We are currently living through a time in the history of human life like no other. The good world is busy trying to find out the ways to defeat the Wuhan, China, originating monster called COVID-19. India is playing a worthy role in this global exercise. Recently, we had published a story about an Indian research about Identifying Biomarkers To Predict Progression From Non-Severe To Severe Coronavirus. Here we talk with the person who leads the study — Dr Sanjeeva Srivastava, Professor, Group leader, Proteomics Facility, IIT –Bombay, Mumbai.
Dr Srivastava obtained his PhD from the University of Alberta and post-doc from the Harvard Medical School in the area of proteomics, stress physiology, and has specialized expertise in applications of data-enabled sciences in global health, developing country and resource-limited settings. Dr Srivastava is an active contributor to global proteomics science and innovation. He serves on the Executive Council of Human Proteome Organization (HUPO) and Proteomics Society, India (PSI). He is also the man behind one of the first-ever documentaries on proteomics – “Proteomics: Translating the Code of Life” and “Human Proteome Project (HPP)”.
For his leading role in some of the pioneering studies in the field of proteomics science and innovation in India, as indeed globally, League of India calls him an ‘Agent of Change‘.
You are leading a team that is exploring “metabolomics alteration for COVID-19 treatment”. Can you please explain the purpose, nature and scope of the study in simpler terms for our readers? Are there any tools and techniques that are unique to this study?
Dr Srivastava: The goal of this study is to better understand the changes inside the human body by virtue of the SARS-CoV-2 viral infection.
Our body mounts a response to any invading pathogen through a series of concerted efforts which in turn lead to changes in the chemical composition of the cells. The virus also requires a few such chemicals or small molecules, commonly referred to as “metabolites”, to survive and carry out its functions inside the cell. These responses may be different in different individuals depending on the immune system of the patient or the individual, and the type of the virus causing the infection.
Currently, we have no idea about these differences, and we aim to decipher those changes.
The study aims to profile metabolites from patient plasma and oral swabs using a technique called Mass spectrometry.
Once we collect all the data, subsequent analysis will provide an idea about the differences between the individuals suffering from mild to severe form of COVID-19.
Can this study be seen as a subset of the Human Proteome Project (HPP), which you are associated with? Can you please tell a little about HPP and your connection with it?
Dr Srivastava: The Human Proteome Project (HPP) aims at uncovering protein level information for all the protein-coding genes that make up a human body. The two verticals to this project are the Chromosome-centric human proteome project (C-HPP) and the Biology/Disease- driven HPP (B/D-HPP) and I am involved actively in both.
My lab works actively in Human Infectious Disease Project (HID) of B/D-HPP and investigates infectious diseases like Malaria and Dengue.
The current study cannot be included as a subset of the ongoing projects of HPP.
However, I am hopeful that given the severity of the problem due to the pandemic, we will find ways to collaborate with more proteomics/metabolomics scientists to include the information from multiple labs to expand the scope of this project.
A team in Ahmedabad recently achieved whole-genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus. How do such results aid your COVID-19 study? How would your team’s study add to such results? Combining all the studies, at what stage is research towards COVID-19 treatment currently in India?
Dr Srivastava: Genome sequencing is one level of information that is available to us now. The cells typically use this information stored in the genes to express themselves by forming mRNA ultimately giving rise to proteins.
Our aim is to generate information at a functional level, i.e., at the proteins and metabolite level and correlate the finding with the genome level information available.
As far as research in the therapeutic area is concerned, the whole world is in the nascent stages. However, constant encouragement from the government agencies and the availability of talent pool from diverse backgrounds is helping research progress at a rate like never before.
Is there an overlap between HPP and the Human Genome Project (HGP)? How do the two ‘projects’ help medical research — especially with regards combating pandemics like COVID-19 that seem to be afflicting the human race, in newer forms, every few decades?
Dr Srivastava: The Human Genome Project was a landmark event in research and provided us with vital details about the draft blueprint and genetic makeup of humans. However, information about how these genes affect the changes within the cells was not clear even after the interpretation of results from the HGP.
To this end, the human proteome (HPP) project was started as a flagship program of Human Proteome Project (HUPO) with the hope of finding answers to many questions that persisted.
The goal of these mega-efforts has always been to understand humans better, in order to be able to unravel the diseases like cancer, TB, Malaria and other infectious diseases.
While we have been making rapid strides in research, we must understand that nature also has always favoured the theory of survival of the fittest.
Like us, the microbes around undergo mutations and rapid changes in an effort to find newer ways to survive and thrive.
As a result, we are now seeing extraordinary and uncertain times due to pandemics like COVID-19.
A better understanding of the cells and the immune responses at multiple levels through projects like HPP, HGP will only better prepare us in fighting future pandemics.
What does it take to find a drug or vaccine for a disease or a pandemic like COVID-19? What would you like to say to the ‘everyday Indians’ who find it difficult to believe that there is no cure for something like COVID-19?
Dr Srivastava: Labs around the world are trying to fast track and speed-up research in a bid to find a vaccine or drug target without compromising on the quality besides ensuring human safety. This process will take some time but it is not impossible.
Scientists, healthcare workers and pharmaceutical companies and governments are all doing their best to ensure that the disease is combatted.
It is very important for individuals to not panic and believe in the basic mantra “break the virus chain” with simple cleaning steps and few precautions like washing hands with soaps, disinfectants like 70% ethanol, heat treatment at 56C for 30 min (some of these are easy ways to get rid of virus).
‘Digital India’ Provides Hope For Poor And Developing Nations: Commonwealth S-G
“India is developing these things at scale and at a cost which looks accessible to so many. That brings hope.”
NEW DELHI: In a very encouraging endorsement of the success of Digital India programme initiated by the Government led by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Patricia Scotland has expressed her appreciation for this initiative and has called it “new hope for other developing and aspiring countries of the Commonwealth“.
Commonwealth @commonwealthsec secretary general Patricia @PScotlandCSG speaking to @WIONews says “many people are impressed by what India has done on Information and communications technology (ICT)” pic.twitter.com/b548H0z9E3
— Sidhant Sibal (@sidhant) May 22, 2020
Scotland, in an interaction with a private news channel recently said that the way India has tried to address the aspirations of the people with innovation and opportunities by offering affordable digital services is commendable.
She further said, “if you look at our poorer countries, our smaller, our developing countries, many of them look to the developed nations and they fear that they cannot aspire to do or replicate what the developed countries have done because of the cost. But when they look at India and fact that India is developing these things at scale and at a cost which looks accessible to so many. That brings hope.”
She also mentioned about her visit to India during January 2020 where she interacted with the Ministers in Government of India and technology experts.
During these interactions, she got to understand that India was really focusing on helping the small, the vulnerable and the developing. “I very much welcome that”, she added further.
Conveying her appreciation for the contributions made by Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Electronics and IT, in the success of Digital India, Scotland further added that the Minister has been in the forefront of these developments.
Talking about what Ravi Shankar Prasad has done she remarked, “he has electrified the other members of our Commonwealth family.”
India Elected Chair Of WHO’s Executive Board
The main functions of the Board are to implement the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly and advise and facilitate its work.
NEW DELHI: Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, India, was today elected the Chair of the World Health Organization’s Executive Board.
“I feel deeply honoured to have the trust and faith of all of you. India, and my countrymen, too, feel privileged that this honour has been bestowed upon us. I will work to realize the collective vision of our organization, to build the collective capacity of all our Member nations and to build a heroic collective leadership,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said addressing the 147th WHO Executive Board session as its Chair. The session was held virtually.
WHO is already providing leadership to the entire world in the sphere of public health, engaging with partners for joint actions, shaping the research agenda and stimulating the dissemination of valuable knowledge. The need is to catalyze further change, he said.
Health is central to enhancing human capabilities. Protecting the health of those without wealth should be the core philosophy of our close alliance at the WHO, Dr Harsh Vardhan said.
“I have known few greater honours than this one! With this personal honour, I also feel a deep sense of personal responsibility. I may not get there, but I can surely try. And, I promise to try my best, “ he said.
Congratulating him, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said, “Dr Harsh Vardhan has assumed this post at a very challenging time. I wish him all the best in steering the Executive Board as it addresses this defining pandemic and other public health issues.”
“Dr Harsh Vardhan has a rich experience in public health. He is the pioneer of India’s successful pulse polio program and has been at the forefront in the fight against tobacco and many other issues. The world can now gain from his expertise and experience,” the Regional Director said.
WHO’s Executive Board comprises of 34 members elected for three-year terms. The Chair of the Executive Board is elected by its members on being nominated by the Regional Committees of the six WHO Regions, by rotation.
At the 72nd Regional Committee Session of WHO South-East Asia in September 2019, Member States had nominated India to be a member of the WHO Executive Board from the Region to replace Sri Lanka whose term expired in May 2020 and also to lead 147th and 148th Sessions of the Executive Board as Chairperson.
The other countries from the WHO South-East Asia Region in the Executive Board are Bangladesh (2019-2022) and Indonesia (2018-2021).
The main functions of the Board are to implement the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly and advise and facilitate its work.
The annual Board meeting is held in January when the members agree upon the agenda for the World Health Assembly and the resolutions to be considered by the Health Assembly. A second shorter meeting takes place in May, as a follow-up to the Health Assembly.
Dr Harsh Vardhan, who took over from Dr Hiroki Nakatani of Japan, would chair the 148th session of the Executive Board in January 2021. At the Executive Board meeting in May 2021, he will hand over to the next Chair from another WHO Region. However, he will continue to be a member of the Executive Board until 2023.
Madhya Pradesh The First State To Make Extensive Labour Reforms
PM Modi was given the information regarding the labour reforms undertaken in MP yesterday.
BHOPAL (Madhya Pradesh): Three presentations were held in a meeting that took place at Mantralaya today under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. CM Chouhan and the ministers witnessed the presentation on labour reforms, changes in Mandi Act and rules and efforts for investment promotion in Madhya Pradesh.
On this occasion, CM Chouhan informed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was given the information regarding the labour reforms undertaken in Madhya Pradesh during video conferencing yesterday.
M.P. is the first state which has made extensive labour reforms for investment and employment growth in the context of Corona crisis.
Important labour reforms have been made in Madhya Pradesh. In the past, 32 essential amendments have been done in 13 central and 4 state labour laws. Notification in this regard was issued on November 27, 2015.
As many as 32 procedural reforms were made for Ease Of Doing Business and 30 essential services were included in the Madhya Pradesh Public Service Guarantee Act. Recently, a proposal has been sent to the Government of India for 2 important reforms in the Factories Act.
Similarly, a proposal for amendment related to the Contract Labour Act was sent to the Government of India. Single Window Clearance has been implemented in M.P. Under Compounding, such provisions were made in various Acts, by which the factory management would be able to take action only by paying a fine instead of a court case. A transparent system of inspection has been made.
Labour Commissioner Madhya Pradesh has been authorized to conduct third party inspection in place of Mumbai’s organization.
Online arrangement for registration and returns has been made. Earlier 13 returns were to be filed which was reduced to 2. Now only one return has to be filed.
An important amendment has to be made, which is to increase the working period in factories from 8 hours to 12 hours. In this, the worker will receive payment for overtime.
In order to follow social distancing and reduce congestion, notification was also issued to open the institute from 6 am to 12 am under the Shops and Establishment Act. It has been proposed to provide an exemption for 1000 days for the relevant labour laws for the establishment and operation of new factories.
Changes in Mandi Act and Rules:
It was informed in the meeting that there are three options available to farmers to sell crops in the state. The facility of selling in the mandi, the arrangement of taking the crop from the farmer’s house or farm through the Sauda Patraks and the facility to sell the crop from the private mandi has given pace to procurement work.
Madhya Pradesh is the first state to make such a provision.
As many as 940 new procurement centres are being operated in the state. This has helped reduce the risk of Corona infection. Several amendments have been proposed for the welfare of farmers.
There are two types of private mandis proposed in the Madhya Pradesh Krishi Upaj Mandi (Private Market premises, Private mandi sub-premises, Direct Purchase Centre and Electronic Trading Platform) Rule 2020.
One is private Mandi premises consisting of private mandi premises, private mandi su-premises and direct purchasing centre and second is electronic trading in which there is a plan to set up an electronic trading platform. Several amendments in the interest of farmers have also been initiated.
In the presentation of the Department of Industrial Policy and Investment Promotion, it was told that an atmosphere of trust has been created in the state after discussion of the industrialists with CM Chouhan. In the event of lockdown after the Corona crisis, 5200 factories were started and the labour movement was approved.
As a result, the units which were working with 25 per cent capacity on April 10 are working with 68 per cent capacity on May 10.
There is a provision of 200 per cent return in attractive garment policy, 20 per cent value in special land pooling policy, 80 per cent land and double amount to farmers.
Investors will also be more interested in the new horticulture and attractive logistics policy, as well as the process of setting up a Rs 158 crore world-class Pharma Park and a leather and footwear park costing Rs 250 crores is being paced up.
In the meeting, Chief Secretary Iqbal Singh Bains informed that 100 telephone lines have been increased to 250 from the state-level control room. Prompt action is being taken in all the districts to help migrant labourers.
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