Thursday, January 12, 2017

Nobel Dialogue in Mahatma Mandir (VG 2017)

Nobel Dialogue in Mahatma Mandir Gandhinagar (VG 2017)

In the first session of the topic "Basic and Applied Research", the Nobel Laureates in Panel were Ada Yonath (Israel), David Gross (US), Hartmut Michel (Germany), Serge Haroche (France), William Morner (US). Kumar Vijayraghvan was the moderator. The moderator introduced the subject

Ada Yonath was smarter. She remarked, what counts is quality of research, excellent research, good is not enough. Curiosity driven research can achieve heights. Understanding the process is very important to bring out new knowledge, new understanding. Her discovery of antibiotics was an outcome of 20 years continued research. A simple question of genetic code translation was complex and difficult to understand it's process. Nature is cleverer than us. Even the bacterias are cleverer than us. They were on Earth before us and will remain after us. In stream of survival, they can multiply generations, change genomes, develop resistance to antibiotics and find out the ways for their long survival.

David Gross was very gross in his remarks, explaining how a curiosity of Homosepian to understand the working of nature brought evolution. Politicians and people may demand applied inventions, but great inventions come out of curiosity driven research. The structures of atoms brought revolution in understanding. He said, nature is smarter than us, as she pose new questions before us. Nature poses no boundaries of physics, chemistry, biology. Ideas and methods of one field can be used in another field. 

Hermut Michel told to create new knowledge from the curiosity. He was explaining biomedical research of genome and proteins actions in 23000 genes, to understand the tissue then to understand the disease, and how to change the receptor of the cell. He explained how the research of hydrocarbons damaging the ozone layer became useful in stopping its production. Life on Earth exists due to ozone layer. Now a new challenge of climate change. In 90 years, temperature in India will increase by 5 degree Celsius. People and politicians have to respond to this challenge. 

Serge Horoche explained how knowledge of quantum physics brought revolution in technology of 20th century. Nobody predicted this revolution in 19th century because there as no knowledge of quantum physics. Photon has changed the world of electronics. In 17th century Galileo's invention of magnification of telescopes opened ways for astronomy. Now in 21st century, the goal is to observe extra planets orbiting around the stars and find out from one of them where life exists like earth. Applied science develops the tools therefore, there should be balance between both, the basic and the applied science. 

William Michel explained how a curiosity driven idea of storing data in molecules went down to the level of one molecule in 1989, followed by doing different things with molecules to create high resolution, measure information, etc, brought out innovations in the area of computer science. Not only fundamental and applied science can work together but the ideas can be applied through multiple ways by using the knowledge of different branches of physics, chemistry, engineering, etc.

David Gross spoke on India that it is one of the most populous country with one of the largest economy and have great scientific power. The present PM has set ambitious goal. Due to it's size and potential, India must take a lead. In last decade it did well but delay in funding severely affected some projects. India has to rise above China. 

On question of how to pick up idea or chose a project, William answered to learn the basics first. What is the thing that has been left out? Do something close to impossible and enjoy the work. Learn about new methods, creative and work under the guidance of a senior person.

On the question of economy before science, putting cart before the horse, David Gross explained how India was richer than China 30 years ago, richer than South Korea 59 years ago. Both grew up rapidly, doubled their GDP, increase their investments in science and research. Explaining the percentage of labour force working in science, USA: 80/10000, China 20/10000, and a India only 4/10000. By 2050, India will become bigger economy than US, therefore, need for investments on inventions. 

Ada explained how Israel is smaller than Delhi, but smarter than China and South Korea. Respect to knowledge is very high in their society. She said, don't ask advice, shine out what inspire you, work that you enjoy and look what is burning in yourself. 

On question of robotics, it was explained how robot is a major problem in US. They expressed worry on manual jobs, no more economically viable in the economy of 21st century. 

Serge remarked that many politicians don't know what science is? People are using scientific instruments and also suspicious about them. New world is a world of digital society, digital economy. Facebook, Google, etc, will capture more and more people to fetch more money. To get more and more economic benefits they will bring pressure in the system of digital world. People are scared and fearful about the artificial intelligence.

On question of failure, Ada remarked that her research was like climbing Everest, but when she reached Everest, there was Everest behind Everest. When fail; stop, rethink and revolutionise.  Learn from the failure to overcome from the failure. When idea fails, it is a great moment to learn, why it failed? Serge was very polite in saying that Nobel recognised one person but they work in a team. He advised to avoid bad effect of failure and think why failed? What mistakes? Sometimes failure bring out unexpected discovery. 

The Second Session on Local Research - Global Challenges was addressed by Nobel Laureates: Harold Varmus (US), Randy Schekman (US), Richard Roberts (England), and Venki Ramkrishnan (American Indian). It was moderated by Goran Hanson.

In the opening remarks, it was explained how India has overcome the challenge of infectious diseases. India to learn from the Developed world and the Developed World from India. 

Harold Varmus explained that in India small segment is wealthy but the health of large section is poor. Better to assess the health of the population. He then explained how the vaccine of smallpox was inoculated from cowpox. Then came the challenge of Hepatitis B virus of strange pattern, the serum procedure etc, made the vaccine expensive. But India produced it at very low cost, exported to South Africa where the cases has gone down substantially. Hepatitis B virus is responsible for lever cancer. Cure of Cervical cancer developed through human patho virus amongst women is a challenge. It is difficult to develop vaccine of very high cost. Breast cancer cases are high in India, the method is treatment is expensive, India CA find out cost effective method.

Venki advise India to do vaccine research. He explained how a female scientist from India invented super cheap made in India rotavirus vaccine. Now the vaccine will be used by many countries to save young children from the disease of severe diarrhoea causing death of thousands. 

HIV vaccine is another big challenge. 30 years have been passed knowing the virus but couldn't invent the vaccine. Scientists know the structure of the virus but unable to find answer of the vaccine that works on all cell receptors. There are individuals don't infect by HIV because they are born without HIV receptors, but it is extremely difficult to change every cell of the body who recept the HIV. Removing HIV virus from the body is a tall order. 

Then they discussed about malaria vaccine, the control of plasmodium. The vaccine has been invented but yet to make better vaccine. It was advised that the strategy adopted by Srilanka in curing and controlling malaria can be adopted by India and other countries. 

Richard Roberts talked about food and nutrition. For hungry, food is important than medicine, but quality of food is more important. There is a need to increase micronutrients in the food by Genetically Modified Food. Some NGOs like Green Peace lead movement to stop Monsanto and GMO in US and Europe and now mislead the developing world by spreading misinformation. Now Pro GMO campaign started by the scientists to convince politicians that what they are hearing is not true. BT cotton become economically successful for the farmers and for the economy in India. Bangladesh has introduced BT Brinjal and Golden Rice, the modified rice variety that solves the problem of Vitamin A deficiency. Similarly nutrition value improvement can be taken up in many crops. The panel was in favour of the GMO. The opponents don't object they inject in their body but oppose the food. Saving food from the waste may not be sufficient to feed the incremental growth of population on earth. We need new innovations, technology to feed the people. India has a great potential. Infectious diseases reduced. Now to control use of tobacco, cure cancer and improve treatments of cardiovascular and lungs diseases. Drug use is two edges sword. For example it it better to control cardio vascular disease by improved diet, reducing cholesterol and BP control. Diabetes is still unclear because of it's genetic compound. Genetic and environment both may be the reasons. India has unique opportunity to take leap frog. It has moved to mobiles and jumping over the smart technology, shown power of information and mathematics, now time to promote life sciences and biology. 500 million people are below 21 years age, 20% of them 25m students enter into schools high schools every year. They need more instructions. How to train these number through affordable schools and universities throughout the country is a big challenge. Building a Golden India should be a goal. 400 AD, Chinese used to come to study education system of India. Now India has to look at it's past, present and transform the future of higher education. IIT holds less than 1% of the students. Research programmes in the institutes are less. The brains going abroad are not returning to India, losing future of India. Bring them back home. The salary structure of University needs improvement to hold scholarly students in India. Integrate Research and Education. 

Replying the question on Life Sciences future in India, they replied, India can study it's own population, work on TB vaccine development, study the diet that grow useful and harmful bacteria. Digitise identification of population, their diet and human behaviour. People should be medically trained to understand treatments. 

On a question of Arts to Sciences, how scientists get inspiration from the Arts, the answers were very interesting. Arts is a better way to present the problem through paintings etc. People getting into science enrich themselves with reading history, watching movies, documentaries, to make them understand the science. Passion brought into science by books of Arts. Cartoon can also motivate scientists. Arts changes the life. The Double Helix book by James D Watson and its diagrams became useful to many researchers. Creativity is a common element in Science and Arts both. 

How scientist choose to publish a book? It was replied to go for open access publication. Previously, science was held by public and private institutions, now open access disseminate scientific information for public viewing. 

It was good to listen and understand the minds of the Nobel Laureates. People will love to attend such events. Those missed, can read it through my mind, may be not enough to enjoy like those attended in person.

10 January 2017


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