The Vice President of India, Shri M Venkaiah Naidu today underscored the need for global cooperation for early detection of new viruses and to contain any serious fallout from outbreak of epidemics.
Addressing scientists and researchers of CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad, the Vice President while referring to the newly-discovered strain of Coronavirus, said that it was spreading across the nations and causing a major concern to health authorities.
He pointed out that period outbreak of epidemics and new viruses highlighted our vulnerability to diseases.
Referring to the vital role of the Indian Science and Technology Innovation (STI) System in achieving national goals as India aspires for sustainable and inclusive growth, he appealed to the private sector to create a fund for financing innovative scientific projects that will address societal concerns.
Observing that investment in STI plays a major role in promoting research and developing cutting edge technologies, Shri Naidu said the funding for basic research also has to be stepped up.
Stressing that the outcome of every scientific endeavour must improve the lives of people, he called upon scientists of CCMB and other scientific labs to find answers to the many challenges the world was facing today like poverty, effects of climate change, pollution, lack of clean drinking water, sanitation, increasing urbanization and growing drug resistance, among others.
Lauding CCMB for developing bacterial blight-resistant Sambah Mahsuri rice variety in collaboration with Indian Institute of Rice Research (IIRR), Shri Naidu urged scientists to find ways to develop more disease and pest-resistant crops and aid in increasing productivity to make agriculture viable and sustainable. He stressed the need to protect farmers from the vagaries of nature.
Touching upon the problem of growing anti-microbial resistance, Shri Naidu said that modern medicine was facing a serious threat on account of it and expressed the fear that many antibiotics might eventually become ineffective if the trend continued unchecked.
Calling for developing new antibiotics, apart from preventing drug resistance, he expressed his happiness that CCMB was working in that direction.
.The Vice President also urged CCMB to develop Rapid DNA Testing Kits for detection of some of the rare diseases and many other genetic disorders. “It is important to predict and prevent genetic diseases as more than 70 million Indians are estimated to be suffering from genetic disorders, according to the Organization for Rare Diseases India (ORDI)”, Shri Naidu added.
He also advised institutions like CCMB to take up campaigns on a massive scale to create awareness among the people about the health risks associated with consanguineous marriages, particularly those relating to congenital disorders.
While expressing his delight that India was now at 3rd position globally in the number of peer-reviewed Science and Engineering Publications and moved to 52ndposition in the Global Innovation Index, he said there was no room for complacency. “We need to improve further and aim to be among the top nations in scientific discoveries and inventions”, Shri Naidu stressed.
The Vice President said that young scientists should be allowed to take up challenging research assignments and come up with innovative and out-of-box ideas.
Earlier, he went around the exhibits which highlighted the research activities undertaken by CCMB.
CCMB Director, Dr. Rakesh Mishra, Directors of various CSIR labs, senior scientists and researchers were present on the occasion.
The following is the full text of the speech:
I am extremely delighted to visit CCMB, one of India’s premier scientific institutions and interact with all of you.
I was just now shown around some of the facilities and was briefed on the work being done here. My compliments to the Director and all the senior scientists, researchers and others for the excellent work being done in these labs!
From DNA fingerprinting technology to population genetics, CCMB has made impressive strides in various domains of biology.
I was particularly impressed with some of your research outcomes like the bacterial blight-resistant improved Samba Mahsuri variety developed in collaboration with the Directorate of Rice Research. I am happy to note that the improved variety is being grown ineight states in about 3 lakh hectares with a turnover of about Rs. 2880 crore. I am told that trait specific benefit to the farmers is about Rs. 550 crore.
I am a farmer myself and I understand the suffering and pain of the farmers when their crops get blighted by disease.
I am also aware that the DNA fingerprinting technology developed at CCMB made India the third country ever to have its indigenous probe for DNA fingerprinting.
Over the years, thanks to the untiring efforts of our scientists, India has achieved remarkable progress in various areas from achieving self-sufficiency in food production because of green revolution to making spectacular strides in space exploration.
I am quite delighted to know that India now stands at 3rd position globally, in the number of peer-reviewed Science and Engineering Publications. Equally appreciable is that India improved its ranking by five places in the Global Innovation Index and moved to 52nd position in 2019.
It also pleasing to note that the total number of patent applications filed by scientists and inventors in India increased to 61,788 in FY19 (up to Dec 18) from 47,857 in FY18. Thus, India stood in 10th position for patents which included only resident applications.
While these figures indicate the steady progress we are making in science and technology, there is no room for complacency or to rest on our past laurels. We need to improve further and aim to be among the top nations in scientific discoveries and inventions.
I am sure that we can achieve higher goals if we create the right ecosystem for innovation and creativity to thrive. Our scientific labs like CCMB should become global hubs in their respective scientific fields. Our country has highly talented and hardworking scientists and the need of the hour is to provide them with the wherewithal and encouragement to carry on with their scientific pursuits, unhindered by any kind of red tape. The youngsters in particular should be allowed to take up challenging research assignments and come up with innovative and out-of-box ideas.
As new technologies emerge, new challenges will also arise. But ultimately, the outcome of every scientific endeavour has to be to improve the lives of people in all aspects.
Scientists like you must find answers to the many challenges the world is facing today like poverty, effects of climate change, pollution, lack of clean drinking water, sanitation, increasing urbanization and growing drug resistance, among others.
Issues like growing anti-microbial resistance need concerted efforts at the global level. A study in 2016 has attributed 7,00,000 deaths each year globally to anti-microbial resistance. Modern medicine is facing a serious threat on account of this problem as many antibiotics might eventually become ineffective if this trend continues unchecked. Imagine what will happen even if a common infection turns into a health threat. Apart from preventing drug resistance, there is a need to develop new antibiotics.
I am happy to know that CCMB is working in this area with focus on understanding microbial physiology.
Also the periodic outbreak of epidemics and new viruses not only highlight our vulnerability to diseases but also underscore the need for early detection and cooperation on a global scale to contain any serious fallout. As you all aware, the newly-discovered strain of Coronavirus is spreading across nations and causing a major concern to health authorities.
Please remember that that the real wealth of a nation is determined by the health of its populace.
As India aspires for faster, sustainable and inclusive growth, the Indian Science and Technology Innovation (STI) System has a vital role to play in realising the demographic dividend and in achieving the national goals. Further India has declared 2010-20 as the “Decade of Innovation”. The Government has stressed the need to enunciate a policy to synergize science, technology and innovation and has put in place the National Innovation Council.
Since investment in STI plays a major role in promoting research and developing cutting edge technologies, I appeal to the private sector to create a fund for financing innovative scientific projects that address societal concerns. Also the funding for basic research needs to be stepped up.
I am glad that CCMB is conducting research in frontier and multi-disciplinary areas of modern biology and has trained a huge number of scientists, especially through its PhD program. I am told that of the nearly 400 PhD scholars produced from CSIR-CCMB, more than 120 are now in leadership positions in highly placed institutions in the country as well as their own biotech industry activities.
I am also happy to know that CCMB is analyzing India’s biodiversity as well as human origins and ancestry through genomics and genetic studies.
I am told that CCMB’s genetic studies have provided evidence that the enigmatic tribal populations of Andaman and Nicobar islands are the first modern humans, who migrated out of Africa about 70,000 years ago. Interestingly, the migration of these people was through the coastal routes, along the eastern coast and then following the southern tip of the continent.
As regards migration patterns and genetic relatedness within the Indian population that consists of more than 5000 distinct ethnic groups, I was informed that CCMB study revealed shared ancestry for the South and North Indian populations unlike the theory of “Aryan invasion”.
I am also glad to know that this institute is running a Genetic Diagnostic and Counselling Centre and is providing rapid and quality genetic diagnostic tests for 35 genetic disorders. It is important to predict and prevent genetic diseases as more than 70 million Indians are estimated to be suffering from genetic disorders, according to the Organization for Rare Diseases India (ORDI).
I feel that the time has come for CCMB to develop Rapid DNA Testing Kits for detection of some of the rare diseases and many other genetic disorders. Institutions like yours must also take up campaigns on a massive scale to create awareness among the people about the health risks associated with consanguineous marriages, particularly those relating to congenital disorders.
I am sure that the recently established state of the art Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) facility will be crucial in tackling the huge genetic disease burden of India.
I must also compliment CCMB for its efforts in wildlife conservation by establishing LaCONES (Laboratory for Conservation of Endangered Species). I am happy to note that Scientists at LaCONES have demonstrated successful artificial insemination in spotted deer as a model for conservation of critically endangered deer species of India. The near-extinct mouse deer was also rescued by a selective breeding program and re-introduced in their native habitat.
I am also happy to know that CCMB is extending support to life science entrepreneurs and incubating through its Common Research and Technology Development Hub (CRTDH) and Atal Incubation Centre (AIC-CCMB). I am told that currently more than 20 life science companies ranging from diagnostics, vaccines, drug discovery and repurposing, food and health are based here.
I am also happy to learn that In the 1990s CCMB incubated the first biotech company in India – ShanthaBiotechnics. This company was instrumental in making Hepatitis B vaccine affordable to Indians by bringing down the price of the vaccine.
I strongly believe that technology, innovation, science and research must improve the lives of the common man and benefit crucial sectors like agriculture. I am sure that CCMB with its dedicated team of scientists will come out with path-breaking results to address many of the societal concerns and improve the lives of the common.
My best wishes for your future endeavors.