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Science Monitor: 26 September 2020

Science Monitor: 26 September 2020


1. VAIBHAV (Vaishvik Bharatiya Vaigyanik)Summit 2020


To provide momentum to the New Education Policy and Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan, Government of India is embarking on a new Science and Technology initiative in the form of Vaishvik Bharatiya Vaigyanik Summit or VAIBHAV. This global summit will bring scientists and academicians of Indian origin working across the globe on one platform so that Indian researchers and students can benefit from their knowledge and expertise. The first of its kind virtual summit will be inaugurated on 2nd of October by PM Narendra Modi and will run for nearly a month.

Vaibhav Summit (@SummitVaibhav) | Twitter

About the Summit:

  • Since Ancient times, India stand the living testimony of being the epitome of knowledge and education. Indian scholars and centre of learning were known to enlighten the world with their extensive and in-depth knowledge.
  • Today, India diaspora is making an outstanding contribution in the arena of global academics and research. Currently, more than 6000 academics of Indian origin are part of the world’s 500 educational institutions, of which over 1000 are associated with the leading research and development institute.
  • To make use of their knowledge and expertise in the Indian context and to promote active collaboration among them and their Indian counterparts, the science and technology and the academic organizations of India are launching a collaborative initiative called Vaishvik Bharatiya Vaigyanik Summit, the grand summit will run from 3rd October to 30th October and will bring together overseas and resident Indian scientists and academicians on one platform to create an ecosystem of knowledge and innovation in the country which will help in addressing the emerging challenges.
  • The VAIBHAV  Summit 2020 will have:
    • Panel discussion on 18 verticals spread over 80 horizontals.
    • Leading to more than 200 sessions.
    • Participation of 200 academic and R&D institute of India.
    • 1500 panellists across the world.
  • The vertical will range from agro-economy to quantum technology and each vertical will have Champion Institutes of India taking an active part in the deliberations.
  • The objective of this program is to create a roadmap to leverage the knowledge of global Indian researchers, subject experts and academics for education, research, innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainable development in India which will open a new dimension in the development of Indian education system.

2. NII developing Protein based vaccine against Covid-19


National Institute of Immunology (NII), an autonomous research institute, working under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), GoI, is developing a protein-based vaccine candidate against covid-19. The institute has got encouraging results in study trial mice and will soon test the vaccine on primates. According to the institute, if this vaccine candidate clears all phases of trials then India will surely have a low-cost vaccine to safeguard the masses.

           Next-generation vaccine platforms for COVID-19 | Nature Materials

About the Vaccine:

  • Some of the corona vaccine candidates including the Indian ones are entering the last phase of clinical trial. But most of these vaccines, including the indigenous ones are based on inactivated virus and nucleic acid. However, Delhi based NII, is working on a different path to develop a protein-based vaccine against the infection. This vaccine candidate is being develop to inhibit the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 to inactivate the virus.
  • NII started working on this vaccine during the lockdown period. After identifying the protein candidate, researchers of the institute conducted immunogenicity study trials on mice and got encouraging results. The vaccine candidate not only stimulated an immune response but also produced antibody effective enough to neutralize the virus.
  • The institute is now conducting large scale test on mice and based on the results, it will seek permission to conduct the trial on monkeys. Outcome of these trials will determine the future action.
  • The research is supported by Department of Biotechnology. The institute has state of the art facilities to pursue research in Immunology and aims to serve the nation by developing a cheaper vaccine which can be made available to the masses.
  • According to the researchers, the candidate may enter the clinical trials in next two to three months, after crossing the initial stages successfully.

3. India’s first CRISPR based Covid test approved


India will soon have a rapid covid-19 diagnostic kit based on indigenously developed CRISPR technology to detect the viral genome of SARS-CoV-2. The diagnostic kit is the result of fruitful collaboration between CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) and the TATA Group. The test has received regulatory approval from Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for commercial launch and this development will boost India’s capacity to fight the pandemic.

About the Kit:

  • The onset of covid-19 crisis called for the development of indigenous reliable and low-cost diagnostic tools. In view of this the researchers of CSIR-IGIB started working on a diagnostic test in the early phase of corona crisis.
  • The team has developed a paper strip based test kit using the state of the art CRISPR-Cas9 technology. After testing the required sample of patients and meeting the high-quality benchmarks of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the test has now approved the regulatory approvals from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for commercial launch.
  • This test kit will be produced commercially by Tata Medical And Diagnostics Limited as Tata CRISPR test ‘Feluda’.The paper strip-basedkit will take a total of 1 hour to identify the genome sequence of corona virus starting with the extraction of sample RNA.
  • CRISPR-Cas9 is a gene editing tool in which CRISPR is a guide RNA and Cas9 is an enzyme based molecular scissors which cut the genetic materials at the required points.
  •  In 2019, IGIB scientists discovered a new variant of Cas9 protein from a different species of bacteria which can cut DNA with high precision. IGIB scientists have used this indigenous discovery to develop the CRISPR based diagnostic test. It is the world’s first diagnostic test to deploy especially adopted Cas9 protein to successfully detect virus causing covid-19.
  • The Tata CRISPR ‘Feluda’test does not require high end equipment and is quite easy to use, even an ASHA workers can perform the test with a little training. This will help in conducting low cost test on a larger scale plus this technique also has the potential to detect other pathogens in the future.

4. HCT- Hanle completing 20 years of first light


The Himalayan Chandra telescope located in Hanle, Ladakh is crossing an important milestone on 26th of September, 2020 by completing 20 years of its operation. Named after, India born Nobel laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, this optical-infrared telescope is one of the highest Astronomical Observatory in the world and is operated remotely by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, based in Bengaluru.