Tag: scientists

Doctors, IAS officers & a scientist — the 5 women leading India’s fight against Covid-19

New Delhi: As the world reels from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, which has also induced an economic recession, there are many working tirelessly at the forefront to tackle the challenge. In India, several women are working round-the-clock, seven days a week, to ensure the smooth functioning of key departments — administration, diagnosis, prevention, research and cure.

Preeti Sudan, secretary at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has been working on aligning all departments to execute the Narendra Modi government’s policies to prevent the spread of the disease. Beela Rajesh, health secretary of Tamil Nadu, has been proactive in engaging with citizens through her department and Twitter. The state currently has more than 600 active cases, one of the highest in the country.

Dr Priya Abraham, director of National Institute of Virology, Pune, has made a significant medical breakthrough by isolating the deadly coronavirus. This helps in understanding the disease better and finding treatment regimens.

Dr Nivedita Gupta, senior scientist at Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), is busy designing the treatment and testing protocols for the country while Dr Renu Swarup, secretary, Department of Biotechnology, is spending her time trying to find a vaccine.


Preeti Sudan

A 1983 batch IAS officer from the Andhra Pradesh cadre, Sudan is usually seen leaving her office at Nirman Bhawan late at night.

An M.Phil. in Economics and postgraduate in Social Policy and Planning from the London School of Economics, Sudan also served the World Bank in Washington as a consultant.

Her ministry is the nodal agency for fighting the present coronavirus challenge. Sudan, along with Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, coordinates with sister departments in the central and state government. The two conduct regular reviews of the evolving situation.

“She is also involved in the regular review of preparedness with the states and union territories. Also, she is the first point of contact for any query arising from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office or from the office of Union Minister,” said a senior official from her ministry who did not wish to be identified.

“She played a major role in the evacuation of the 645 students from Wuhan, China,” the official added.


Dr Nivedita Gupta

Working in the Division of Epidemiology & Communicable Diseases, and in-charge of viral diseases at the country’s apex health research department, Dr Gupta’s primary responsibility is building testing and treatment protocols in India.

She was also the primary scientist involved in the investigations and containment of the Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala last year.

An MBBS from Lady Hardinge Medical College, Dr Gupta is the key person to augment the Covid-19 diagnostic capacity all across the country. In the short time span of two months, over 130 laboratories in the government sector and 52 laboratories in the private sector were roped in to diagnose coronavirus cases.

“She worked day and night, including Sundays, to investigate the Nipah cases last year. It was not even a pandemic like coronavirus. Nowadays, for several days together, several scientists stay in the office to conclude the investigations, including her,” said an official in her department, also on the condition of anonymity.

Gupta has a PhD in molecular medicine from Jawaharlal Nehru University and has been instrumental in setting up the virus research and diagnostic laboratory network of ICMR. This network was established subsequent to the 2009 pandemic influenza outbreak. The Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) network of 106 laboratories is largely considered as the backbone of the nation, and has ensured the capacity to detect the virus in almost all parts of the country.

Dr Gupta has aggressively investigated the viral outbreaks such as enteroviruses, arboviruses (dengue, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis & Zika), influenza, measles and rubella among others. She was part of the team that worked extensively on deciphering the aetiology, and developed management guidelines, for the acute encephalitis syndrome in different parts of India.


 


Renu Swarup

Swarup has been working at the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) for the past 30 years. She held the position of Scientist ‘H’ — which denotes an outstanding scientist — until April 2018, when she was appointed as secretary.

A key person in the formulation of the Biotechnology Vision in 2001, the National Biotechnology Development Strategy in 2007 and Strategy II in 2015-20, Swarup is now involved in the crucial research to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

In an interview to ThePrint, Swarup had said that she is busy scaling up the manufacturing capacity of start-ups that have made low-cost testing kits and ventilators for Covid-19.

Her ministry has asked all IIT incubators to focus on research and development of portable ventilators, genome sequencing and isolation of the strain of the novel coronavirus from blood samples.

A PhD in Genetics and Plant Breeding, Swarup is known for promoting women in science, and was a member of the Task Force on Women in Science, which was constituted by the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister.


 


Priya Abraham

Abraham leads the backbone of the country right now — the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, which is affiliated to the ICMR. The NIV was initially the only testing centre in the country for Covid-19.

As the number of cases spike on a daily basis, the NIV has succeeded in reducing the testing time of Covid-19 samples to just four hours a sample from 12-14 hours.

The NIV had confirmed the first three positive Covid-19 cases in India. The institute had initially done all the testing, but ICMR subsequently increased the number of laboratories, anticipating a jump in cases. Under Abraham’s leadership, the NIV helped these labs with troubleshooting, and ensured reagent supplies to the network of labs.

“The achievements which NIV has made at this crucial juncture were not possible without a hardworking and well-coordinated team,” Abraham told ThePrint.

Abraham holds an MBBS, MD (Medical Microbiology) and PhD from Christian Medical College in Vellore, where she was also the former head of the department of Clinical Virology at CMC Vellore. She is also a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists and Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. On invitation from the Medical Council of India, Abraham also drafted the syllabus for the Doctor of Medicine (DM) in Virology.

Her achievements also include being a key member of the WHO’s Guidelines Development Working Group Meeting for Hepatitis and HIV in 2012, and for Hepatitis B in 2014. In 2017, she served as WHO consultant in Myanmar to formulate the National Hepatitis Testing.


 


Beela Rajesh

As the health secretary of Tamil Nadu, Rajesh has been at the forefront of tackling the challenge in her state.

A 1997 batch IAS officer, she is known as a media-friendly bureaucrat and is very active on Twitter.

“Virus can affect anyone, let’s be gentle and sensitive towards each other and wage a coordinated battle against Covid19,” she posted recently.

Apart from sharing her thoughts, she also responds to queries directed at her or her department.

An MBBS graduate from Madras Medical College, Beela earlier served as sub-collector of Chengalpattu, commissioner of Fisheries and commissioner of Town and Country Planning in Tamil Nadu. She was also the commissioner of Indian Medicine and Homeopathy before being transferred as the health secretary in 2019.

Tamil Nadu ranks third among all Indian states in the NITI Aayog Health Index given its vastly improved health outcomes.

Under Rajesh, the Tamil Nadu Health System Reform Program was set up with the state government, Centre and World Bank signing a $287 million loan agreement in June 2019. The program aims to improve the quality of health care, reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and fill equity gaps in reproductive and child health services in Tamil Nadu.

Source : The Print

India’s first Mars satellite ‘Mangalyaan’ enters orbit

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India has successfully put a satellite into orbit around Mars, becoming the fourth country to do so.

The Mangalyaan robotic probe, one of the cheapest interplanetary missions ever, will soon begin work studying the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

A 24-minute engine burn slowed the probe down enough to allow it to be captured by Mars’ gravity.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country had achieved the “near impossible”.

Speaking at the mission control centre in the southern city of Bangalore he said: “The odds were stacked against us. Of 51 missions attempted in world only 21 have succeeded. We have prevailed.”

Only the US, Europe and Russia have previously sent missions to Mars, but India is the first country to succeed on its first attempt.

The latest US satellite, Maven, arrived at Mars on Monday.

US space agency Nasa congratulated its Indian counterpart, the Indian Space and Research Organization (Isro), on Wednesday’s success.

“We congratulate @ISRO for its Mars arrival! @MarsOrbiter joins the missions studying the Red Planet,” the agency tweeted.

From early in the morning, there was an atmosphere of excitement and tension at the Indian Space Agency’s Mission Tracking Centre in Bangalore.

Scientists, many of them women and several of them young, were seated in front of their computer monitors tracking the progress of Mangalyaan.

Giant screens above their heads fed a steady stream of data, graphics and sequence of operations. The first whoops broke out when Mangalyaan successfully fired up its liquid engine, the first in a series of critical moves to make sure that the spacecraft was able to launch into the planet’s gravitational pull.

Then there was an agonising 20 minutes, when Mangalyaan disappeared behind Mars and beyond contact.

But there was no mistaking the moment, when the scientists all rose as one, cheered, clapped, hugged each other and exchanged high fives – ­ confirmation that Mangalyaan was now on an elliptical orbit around Mars.

After PM Modi’s congratulations, they poured out into the open and the bright sunlight, beaming as they took in the adulation.

“Thrilled to be a part of history,” one young scientist told me. “It’s like hitting a golf ball from Bangalore to London and getting it into the hole in one go,” deputy operations director, BN Ramkrishna said. “It’s got to be that precise.”

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‘Better than cricket’

PM Narendra Modi: “We have dared to reach out into the unknown”

Mars Orbiter MissionA 24-minute engine burn slowed the probe down enough to allow it to be captured by Mars’ gravity

Mr Modi congratulated the scientists and said: “Today all of India should celebrate our scientists. Schools, colleges should applaud this.”

“If our cricket team wins a tournament, the nation celebrates. Our scientists’ achievement is greater,” he said.

The total cost of the Indian mission has been put at 4.5bn rupees ($74m; £45m), which makes it one of the cheapest interplanetary space missions ever. Nasa’s recent Maven mission cost $671m.

The Mangalyaan probe will now set about taking pictures of the planet and studying its atmosphere.

One key goal is to try to detect methane in the Martian air, which could be an indicator of biological activity at, or more likely just below, the surface.

Nasa has put four robot rovers on Mars since 1997 – the latest and biggest of them all, the one-tonne vehicle known as Curiosity, landed on the Red Planet in August 2012. Unlike Curiosity, the Indian probe will not land on Mars.

Mangalyaan – more formally referred to as Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) – was launched from the Sriharikota spaceport on the coast of the Bay of Bengal on 5 November 2013.

MOMMars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is one of the cheapest interplanetary missions ever undertaken
Source : BBC News
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