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Editorial Articles

volume-41, 11-17 January 2020

India’s Significant Strides in Science and Technology in 2019


In the year 2019, India made some significant leaps in the field of science and technology. India launched "Green Crackers" in its bid to curb air pollution. The First Indigenous Fuel Cell System launched DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill - 2019 was passed by the Lok Sabha. Also, India adopted the redefined global units of measurement of kilogram, kelvin, mole and ampere from 20th May 2019 i.e. the World Metrology Day.

The Ministry of Science & Technology announced key missions including Atal Jai Anusandhan Biotech Mission - Undertaking Nationally Relevant Technology Innovation (UNaTI), which is expected to transform health, agriculture and energy sectors during the next 5 years. This mission included GARBH-ini - a mission to promote maternal and child health and develop prediction tools for pre-term berth, IndCEPI - a mission to develop affordable vaccines for endemic diseases, development of biofortified and protein rich wheat - contributing to POSHAN Abhiyan, mission on Anti Microbial Resistance for affordable diagnostics and therapeutics and Clean Energy Mission - innovative technology interventions for Swachh Bharat. The missions were announced on the occasion of the 33rd foundation day of the Department of Biotechnology in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, in New Delhi on 26th February with the theme as "Celebrating Biotechnology: Building Indian as an Innovation Nation". On the occasion, Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan gave away the Biotechnology Research Innovation and Technology Excellence (BRITE) awards.

The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill - 2019:  The bill was passed on 8th January by the lower house of Parliament in a landmark decision. The Bill has been formulated recognizing the need for regulation of the use and application of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) technology, for establishing identity of missing persons, victims, offenders, under trials and unknown deceased persons.

Redefined units of measurement of Kilogram, Kelvin, Mole and Ampere implemented in India by CSIR-NPL: After decades of ground-breaking laboratory works, the world's scientific and technical community, in a landmark and historic decision taken in the recent open session of the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) at BIPM on 16th November 2018, unanimously adopted the resolution to redefine four of the seven base units, the kilogram (SI unit of weight), Kelvin (SI unit of temperature), mole (SI unit of amount of substance), and ampere (SI unit of current). The new SI was implemented from 20th May 2019 i.e. the World Metrology Day by CSIR-NPL in India.

NGS facility inaugurated at CSIR-CCMB: Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan inaugurated the Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) facility at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMC) in Hyderabad on 20th July. The facility includes technology for high genome sequencing and also diagnostic sequencing of clinical samples. The state of art machine, acquired at a cost of Rs. 8 crore can sequence 18,000 samples in 8 minutes. The NGS would help prenatal genetic screening and counselling, thereby generating large scale genomic data critical for diagnosis and therapy.

First Indigenous Fuel Cell System launched on 26th September 2019: The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, on 26th September unveiled the first Indigenous High Temperature Fuel Cell System developed by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in partnership with Indian industries under India's flagship program named "New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI)" on the occasion of CSIR Foundation Day in New Delhi. A unique example of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) among CSIR's three Laboratories [CSIR-NCL, Pune; CSIR-NPL, New Delhi & CSIR-CECRI, Karaikudi (Chennai Center)] and two Indian industries; M/s Thermax Limited, Pune and M/s Reliance Industries Limited, Mumbai exemplified exploiting materials of science developments at CSIR laboratories into practice by Industry.

"Green Crackers" developed by CSIR  in a bid to curb air pollution : Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) labs have been successful in developing various environment-friendly fireworks such as sound emitting crackers, flowerpots, pencils, chakkar and sparklers. Green logo and QR coding system have also been launched to track manufacture and sale of counterfeit crackers.

CSIR conducts Whole Genome Sequencing of over 1,000 Indians for Biomedical Applications: The CSIR has conducted Whole Genome Sequencing of 1,008 Indians from different populations across the country. Announcing details of the IndiGen Genome project, the Union Minister for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Health & Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan said that the whole genome data will be important for building the knowhow, baseline data and indigenous capacity in the emerging area of Precision Medicine.

Guidelines Released for Evaluation of Nanopharmaceuticals in India on 24th October: These guidelines are intended to provide transparent, consistent and predictable regulatory pathways for nanopharmaceuticals in India. The guidelines will pave the way for significant benefits through such cutting edge technology and contribute to the mission on "Affordable Health Care for All."

The Union Cabinet approved five years' extension of Biomedical Research Career Programme (BRCP), and Wellcome Trust (WT)/DBT India Alliance beyond its initial 10-year term (2008-09 to 2018-19) to a new five year phase (2019-20 to 2023-24) with Department of Biotechnology (DBT) increasing its commitment to two times that of WT. The total financial implication will be Rs. 1092 crore with DBT and WT contributing Rs.728 crore and Rs.364 crore respectively.

Cabinet approves Inter-Institutional Agreement between India and USA for cooperation in the field of medicine: The agreement was given ex-post facto approval on 17 July 2019. The agreement covers the areas of regenerative medicine and 3D bio-printing, new technologies, exchange of scientific ideas/information and technologies, and joint use of scientific infrastructure.

Government and IIT-Delhi to set up a Centre of Excellence for Waste to Wealth Technologies: The Principal Scientific Advisor to the Govt of India, Prof K. Vijay Raghavan and Director, IIT Delhi, Prof V. Ramgopal Rao signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 2nd May, in New Delhi for setting up a Centre of Excellence for Waste to Wealth Technologies for implementation of sustainable, scientific and technological solutions for waste management, through validation and deployment of available technologies for transformation of waste to wealth.

India joined the Global Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Research and Development (R&D) Hub as a new member on 12th September. This expands the global partnership working to address challenges and improve coordination and collaboration in global AMR R&D to 16 countries, the European Commission, two philanthropic foundations and four international organisations (as observers).

National Centre for Clean Coal Research & Development inaugurated at Bengaluru: Union Minister of Science & Technology, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, inaugurated the National Centre for Clean Coal Research and Development at Indian Institute of Science (IISc)-Bengaluru on 16th September.

'UMMID' initiative to tackle inherited genetic diseases of new born babies: The Union Minister for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan on 23rd September launched UMMID (Unique Methods of Management and Treatment of Inherited Disorders) initiative and inaugurated NIDAN (National Inherited Diseases Administration) Kendras.

Cabinet approves proposal for Agreement on Science and Technology Cooperation between India and the US: The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 23rd October approved the proposal for Agreement on Science and Technology Cooperation between India and the United States of America. The agreement would provide an opportunity to promote 'high quality' and 'high impact' research and innovation partnerships as well as broadening and expanding relationships between the extensive scientific and technological communities.

5th India International Science Festival held in Kolkata from 5th to 8th November, 2019: The theme of the festival was "RISEN" (Research, Innovation and Science Empowering the Nation), reflecting the aspirations of 21st century India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said science and technology has a major impact on society, and therefore government is providing the institutional support for both invention and innovation.

India's first-ever Global Mega Science Exhibition, 'Vigyan Samagam' held at the Science City in Kolkata on 4th November: This multi-venue Science Exhibition, after its successful journey in Mumbai and Bengaluru, opened for public in Kolkata from 4th November till December 31, 2019. The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Department of Science and Technology (DST), the funding agencies of these projects and the National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), Ministry of Culture, who are venue partners and having expertise in design and hosting such exhibitions, joined hands to organize the prestigious event.

3-day Global Bio-India Summit, 2019 was held on 21st November: For the first time, over 3,000 delegates from around 25 countries and over 15 states of India participated in the mega event which was one of the largest biotechnology stakeholders conglomerate.

5th Meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Member States' heads of Science and Technology: The 5th Meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Member States' Heads of Ministries and Departments of Science and Technology and Permanent Working Group on Science and Technology Cooperation concluded in Moscow, Russia on 21st November. Secretary, DSIR & DG, CSIR, Dr. Shekhar C. Mande, led the Indian delegation. India will be the host of Council of Heads of Government (Prime Ministers) of SCO Member States in 2020, which will approve the Draft SCO Roadmap on cooperation between research institutions of SCO Member States for the period 2021-2023.

The 106th Session of Indian Science Congress, 2019 was held from January 3-7, 2019 at Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar, and Punjab. It was inaugurated by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. During the Congress, significant lectures from three Nobel Laureates; 20 Plenary Sessions and several sectional symposia with top authorities from DRDO, ISRO, DST, ICAR, CSIR, ICMR, AICTE, NAAC, UGC, ISCA, the USA, UK Universities, were attended by nearly 30,000 participants. More than fifteen thousand delegates participated at this scientific meet.

Two-day long One Health India Conference, 2019 was held in February in New Delhi. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology in partnership with the Departments of Agriculture Research and Education (DARE) and Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries (DAHDF), Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare; the Departments of Health Research (DHR) and Health & Family Welfare (DHFW), Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, hosted the "One Health India Conference". The conference aimed to launch India's new One Health Initiative - an inter-sectoral approach to tackling the most urgent health threats in India as well as in low and middle income countries across South and South East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Photo Exhibition titled "Celebrating Indian Women in Science: An Incredible Journey": The Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India in Partnership with India International Centre, New Delhi, organized a Photo Exhibition on 7th March, 2019. The aim of the exhibition was to remember, acknowledge and showcase the stories of great Indian women scientists on International women's day, who have contributed to the development of science through their outstanding work.

Global Bio-India Awards presented on 22nd November : Presenting the awards, the Union Minister of Railways and Minister of Commerce & Industry, Shri Piyush Goyal said the Government has simplified the Patents regime for Start-ups, MSMEs among others to encourage innovation. He assured the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion will extend all support to new and emerging enterprises in Biotechnology sector.

HPCL and CSIR co-develops BND (Bharatiya Nideshak Dravya or Indian Reference Material): HPCL and CSIR-NPL released 26 Petroleum BNDs coinciding with the occasion of World Metrology Day. These will be of immense use for BS VI fuels and will save foreign exchange through import substitution for Certified Reference Materials (CRMs). This will provide traceability for all vital parameters of petroleum products testing and certification comprising of 13 physical properties, 2 physicochemical properties and 11 chemical properties, including BND for sulfur content measurement at lower concentrations which will be of immense use for BS VI fuels.

Demonstration Plant for Converting Plastic Waste to Diesel: Honourable Union Minister of S&T Dr. Harsh Vardhan inaugurated a demonstration plant for converting plastic waste to diesel based on technology developed by CSIR-IIP. This plant can convert one tonne of plastic waste into 800 liters of diesel every day that is of automotive grade and is in collaboration with Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) India.

CSIR-NPL designated as the national verification agency for Air quality monitoring instruments: Union environment ministry has designated CSIR-NPL as the national verification agency for certifying instruments and equipment for monitoring emissions and ambient air quality, which will assist in maintaining standards of instruments and data of air quality being collected.

CSIR-IICT signs a global licensing pact with Sun Pharma: CSIR-IICT signed a global licensing pact with Sun Pharma for patents on dermatology, ophthalmology and oncology. Sun Pharma will pay upfront and milestone linked payments upto Rs 240 crore and royalties to CSIR-IICT from commercialization.

Joint Workshops conducted by CSIR and Fraunhofer, Germany: A series of workshops were conducted between CSIR and Fraunhofer Institute, Germany towards Indo - German collaboration in research and innovation towards leapfrogging in Frontier Technologies.

CSIR and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (National Institutes of Health) USA, sign MoU: The MoU aims to strengthen and develop research cooperation related to environmental health sciences with emphasis on understanding the health effects associated with exposure to air pollutants and other environmental chemicals.

Smart Aerospace Composite Manufacturing Facility: Smart Aerospace Composite Manufacturing Facility was inaugurated, by Hon'ble Union Minister of Science and Technology which will produce high quality lightweight polymer composite airframes for the HANSA-NG program of CSIR-NAL and the present prototyping facility shall produce 3 to 4 aircraft per year.

CSIR-NCL Venture Center: The center is a Med Tech clean room facility which is designed for the manufacture of medical devices and diagnostic services for undertaking clinical study and testing purposes. This has the potential to boost the innovation ecosystem and startups in the medical devices sector.

International training programme on petroleum refining technology and petrochemicals: About 15 foreign Government officials mainly from African countries participated in the programme under Indian Technical Economic Cooperation. The eight-week long training was conducted by CSIR-IIP, Dehradun.

Indian air quality Interactive Repository or IndAIR: CSIR-NEERI, Nagpur launched the Indian air quality Interactive Repository or IndAIR which has archived approximately 700 scanned materials from pre-internet era (1950-1999), 1215 research articles, 170 reports and case studies, 100 cases and over 2,000 statues, to provide the history of air pollution research and legislation in the county. Such a repository on the subject of air pollution is one of the first in the world.

Zero Waste Potash technology developed by CSIR-CSMCRI: Scientists of CSIR-CSMCRI have developed a technology for recovery of valuable potash from spent wash. The technology would help save foreign exchange and prevent hazardous spent wash being discarded.

MoU with Inter-Ministerial Cooperation for Promotion and Facilitation of Agricultural Biotechnology Research and Education: The MoU was signed by the DBT and ICAR on 15th January, 2019 for much-needed emphasis on multi-disciplinary R&D activities and nurturing innovations in Agricultural Biotechnology Research and Education. Highlighting the importance of the MoU, Secretary DBT, Mrs. Renu Swarup said that five to ten focused programmes both short, medium and long term will be developed and implemented. Major facilities and technology platforms created by both the agencies will be accessible to the National systems and a joint working group will be constituted to take the partnership forward.

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and UK on Cancer Research Initiative got the Union Cabinet's go ahead On 7th March 2019. The MoU was signed on 14th November 2018.

MoU for Joint Collaboration on Cancer Research: The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), M/o Science and Technology and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Government of India on 22nd May signed an MoU for supporting joint collaborative research programmes in the area of Cancer. This MoU shall help strengthen the various initiatives specifically for cancer viz. Strategizing and prioritizing cancer research, development of new and affordable technologies, jointly design and fund clinical trials, coordinate and collaborate for translational research, interventions, training of manpower and infrastr-ucture development.

The Memorandum of Understanding between India and Thailand in the fields of Astronomy / Astrophysics / Atmos-pheric Science was cleared by the Cabinet on 12 June 2019. The MoU will lead to new scientific results, human resource development through increased scientific interaction and training, joint use of scientific infrastructure etc. The MoU was signed in November, 2018.

India and Netherlands launched the second phase of the LOTUS-HR (Local Treatment of Urban Sewage streams for Healthy Reuse plant) as a part of joint collaboration: The programme was jointly launched by the two sides during the visit of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty, Queen Maxima of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, on 5th October.

MoU with CNRS, France: CSIR signed an MoU signed with CNRS, France for promotion and support of scientific and technological research in areas of mutual interest including plant and marine biotechnology; health research; environment and climate change studies; engineering science and technology; material science and technology; energy science and technology and water research.

MoU with Palampur and Ladakh Farmers and Producers Co-operative Limited (LFPCL): The MoU between LFPCL and the CSIR and the Institute of Himalayan Bioresearch Technology (IHBT) is mainly aimed at growing saffron in Ladakh using tissue culture technology for production of disease free, healthy and flowering sized saffron corms in the non-traditional areas of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Leh, North East and hilly regions of Tamil Nadu. -PIB

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