Science Monitor: 9 January 2021
|Science Monitor: 9 January 2021|
1. CSIR-NPL 75th foundation DAY
India has moved one step ahead in the field of metrology and accuracy of Indian Standard Time. Now the National Atomic Time Scale generates IST with an accuracy of 2.8 nanoseconds and this timescale was dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister on the 4th of January. The day also marked the 75th Foundation Day of the CSIR National Physical Laboratory which is also the National Metrology Institute of India.
About the day:
- To mark the 75th anniversary of the CSIR National Physical Laboratory, the institute organized National Metrology Conclave under the theme “Metrology for the inclusive growth of the Nation”. On the occasion PM dedicated the National Atomic Time Scale and Bharatiya Nirdheshak Dravya Pranali to the Nation. He also laid the foundation stone of National Environmental standards laboratory at NPL.
- CSIR National Physical Laboratory is also known as the Timekeeper of India as it is the agency to maintain the Indian Standard Time. International Atomic Time combines the output of 400 highly precise atomic clocks worldwide to provide the exact speed of our clocks. NPL also has a bank of Cesium atomic clock and Hydrogen masses that are used to generate official Indian time dissemination of IST across Indian subcontinent is done through network time services and satellite links.
- Now the National Atomic Time scale has achieved an accuracy of 2.8 nanoseconds matching the International Standard Time. This will greatly benefit organization like ISRO as well as sectors like Banking, railways, defence, health, telecom, weather forecasting, disaster management and many other emerging sectors working with cutting edge technology. On the other hand, Bhartiya Nirdheshak Dravya will help the industry to make quality products in sectors like heavy metals, pesticides, pharma and textiles by drafting a certified reference material system. The new standards will also help in bringing Global identity to local products which will be of particular benefit to the MSME sector.
- During the conclave, Union Minister Dr. Harshvardhan inaugurated a poster gallery showcasing the achievements of CSIR- NPL and also released a book titled- Metrology for Inclusive growth of India as the Institute entered its Platinum Jubilee Year. A series of events were organized with the World Science leaders to get new insights. More than 50000 participants comprising of metrologists, industrialists, regulators, policy makers, academicians and students joined these events online.
2. 5th NATIONAL SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION POLICY
India’s profound understanding of Science and Technology and its spirit of innovation has been playing a crucial role in overcoming the challenges presented by Covid19 pandemic. To deal with several such challenges in the future as well the Draft of the 5th National Science technology and Innovation Policy has been finalized. The Draft has been released for public consultation till the 25th of January.
About the draft:
- Science and Technology play a pivotal role in the development of any country but the growth of Science & Technology is guided by the country‘s Science & Technology policy. Therefore, improving upon the earlier policy of the nation the GOI has released the Draft of the 5th national Science Technology & Innovation Policy which revolves around the core principles of being decentralized, evidence informed, bottom up, experts driven and inclusive.
- The draft has been released on the Department of Science & technology’s website for Public Consultation. The policy will bring about profound changes through short, medium and long term mission mode projects by building a nurtured ecosystem. It will also catalyse social to economic development by identifying and addressing the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian STI ecosystem.
- The draft prepared through a four track consultation process in the last 6 months encourages public participation to strengthen people’s centric STI. The policy also expects to keep all stakeholders connected to develop quick solutions as seen in the case of Covid crisis when R&D institutions, academia and industry shared the same purpose.
- The policy includes National and International solidarity promotion of traditional knowledge systems development of indigenous technologies and encouraging innovations at all the levels to emphasize sustainable development.
- The policy has a broad vision of achieving technological self reliance to position India among the top 3 Scientific Superpowers in the decade to come and for this it also aims to attract and nurture critical Human Capital through a people centric STI ecosystem.
3. COVID-19 VACCINE APPROVAL AND DRY RUN
India will soon begin its Vaccination Drive against Covid 19 as two made in India vaccines have been approved for restricted emergency use in the country. The decision was taken in accordance with the recommendations of the subject experts committee of the central Drug Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO). To run the vaccination drive smoothly across the country, National Level and State Level dry runs were conducted so that unforeseen problems can be identified and resolved before the actual implementation of the of the inoculation program.
About the Vaccine:
- As India entered the New Year the top regulatory authority in India CDSCO decided to accept the recommendations of a subject experts committee and granted approval to Two Made in India Vaccines- Covishield of Serum Institute of India and Covaxin of Bharat Biotech for restricted use and emergency situations.
- Since emergence of Covid 19, several efforts were started all over the World to develop a vaccine against the infection. Many such efforts were also started in India. As a result, several vaccine candidates based on different platforms are in the final phase of development and some are ready to be used for mass inoculation.
- In India, Covishield manufactured by SII and developed by Astra Zeneca and Oxford University has been given the first approval for restricted emergency use. The second approval went to Covaxin which is developed and manufactured indigenously by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with Indian Council of Medical Research. This vaccine has been approved to keep it as a backup option.
- In terms of the vaccine platform, Covishield is a vector vaccine prepared by encoding SARS COV-2 spike glycoprotein into chimpanzees’ adenovirus. Safety immunogenicity and efficacy data generated on 23,745 participants aged 18 years or above from overseas clinical studies was submitted by the SII. Overall efficacy of the vaccine was found to be 70.42%.
- Data from phase-2 and pahse-3 clinical trials conducted on 1600 participants in India was also submitted and result was found comparable to that of the overseas clinical studies. On the other hand, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is based on inactivated virus of Vero Cell platform. It was developed in collaboration with IVMR and NIV, Pune from where the company received the virus seeds strains. So far, it has been tested safely on more than 22,500 volunteers in phase-3 trials.
- However, given the emergence of mutant strain from the UK clinical trials of these vaccines will continue in the country along with regular post inoculation studies. In addition to granting approval to these vaccines, DCGI also gave a go ahead to Cadilla Health care to conduct phase-3 trial of its vaccine Zycov-D which is based on a DNA platform.
- As the vaccines have been approved, so the preparations for the inoculation drive in India are in full swing. Two National Level Dry Runs have been conducted in addition to many state level dry runs to train Health workers of the country. Initially, only Covishield will be used for the vaccination drive.
- Health workers and frontline workers will be vaccinated first followed by people above the age of 50. People below 50 but with associated comorbidities are also intended to be covered in the first phase of the vaccination which is expected to last till August 2021.
- The beneficiaries will be given two doses of covishield at an interval of 28 days. According to the experts, antibodies will develop in two weeks after taking the second dose. So, in the meantime and even after that, it would be better to follow key Covid specific behaviour like Social Distancing, wearing masks and handwashing.
- The Health Ministry has also introduced Co-WIN, a digital platform for real time monitoring of Covid 19 Vaccine delivery. An app with the same name is also in the process of development and can be launched shortly by the Government. Till then people are advised not to download apps with similar names as they could cause serious problems.
4. SCIENCE EXPRESS
1. India’s 40th scientific expedition to the Antarctica:
- India’s 40th scientific expedition to the Antarctica has been launched under which 43 members on board the chartered ice class vessel MV Vasiliy Golovnin left the Goa port on 5th of January. The team will reach Antarctica in 30 days. It should be noted that the entire Indian Antarctica program is managed by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean research, Goa.
- The first program was launched in 1981 and now India has 3 permanent research stations in Antarctica, namely- Southern Gangotri, Maitri and Bharati. Out of them, Maître and Bharati stations are currently functional. The expedition will support the ongoing scientific projects on climate change geology, ocean observations, electric and magnetic flux measurements, environmental monitoring and will also take care of the resupplies of the food, fuel provisions etc. along with bringing back the winter team.