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Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia:

  • The government has launched the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG), comprising 10 labs namely DBT-NIBMG Kalyani, DBT-ILS Bhubaneswar, ICMR-NIV Pune, DBT-NCCS Pune, CSIR-CCMB Hyderabad, DBT-CDFD Hyderabad, DBT-InSTEM/ NCBS Bengaluru, NIMHANS Bengaluru, CSIR-IGIB Delhi, and NCDC Delhi.
  • The overall aim of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium is to monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2 on a regular basis through a multi-laboratory network.
  • This vital research consortium will also assist in developing potential vaccines in the future. The consortium will ascertain the status of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 (SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01) in the country, establish a sentinel surveillance for early detection of genomic variants with public health implication, and determine the genomic variants in the unusual events/trends (super-spreader events, high mortality/morbidity trend areas etc.).
  • INSACOG will have a high level Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee which will provide guidance and oversight to the consortium specially for policy matters and it will have a Scientific Advisory Group for scientific and technical guidance.
  • In the backdrop of the emergence of a newly identified variant of the novel SARS-CoV-2 Virus in the UK, South Africa and some other parts of the world, the Government  has taken action to accelerate VirusSurveillance, Genome Sequencing and Characterization.
  • A new variant, which that was found in the UK, especially in the London region, is defined by multiple mutations in the Spike region, as well as mutations in other genomic regions.
  • As per DBTDBT, these mutations are rapidly increasing the number of variants of the virus. This variant is significantly more transmissible than previously circulating variants, with an estimated potential to increase the reproductive number with an estimated increased transmissibility of up to 70%, it said.
  • The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) will monitor the genomic variations on a regular basis through the multi-laboratory network. Knowledge generated though this vital research consortium will also assist in developing diagnostics and potential therapeutics and vaccines in the future.
  • DBT-NIBMG as the Co-ordinating Unit of Genome Sequencing Consortium and will closely work with a Nodal Unit of NCDCon activities like SOPs, data annotation, data analysis, data release etc.
  • NCDC will maintain a database of all samples of the new variants of public health significance. The data will be epidemiologically analysed, interpreted and shared with state/district for investigation, contact tracing and planning response strategies.

Metal CO2 battery for Mars Mission:

  • A lithium carbon dioxide (CO2) battery developed by an Indian IIT-H researcher, could well power India’s space projects and the ambitious Mars mission in 2024.
  • Over next five years, scientists will explore more about this concept and carry out scientific experiments. A real battery prototype will be developed as an outcome by engaging with organizations such as ISRO and DRDO in early phases for Indian space mission.
  • Use of sodium and potassium metals and make the battery more energy efficient.
  • Once ready, the battery will reduce the weight of satellites, thereby reducing cost of planetary missions. Using CO2 as an energy carrier, the battery is touted to help boost space missions.
  • Objective of research was to develop a prototype of a metal CO2 battery to explore feasibility of this technology in Mars mission.
  • Outcome of this project will not only utilize CO2 atmosphere on Mars to develop more energy storage systems for planetary missions but facilitate in mitigating global challenge of climate change.

Country’s First Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine:

  • Dr Harsh Vardhan inaugurated India’s first pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV).
  • The vaccine “Pneumosil” has been developed by the Serum Institute of India Private Limited (SIIPL) in collaboration with partners like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • SIIPL developed and got license of first indigenous Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) from Government of India during COVID-19 pandemic lock-downin line with government’s vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
  • Serum Institute’s first Indigenous Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine will be available in the market under brand name “Pneumosil” at an affordable price in single dose (vial and pre-filled syringe) and Multidose (vial) presentations.
  • Pneumosil is an example of India’s capability in Research & Development & manufacturing high end sophisticated Vaccines.
  • In fact, it is matter of pride for our country for this historical milestone during COVID-19 Pandemic because till now we are fully dependent on Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine manufactured by Foreign Manufacturers which are available at very high prices.

Meteorological centre at Leh:

  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) will now provide specialised weather forecasts for traffic movement on highways, agriculture, and defence personnel from its Ladakh centre, which was inaugurated.
  • Located at 3,500 metres above sea level in Leh, it will be the highest Meteorological Centre (MC) in India.
  • After Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh, the Leh centre is the second MC located in the Himalayas.
  • Ladakh remains vulnerable to erratic weather and changing climate that have adverse effects on the lives of the locals. In addition, the UT is a geo-strategic location from the security point of view. Even though there are only two districts, Kargil and Leh, the Union Territory has varying micro-climatic zones ranging from plains, cold desert, hills and extreme dry places
  • The IMD plans to augment its existing operations in the region so as to provide timely weather updates and warnings ahead of disasters like cloud bursts in this geographically unique region.
  • Along with the locals, the forecasts will benefit tourists, the defence sector, disaster management and agriculture departments in the region.