Saturday, 30 May 2020

DST initiates COVID-19 India National Supermodel for monitoring infection transmission & aid decision-making by policymakers

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has initiated a COVID -19 Indian National Supermodel to help monitor the future transmission of infection, thus aiding decisions involving health system readiness and other mitigation measures.

While the Government is keeping a close watch on infectivity and mortality, it is imperative to bring in a robust forecasting model for predicting the spread and enhancing disease surveillance. Numerous mathematical models for Covid-19 forecasting and surveillance are being worked out by investigators funded by DST-SERB (Science and Engineering Research Board) and other agencies.

Inspired by India’s history of using mathematical models for disaster management planning of metrological events, DST has initiated this exercise to pool in expertise in the field and create one model for the entire country that will be subjected to rigorous tests required for evidence-based forecasting, routinely practiced in weather forecasting communities.

The model will entirely rely only on the data that is relevant to COVID-19, and also have an adaptive built-in component to learn from the newer trends in the data. It will aggregate successful evidence-based mathematical and statistical forecasting models and include the best predictive analytics for robust forecasting of infectious disease spread. The supermodel could be used by the policymakers in India and around the world to overcome difficulties in predicting the rate of spread of infection and how it would burden the healthcare sector, thereby curbing the epidemic.

As part of this initiative, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) and IISc, Bangalore will co-ordinate to connect and work with all COVID-19 modeling projects and programs in the country. This will help develop a set of benchmarks to assess various models and to finally deliver the COVID-19 India National Supermodel. The Coordination team will consult and work with the research groups active in modeling, various software developers, and reputed companies to ensure delivery of a suitable user interface and software.

A consultative committee will work closely with DST and SERB and coordinators (JNCASR and IISc Bangalore) and modellers of this initiative to provide critical inputs on technical aggregation, guidance, and final delivery of a robust Supermodel.

“Mathematical modeling and simulations for the spread of COVID-19 virus and its impact are not mere academic exercises but are critical needs for rational decision making, planning, and resource management. It is thus of vital importance that a robust National Model which is vetted by a large cross-section of scientific community working in the area is developed,” said Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST.


पीएफसी ‘कोविड -19’ के खिलाफ लड़ाई में उत्तराखंड सरकार को पीपीई किट और एंबुलेंस मुहैया कराएगी

कोविड-19 महामारी से लड़ने की दिशा में एक और अहम कदम उठाते हुए विद्युत मंत्रालय के अधीनस्‍थ केंद्रीय पीएसयू एवं भारत की अग्रणी एनबीएफसी पावर फाइनेंस कॉरपोरेशन लिमिटेड (पीएफसी) उत्तराखंड सरकार को 1.23 करोड़ रुपये की वित्तीय सहायता मुहैया कराने के लिए आगे आई है।

इस धनराशि का उपयोग अग्रिम पंक्ति के योद्धा कर्मचारियों के लिए 500 पीपीई किट और उत्तराखंड राज्य के स्वास्थ्य विभाग को सुपुर्द करने हेतु पूरी तरह से सुसज्जित 06 एम्बुलेंस खरीदने के लिए किया जाएगा।

यही नहीं, पीएफसी की सीएसआर (कॉरपोरेट सामाजिक दायित्‍व) पहल के तहत कोविड-19 के फैलाव के खिलाफ उत्तराखंड की लड़ाई में इस राज्‍य के द्वारा की जा रही तैयारियों में और भी अधिक आवश्‍यक सहयोग दिया जाएगा। 

सौजन्य से:

Grievance cell of MoFPI resolves 581 out of 585 issues received from industry amid Covid-19 situation

Smt. Harsimrat Kaur Badal holds regular video conferences with food processing industry stakeholders to assess situation at ground level

The grievance cell of Ministry of Food Processing Industries has been able to close and resolve 581 issues out of 585 received, with proactive approach and timely redressal. The task force has been taking up these issues with the respective state governments and other relevant authorities including Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Home Affairs. The task force have also been in constant touch with leading industry associations and food processors across states to address any issues / challenges faced by food and allied industry so that it can run at maximum capacities. Grievances or any problems faced by Food Processing Sector, in either disruption of production or supply chain, during nationwide Covid-19 lockdown can be mailed at

A dedicated task force and a grievance cell was set up in the Ministry, which consisted of senior officials of the Ministry and members of Invest India. Industry could reach out to the grievance cell directly or through various industry associations. The major issues which were received at the grievance cell included issues related to
  1. Plant shutdowns due to lockdown
  2. Logistics related issues, warehouse shutdown
  3. Non availability of labour
  4. Movement of staff and workers
Smt. Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Union Minister of Food Processing Industries has chaired a series of video conferences with the industry associations, cold chain developers, exporters etc. on a regular basis for monitoring the situation at ground level.

The Ministry received various issues during VC interactions with cold chain promoters, on which the task force has promptly reacted and have taken up the issues with all the relevant stakeholders. Various steps were taken keeping in mind the necessities of food and allied industry to recoup with the new normalcy.

MoFPI is also a member of the Empowered Committee on Logistics and Supplies, and has been working to ensure that harvested agriculture produce can be supplied to the industry so that farmers are benefitted. Ministry of Food Processing Industries has taken several measures to ensure that the Food Processing Industry has been impacted minimally due to the Covid-19 crisis.


Scaling up of COVID testing centres (Hub and spoke model) in National research laboratories and Universities

To scale up testing and enhance the reach across the countryCity /Regional clusters have been established in a Hub and Spoke Model to scale-up testing of COVID-19 samples in government institutions across the country. Institutes and Laboratories which have the capacity and expertise for both sample collection, handling/processing (BSL-2 facility) and testing (RT-PCR) serve as the hubs and they involve a number of laboratories which have RT PCR machines and the requisite manpower as their extended Testing facilities.

The Hubs are Government laboratories approved by respective Ministries /Departments (DBT, DST, CSIR, DAE, DRDO, ICAR etc) as per ICMR guidelines. So far 19 City /Regional clusters have been established in Bangalore, Delhi/NCR, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Chandigarh/Mohali, Bhubaneshwar, Nagpur, Pune, Mumbai, Lucknow, Chennai, Kolkata, North Eastern Region, Jammu & Kashmir, Ahmedabad, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Banaras, Palampur and Delhi city.

About 100 institutions have been involved and over 1,60,000 samples tested. Seven DBT Autonomous institutes have been approved as hubs by ICMR and they are performing testing for diagnosis of COVID-19 (RGCB, THSTI, ILS, inStem, NCCS, CDFD, NIBMG). 

They are also functioning as hubs in the respective Cities/Regions and coordinating the efforts with a number of other premier Central and State Government institutions. In addition, they are working closely with the respective State Governments in obtaining samples for testing and are reporting every day to ICMR on their testing results. Collectively in about 4 weeks, these clusters have done nearly 1,70,000 tests. These clusters will now be scaled to nearly 50 in next 4 weeks and reach remote corners of the country.


A Rapid Response Regulatory enabling mechanism facilitated by Department of Biotechnology for COVID 19

The Department of Biotechnology has taken several proactive measures to streamline the biosafety regulation and to facilitate researchers and industries which are undertaking research and development in Recombinant DNA Technology and Hazardous Microorganisms.

1. Operationalization of Indian Biosafety Knowledge Portal. The Indian Knowledge Biosafety Portal launched in May, 2019 was made fully operationalized and now the Department is receiving all new applications through online portal only. This has made the whole process transparent and time bound.

2. Notification of Revised Simplified Guidelines on Import, Export and Exchange of GE Organisms and Product Thereof for R&D Purpose: The Department issued the Revised Guidelines in January, 2020 in which Institutional Biosafety Committee have been delegated authority to take decisions on applications of import export and exchange of GE organisms and product thereof for R&D purpose for RG1 and RG2 items.

3. Facilitation of Research and Development on COVID-19: Considering the emerging situations of spread of Coronavirus and with the understanding on requirement of rapid research and development for COVI-19, the Department has proactively taken several steps to facilitate researchers and industries involved in research on COVID19. DBT has issued following guidelines, orders and checklist on COVID 19:

Rapid Response Regulatory Framework for COVID-19 to deal with application for development of vaccines, diagnostics, prophylactics and therapeutics has been notified on 20.03.2020
DBT notified “Interim Guidance Document on Laboratory Biosafety to Handle COVID-19 Specimens” on 08.04.2020.
IBSCs are allowed to conduct their meeting through video conferencing up to 30thJune, 2020.
Rapid response regulatory framework for development of recombinant DNA COVID 19 vaccine was issued on 26.05.2020.


PFC to provide PPE Kits and Ambulances to Government of Uttarakhand in its fight against COVID-19

In yet another step to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Power Finance Corporation Ltd (PFC) , the central PSU under Ministry of Power and India's leading NBFC, has come forward to provide financial assistance of ₹ 1.23 crore to the Government of Uttarakhand.

The fund will be utilized for procurement of 500 PPEs Kits for frontline staff and 06 fully equipped Ambulances which will be handed over to Health Department of Uttarakhand State.

The CSR initiative by PFC will further support the preparedness of the state of Uttarakhand in its fight against the spread of COVID-19.


Inspire faculty from NIT Srinagar working on marriage of material science & electrochemistry for sustainable energy

Dr. Malik Abdul Wahid from National Institute of Technology (NIT) Srinagar is a recipient of the INSPIRE Faculty award instituted by the Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India working in the area of energy research towards marriage of material science and electrochemistry to develop sustainable energy and affordable energy sources. His focus is mainly on electrodes and electrolyte material electrochemistry.

The major components of Dr. Malik’s current research interests include material research on the electrode development for Sodium-ion (Na-ion) battery, which offers a 20% cost reduction compared to present Lithium-ion (Li-ion) technology. He has been focusing on the two aspects, i.e., cost reduction and efficiency elevation. For the former, he is currently focused upon stabilization of a combination of carbon-based anodes and organic cathodes. While for the latter, he is exploring the new cathode chemistries. Two of his recent projects are development of layered high capacity cathodes by suitable doping that offers high capacity and stability and Sulphate-phosphate hybrid cathodes. Similarly, Sodium (Na) metal anode hosts with heavy Na deposition capacities are being developed. The mentioned projects are a new direction to the field of Na ion battery research.

Along with his collaborators at IISER Pune, Dr. Malik developed a Si-Phosphorene nano-composite material for efficient Si stabilization as an anode in Li-ion battery, which was published in the journal Sustainable Energy Fuels. The obtained material delivers five times more capacity than carbon-based electrodes and can be fully charged in about 15 minutes.

His team at NIT Srinagar employed a simple hydrothermal strategy to synthesize reduced graphene oxide (rGO) wrapped high aspect ratio 1-dimensional SbSe nano-structure. The work has been published in the journal Chem Phys Chem. They achieved a decent performance with the reversible capacity of 550 mAhg-1 at a specific current of 100 mAg-1which implies that 5 to 6g of synthesized material would run a high range android cell phone.

“INSPIRE Faculty award is a prestigious award and should be distinguished from a regular faculty position in any institute. To honour the positions, I have co-founded a center of excellence (COE), namely, the Interdisciplinary Division of Renewable Energy and Advanced Materials (iDRAEM) at NIT Srinagar. The COE primarily worked with my & collaborator’s research grant, but recently institute promised funding support. Additionally, with the possible support of MHRD (under the FAST scheme), the center is set to blossom and cater to some high-quality research.” Dr. Malik said.

At present, this centre co-founded by Dr. Malik caters to the research in the advanced areas of energy storage and super-hydrophobic surfaces for water harvesting, besides focusing on the local resources of J&K. Dr. Wahid has already published a paper on the application of walnut shell derived carbon as Na ion battery anode applications (ACS Omega, 2017, 2 (7), pp 3601–3609). The material has a lot of scope to be employed for advanced electrode applications. Similarly, waste dairy products and aquatic flora of Dal lake appear to have appropriate morphology to be employed as precursors for the electrode grade carbon. Energy storage activities under iDRAEM partly focus on the synthesis of high-quality carbon materials from local precursors. Lotus stem is very promising in being porous to be employed as precursor for electrode grade carbon material. It also undertakes challenges of developing high-quality hydrophobic surfaces by replicating the hydrophobic leaf structure of local plants of DAL lake.

[Related publications:
Sustainable Energy Fuels, 2019, 3, 245-250
Surfaces and Interfaces, 2020, 19, 100476]


DST initiates COVID-19 India National Supermodel for monitoring infection transmission & aid decision-making by policymakers

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has initiated a COVID -19 Indian National Supermodel to help monitor the future transmissio...