catalogued.
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has initiated the project.
"This is going to be transformational for our healthcare because these days
disease management is all about data," DBT secretary Renu Swarup said in an
exclusive interview to ET. "For new advancements in medical science like
predictive diagnosis and precision medicine, genomic information is key and the
A genome is an organism's complete set of DNA, including all its genes. It
contains all the information needed to build and maintain that organism. By
sequencing the genome,researchers can discover the functions of genes and
identify which of them are critical for life.
The DBT said it will build on its own experience of genomic cataloguing and
rope in 22 partner organisations including public health institutions that have
obtained regulatory ethical clearances.
Investigators in hospitals will lead the data collection through a simple
blood test from participants and the information will be added to bio banks.
Swarup expects the DBT will capture data from more than 10,000 people over the
next three years and link them to its bio banks and bio repository.
Across the world, predictive diagnosis and precision medicine based on the
genetic makeup of patients are emerging fields in the treatment of diseases such
as cancer and other genetic disorders. The Genome India project will aim to make
predictive diagnostic markers available for some priority diseases such as
cancer and other rare and genetic disorders, Swarup explained.
The DBT has started establishing diagnostic labs for genetic testing and
counselling services and a programme to train clinicians to produce skilled
personnel to set up more such labs. The department has also initiated an
outreach programme to provide genetic diagnosis and counselling to families
affected by common genetic disorders in certain districts. The Human Genome
Project, which was completed in 2003, was led by an international team of
researchers looking to sequence and map all the genes ? together known as the
genome ? of human beings.
Several countries have embarked on mapping the genetic mark up of their own
population to better understand disease profiles. The UK said in 2013 that it
will undertake the sequencing of 100,000 whole genomes of patients suffering
from cancer and rare diseases. The project was extended to 1 million in 2018.
Genomic England, the organisation that runs the programme, has said that its aim
is to create a new genomic medicine service for the National Health Service ?
transforming the way people are cared for.
However, there are concerns over the use of genetic data. According to a
report published in April by UK data consulting firm Ipsos MORI, there are clear
limits for how far the public thought genomic data and the information derived
from it should be used.Some of the red lines it raised were genetic engineering,
use of genomic data to differentiate groups within society, and predictive
insurance tests and targeted marketing.
Participants wanted assurances that there is a robust governance framework
and consent process in place that makes clear the intended use of their data,
the IPSOS report said.
Government of India committed to Safeguard IP content: Commerce Secretary
Oct 16, 2019 (New Delhi)
Government of India committed to Safeguard IP content:
SEPC Launches India IP Guide at Cannes in MIPCOM
Services Exports Promotion Council (SEPC), set-up by the
Ministry of Commerce & Industry, has brought out the India
Intellectual Property (IP) Guide at Cannes in MIPCOM 2019, being
held from 14-17, October 2019, for the Media and Entertainment
(M&E) industry. The guide features a catalogue of over 60 Indian
IPs, popular in over 160 countries. It comprehensively breaks
the narrative of only low-end work being done in India.
In a message, to the industry in the India IP Guide released
at 36th MIPCOM at Cannes, Commerce Secretary, Anup Wadhawan,
said that the Government of India is committed to safeguard
against infringement of originality and creativity of the makers
to give a boost to services exports. IP is the most important
asset for its creators in the media and entertainment sector and
the message by Commerce Secretary further said that India firmly
believes in the significance of IPR as the centrepiece of the
industry's future growth.
For the second consecutive year, SEPC's India Pavilion at
MIPCOM, Cannes, France, the world's largest content market, has
enthused and attracted industry. Over 60 Indian delegates are
part of the India Pavilion delegation. Over 115 Indian companies
comprising over 250 delegates are at MIPCOM.
Sangeeta Godbole, Director General, SEPC informed that some
of the top renowned Indian Media and Entertainment companies are
present at MIPCOM. Exhibition space has been increased over last
year and 15 media and companies are participating for the
first-time through the SEPC delegation at the India Pavilion,
The Indian exhibitors and visiting companies are
participating to buy, sell, serve and partner with companies
present at MIPCOM from over 111 countries across the world.
India Pavilion is the one-stop place to meet content creators,
audio visual service providers in animation, VFX, AR/VR, gaming,
new media services, film production services and much more.
Many of the Indian companies are here with their completed IPs
or pitch for their in-production properties.
One of the key objectives at SEPC is to facilitate service
exporters of India and handhold medium and small enterprises to
expand their global footprint and to present IPs from India to
the buyers and distributors from across the globe. The IP Guide
is to illustrate strengths of the Indian content creators.
Intellectual Property (IP), especially in the innovation
economy of today, is vital to a large number of SEPC's
stakeholders. Creation, protection and expansion of IP products
alone will bring huge benefits to the sector, informed Sangeeta
In the coming months, SEPC plans to launch an online IP
helpline, so that anybody who has simple questions can get
feedback on IP related queries. SEPC will also be setting up a
committee to help small and medium entertainment companies to
navigate critical aspects of IP creation. The aim is to assist
companies and content creators to maximise the value that IPs
The 'green' crackers reduce particulate emissions by 30 per
cent and are available at the same cost as the traditional ones,
some of them even cheaper.
Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Harsh
Vardhan on Saturday launched a set of new crackers that promises
to help reduce particulate emissions by 30 per cent while
producing the same level of light and sound effects of
The new firework, which covers popularly used sound-emitting
crackers, flowerpots, pencils, chakkar and sparklers, are based
on formulations developed by a consortium of eight laboratories
under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
led by Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research
Launching the 'green' crackers at a press conference, Harsh
Vardhan said the crackers would be available at the same cost as
the traditional ones. "Some of them may even be cheaper," he
He noted that about 230 firework manufacturers had signed the
memorandum of understanding for using the formulations developed
by CSIR scientists. Of them, 165 have gone further and have also
entered into a non-disclosure agreement.
CSIR had taken up the project to develop eco-friendly
crackers in the wake of directions of the Supreme Court
restricting the use of fireworks to address the growing problem
of pollution in different parts of the country.
The project adopted a two-pronged approach. While one stream
of activity was focussed on improving the traditional crackers
through reduction in the level of Barium Nitrate, which is the
main villain, the second pathway aimed at replacing Barium
Nitrate with a more benign Potassium Nitrate.
As part of the exercise, the scientists also set up a new
facility that could be used by manufacturers to characterise the
raw material and analyse the compositions of the chemicals used
The Minister said that the new and improved crackers had been
demonstrated to manufacturers and their associations such as
Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association and
Indian Fireworks Manufacturers Association, besides the Central
Pollution Control Board and Petroleum And Explosives Safety
Organisation, which is responsible for controlling transport,
storage and usage of all explosive materials.
Besides National Environmental Engineering Research
Institute, the consortium consisted of Central Electrochemical
Engineering Research Institute, Indian Institute of Toxicology
Research, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, National
Chemical Laboratory, Central Electronics Engineering Research
Institute, National Botanical Research Institute and Central
Mechanical Engineering Research Institute.
Harsh Vardhan said the new set of crackers would have a
prominent green logo to differentiate them from the conventional
ones. Further, it would carry QR code for monitoring. Scanning
of the code would provide all information about the product,
including the chemicals and the process used.
CSIR announces the winners of Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar prize for 2019
Sept 27, 2019 (New Delhi)
CSIR announces the winners of Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar
prize for 2019
Twelve scientists from different institutions across the
country have been chosen for the prestigious Shanti Swarup
Bhatnagar prize for 2019.
The award winners include Dr. Kayarat Saikrishnan of Indian
Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune and Dr. Soumen
Basak of National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi (biological
sciences), Dr. Raghavan B Sunoj of IIT, Bombay and Dr. Tapas
Kumar Maji of Jawahar Lal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific
Research, Bengaluru (Chemical Sciences), and Dr. Dishant Mayur
Bhai Pancholi of Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai,
and Dr. Nina Gupta of Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
The other winners are: Dr. Dheeraj Kumar of International
Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, New Delhi and
Dr. Mohammad Javed Ali of LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad
(Medical Sciences), Dr. Aninda Sinha of IISc, Bengaluru, and Dr.
Shankar Ghosh of TIFR, Mumbai (Physical Sciences), Dr. Subimal
Ghosh of IIT, Bombay (Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary
Sciences), and Dr. ManikVarma (Microsoft Research India,
Bengaluru (Engineering Sciences).
Director General of Council of Scientific and Industrial
Research (CSIR), Dr. Shekhar C.Mande, announced the winners on
the occasion of CSIR Foundation Day on Thursday.
The prize carries a cash component of Rs. 5 lakh each. It is
awarded annually for outstanding research, both fundamental and
applied. It is named after the founder Director General of CSIR,
Dr. Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar.
Harnessing science, technology and innovation for societal benefits
Sept 20, 2019 (New Delhi)
Harnessing science, technology and innovation for societal
Director-General of Council of Scientific and Industrial
Research, Shekhar C. Mande, has urged for greater collaboration
between society, on one hand, and the scientific community on
the other to ensure that there was proper promotion of
scientific endeavours and effective utilisation of the fruits of
science, technology and innovation for the welfare of the
Drawing upon examples from ancient times, Mande said the
excavations at Lothal in Gujarat were an eye-opener as they
showed that even in ancient times people had thought of building
a seaport to promote trade. Lothal is one of the southernmost
cities of the ancient Indus Valley civilization located in the
Bhal region of the western state.
He referred to the newly coined term of Social Scientific
Responsibility and recalled how engineering wizard and statesman
M Visvesvaraya helped build a dam across Osman Sagar in
Hyderabad. "Till the early 1900s, Hyderabad was always ravaged
by floods during the rainy season. At the same time, people also
faced a shortage of drinking water. The Nizam of Hyderabad
consulted Visvesvaraya who then designed a water management
system in such a way that it solved both the problems -
preventing floods and providing drinking water."
Mande was delivering the 23rd lecture under Science,
Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) Forum Lecture Series
organized here on Thursday by Vigyan Prasar, Research and
Innovation System for Developing Countries, The Energy and
Resource Institute, Centre for Science and Environment and India
He narrated the journey of science, technology and innovation
in Independent India and the role of CSIR in this journey. "When
the British left, our contribution to the world GDP had dropped
to below 2 per cent .We could not make our clothes or provide
ourselves with food. We also did not have industries. The only
solution was to make science, technology and innovation as the
driver to rise up. Today, we can see the result," he said.
In this context, he recalled how CSIR's Indian Institute of
Petroleum, Dehradun has developed a technology to produce wax
from oil discards and has set up a plant for this in Numaligarh
in Assam. "Because of this plant, the country saves around
Rs.500 crore per year on wax import. This wax can have multiple
applications", he said.
Noting the contributions of Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar, the
founder of CSIR, he emphasised the need to keep looking out for
new ideas for innovations including from one's own daily life.
"For several centuries, human beings have been producing flours
from grains manually. However, people living in hill areas
realised that when water falls from height energy can be
produced and that can be used to operate the grinders. That gave
rise to Gharats, which have been in operation in Himalayan
states for centuries. Remote villages in the hills still use
Chandrima Shaha, President-Elect, Indian National Science
Academy, chaired the session, while Sachin Chaturvedi, director
general, RIS, welcomed the gathering.
Ministry of HRD announces National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT) Scheme for better learning outcomes in Higher Education
Sept 19, 2019 (New Delhi)
Ministry of HRD announces National Educational Alliance
for Technology (NEAT) Scheme for better learning outcomes in
The objective is to use Artificial Intelligence to make
learning more personalised and customised as per the
requirements of the learner. This requires development of
technologies in Adaptive Learning to address the diversity of
learners. There are a number of start-up companies developing
this and MHRD would like to recognise such efforts and bring
them under a common platform so that learners can access it
easily. Educating the youth is a National effort and MHRD
proposes to create a National Alliance with such technology
developing EdTech Companies through a PPP model.
MHRD would act as a facilitator to ensure that the solutions
are freely available to a large number of economically backward
students. MHRD would create and maintain a National NEAT
platform that would provide one-stop access to these
technological solutions. EdTech companies would be responsible
for developing solutions and manage registration of learners
through the NEAT portal. They would be free to charge fees as
per their policy. As their contribution towards the National
cause, they would have to offer free coupons to the extent of
25% of the total registrations for their solution through NEAT
portal. MHRD would distribute the free coupons for learning to
the most socially/economically backward students.
AICTE would be the implementing agency for NEAT programme.
The scheme shall be administered under the guidance of an Apex
Committee constituted by MHRD. Independent Expert Committees
would be constituted for evaluating and selecting the EdTech
solutions. MoUs will be signed with the shortlisted EdTech
companies. Awareness programs would be taken up by MHRD to
create awareness of the NEAT solutions to teachers and
MHRD proposes to launch and operationalise NEAT in early
Five new technology missions to be launched to make India future-ready
Sept 13, 2019 (New Delhi)
Five new technology missions to be launched to make India
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is all set to
launch five technology missions to prepare the country to meet
scientific and technological challenges of the future. The new
missions would cover aspects ranging from electric mobility to
quantum science and technology.
The mission on electric mobility has been formulated in the
wake of growing importance of electric vehicles particularly due
to climate change concerns. It seeks to promote long-term
research and development in all aspects of related technologies.
For instance, the current batteries based on lithium ion are
expected to start fading by 2025 globally leading to the need for
development of newer materials.
The mission would, among other things, focus on developing
hydrogen fuel cells and come out with batteries that would have
higher specific energy and energy densities, motors that would
do away with the need for permanent magnets and systems to
provide for two-way power transfer between the grid and the
electric vehicle chargers. A new model of collaboration that
would bring together academic institutions, private
manufacturing and R&D laboratories would be put in place for
Under the mission methanol, centres of excellence would be
established for production and utilization of methanol and
dimethyl ether using various solid fuels and natural gas and
develop knowledge base and trained manpower in the area.
Countries across the world are working on developing what is
called 'methanol economy' as a replacement for fossil fuels as a
means of energy storage, ground transportation fuel, and raw
material for synthetic hydrocarbons and their products.
The aim is to ensure a cleaner environment and at the same
time reduce dependence on fossil fuels, which are a non-
renewable source of energy. Methanol can be produced from a wide
variety of sources including agricultural products and municipal
waste, and wood and other biomass. It can also be made from
chemical recycling of carbon dioxide.
Announcing the missions at a press conference here DST
Secretary Ashutosh Sharma said the government was working
continuously shape a seamless science, technology and innovation
system, which was cutting edge, collaborative, inclusive,
relevant and aligned to national priorities.
The new package of technological initiatives also includes a
mission on promoting research and development in quantum
technology and related areas of quantum computing, quantum
cryptography, quantum communication, quantum metrology and
sensing, and quantum-enhanced imaging. Quantum technology is an
emerging field of physics and engineering based on the properties
of quantum mechanics.
The fourth mission in the package seeks to promote
developments in the area of cyber-physical systems, which
includes artificial intelligence, robotics, sensors, big data
analytics, geographical information systems and advanced
materials. The aim is to give a fillip to the manufacturing
sector through the development of new products and services,
creation of skilled human resources at different levels, from
technician to researchers and entrepreneurs. The mission outlines
time-bound strategies for implementation of cyber-physical
systems in various sectors such as agriculture, transport,
energy, water, and health.
The fifth mission envisages the production of digital maps
across the country to a scale of 1:500 with the help of
satellites and drones. The entire country would be mapped within
the next two years.
India's traditional medicine system is all set to go high-tech with the Union Ayush Ministry taking steps to set up a nationwide AYUSH grid connecting all hospitals and research labs to record case histories so that a huge amount of evidences can be generated through data analytics about the efficacy of Ayurveda.
"While robust research is being conducted into Ayurveda, the problem arises in implementation of integrative medicine at the level of public health. This is because Ayurveda is still not accepted as a science by the Allopathic community. Ayush Grid is expected to take care of these gaps," Dr Rajesh Kotecha, Union Ayush Secretary said.
In fact, Prime Minister Naredndra Modi too last week, while speaking at a Yoga Awards ceremony emphasised on the need to create a homogenous system by creating an "Ayush grid" on the lines of one nation, one tax and one nation, one mobility card.
The move has been welcomed by the ayush experts and manufacturers. "This would instil confidence among people as well as bring transparency and accountability in the sector at the time when the Government is focussing on universal health care," said Sanchit Sharma, executive director of the AIMIL Pharma Ltd. He agreed with the Prime Minister's view that technology intervention will eliminate silos in the area of Ayush. Modi had pitched for connecting technology with tradition in the practice of Ayush medicine as he announced the Government's plans to establish 12,500 Ayush centres across India, 4,000 of which will be set up this year. Ayush medicines will be provided in these centres.
There is already an array of Ayurveda drugs like BGR-34 for diabetes developed by country's prestigious research institutions like CSIR. Similarly, Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed herbal drug, NEERI-KFT for kidney ailments after intensive research.
The burden of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDas) is immense in the country. As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), deaths due to NCDs has increased from 37 per cent in 1990 to 61 per cent in 2016. The WHO has already recognized diabetes as a growing challenge in India with an estimated 8.7 per cent diabetic population between the age group of 20 and 70 years. In India, the Global Disease Burden (GBD) 2015 ranks chronic kidney disease as the eighth leading cause of death.
IIT-Delhi will have high-level facility center for research
Sept 2, 2019 (New Delhi)
IIT-Delhi will have high-level facility center for research
The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), will set up a science and technology-based research facility equipped with modern technology in the capital, which can be helpful in promoting the industry, startup companies and research and development work carried out by academic institutions is.
The purpose of setting up this Center, called Sophisticated Analytical and Technical Assistance Institute (SATHI), is to provide high-efficiency technical facilities under one roof to promote research. The benefit of this facility will be available to academic institutions, startup companies, manufacturing units, industries and R&D laboratories.
This facility will be equipped with major analytical and advanced manufacturing equipment required for scientific research, which are not usually available in institutions. It will be set up at the Sonipat campus (Haryana) of IIT-Delhi. For the establishment of this center, IIT-Delhi will be given a grant of Rs 125 crore from the Department of Science and Technology.
IIT-Delhi Director Professor V. Ram Gopal Rao said that "the establishment of 'Saathi' by the government can prove to be transformative in taking experimental research work to a new height in India." IIT-Delhi has an excellent track record in the management and use of high quality research facilities. It will be our endeavor that the researchers get the benefit of this new facility for 24 hours without any hindrance. Apart from the facilities set up under this project, the benefit of other research facilities available in the institute will also be available in the 'Saathi' center. "
IIT-Delhi has been selected by a high level committee of the Department of Science and Technology for the establishment of 'Saathi'. IIT-Delhi has been selected for the establishment of 'Saathi' Facilitation Center due to its excellent R&D work, managerial and administrative capacity and availability of infrastructure.
Dean of Research & Development Department of IIT-Delhi, Prof. BR Mehta stated that "With the availability of high-capacity instruments at this facility, researchers will also be provided technical and scientific support. Faculty members and researchers of IIT-Delhi will be ready to help them in this facility center to overcome the scientific and technical difficulties associated with students, scientists and entrepreneurs. "
UGC to decide on proposals to review PhD theses soon
Aug 26, 2019 (Thrissur)
UGC to decide on proposals to review PhD theses soon
The University Grants Commission (UGC) will finalize the study
proposals to audit the PhD theses submitted by research scholars in
various universities across the country during the past 10 years, next
week."We had received about 160 study proposals, including from the
IITs. We have shortlisted 20 of them and a final decision will be taken
next week," said UGC vice-chairman Bhushan Patwardhan while speaking at
a symposium on 'Research in Ayurveda: Need, scope and future' organized
by Ayurvedic Medicine Manufacturers' Association (AMMOI) here on
He said the UGC is seriously concerned about the erosion of quality
of PhD research in the country. "UGC has taken a strong stand against
dubious research theses being produced. Thousands of journals have
sprouted in the country, which publish the articles from the research
scholars. Some of these 'predatory journals' give various offers to
entice the research scholars to publish their papers. Shockingly, there
are some agencies which have come out with rate cards listing the
different amounts to be paid for PhD theses of various levels of
originality," he said.
Even though the deterioration of quality of research is a global
challenge, India unfortunately ranks first in terms of dubious
research, Patwardhan added.Replying to questions, he said the study
teams will be given six months' time to study the PhD theses and submit
assessment on their quality.
Asked what would be the action against sub-standard theses, he said,
"There are various actions possible, but first we must find out its
spread."He said the committee appointed by the UGC to augment the
quality of PhD research work has already submitted its report.
One of the major recommendations of the committee headed by P
Balram, former director of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc),
Bengaluru, was to conduct a national-level eligibility test for joining
the PhD programme. They have also recommended that the qualifications
of the PhD thesis examiners as well as the guides must also be
published. Another recommendation was to extend the undergraduate
programme to four years and weave the research introduction there
itself. These recommendations would be considered by the UGC in the
"I'm of the view that publication of research papers by PhD students
should not be made mandatory. Once this is made compulsory, they will
go into a compliance mode and will chose to publish in dubious
journals. Instead of the number of papers, their quality should be
given more weightage while assessing a research scholar. I'm also in
favour if waving the age limit for PhD studies," he said.
Ensuring quality of PhD research is crucial as many of those
scholars have become teachers. Many are set to join the profession
soon, he said.