Thursday, March 1, 2012

Genomics & Biotech Advances in Pakistan

Complete gene mapping of a Pakistani citizen by Human Genome Project in Karachi has put the country on a very short list of nations which have accomplished this scientific feat. To assess the state of genomics and biotechnology in Pakistan, let's take a look at what is happening in the country in this field:

1. Researchers at the Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD) in Karachi collaborated with Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) to complete gene mapping of Dr. Ata-ur-Rahman, according to SciDev. Dr. Rehman, President of Pakistan Academy of Sciences, volunteered himself for the project.

2. More than two hundred life sciences departments are engaged in genomics and biotechnology research at various Pakistani universities, according to a report in The News.

3. Pakistan has been a Science Watch rising star for several years for research papers in multiple fields, particularly in biological sciences. Publications by Pakistani research teams have increased four-folds in the last decade, and the majority of publications from major universities are in life sciences.

4. Pakistan began producing biotechnology based pharmaceuticals in 2009. The first of these plants was set up by Ferozesons in Lahore to produce interferon for treatment of hepatitis, according to Nature magazine.

5. Pakistan has significant research efforts in seed and livestock development at various agriculture universities, institutes and departments. Pakistani researchers and scientists are currently collaborating in life sciences with their counterparts in the US and China. A number of crops like cotton, rice, wheat, corn, potato, ground nut are being developed locally or with the collaboration of Chinese and US seed companies.

6. Post-doctoral research on biotechnology and related agricultural issues is being funded under a Young Scientists Program, as part of the USDA-funded sustainable endowment to support the Agricultural Linkages Program at the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC). An MOU for $7.5 million has been signed under the Pakistan-U.S. Science and Technology Program between Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the Ministry of Science and Technology and the U.S Agricultural Research Service (ARS) for scientific collaboration and capacity building of scientists.

7. National Biosafety Committee has allowed stacked gene (Cry 1A and Cry 2Ab) in cotton developed by Center of Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB), Lahore. Several other stacked gene products are in the pipe line and will be put for approval soon.

8. Pakistan is building the capacity of its young scientists in the legislative, regulatory, and policy areas related to agricultural biotechnology, biosafety and nanotechnology. A small project has been funded in Agricultural Nanobiotechnology related to the use of nanoparticles for plant genetic engineering utilizing a Bio-Rad biolistic gene gun at National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE), Faisalabad.

While the universities have stepped up their research programs in life sciences as a result of the higher education reforms undertaken in the last decade, it's still a major challenge to translate the academic work into tangible benefits in terms of improved human health and higher crop and livestock yields in the country.

Part of the challenge stems from the need for regulatory framework for introducing biotech products and technology for humans, plants and animals. To make progress on this front, Pakistan has ratified the Cartagena Protocol of Biosafety (CPB) with a framework for handling GMO’s. The proposed regulatory guidelines are built upon on a three-tier system composed of the National Biosafety Committee (NBC); a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC); and Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBC), according to USADA GAIN report on Pakistan.

In the regulatory framework, the Secretary of the Ministry of Environment heads the NBC, and is responsible for oversight of all laboratory work and field trials, as well as authorizing the commercial release of GM products. The three monitoring and implementing bodies administer enforcement of the National Biosafety Guidelines. The IBC may make recommendations to the NBC regarding the awarding of exemptions for laboratory and fieldwork related to products of bioengineering. These recommendations may be accepted, and formal approval granted, if sufficient information and grounds exist to consider the risk as being minimal or non-existent. After permission for deregulation is granted by the NBC, approval can still be withdrawn provided sufficient technical data and other evidence later becomes available that warrants a review. The other important ministry dealing with production and release of GM crop is Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MINFA). The ministry developed several Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) for handling of cases of import/approval/release of GM crops; however, all these have yet to be promulgated.

Genomics and biotechnology have great potential to fight diseases and help improve human lives and increase productivity. So far, the benefits of these advances have accrued mostly to the rich countries because they are driven by market incentives. The time has now come for Pakistan to take advantage of such technological advances. Take crop yields as an example. Wheat is the staple of Pakistan and planted on the largest acreage. It contributes about three percent to the GDP. The national average yield is about 2.7 tons per hectare, far below the average in European countries such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom where they are above seven tons per hectare, according to recent Op Ed by Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman.

There is significant opposition to the use of GM seeds in South Asia today. In his book The Rational Optimist, author Matt Ridley recalls that there was similar resistance in 1960s to Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug's Mexican dwarf wheat. Ridley writes about how Borlaug's efforts helped spark the Green Revolution in India and Pakistan. Ridley argues that it was Borlaug's work with his new seeds and chemical fertilizer that disproved Paul Ehrlich's claim in his book The Population Bomb that India would never feed itself.

Pakistani farmers have already begun planting biotech cotton since 2011. With 2.6 million hectares of Bt cotton planted in 2011, Pakistan ranks 8th in terms of the area for biotech crops in the world, according to International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) report. US ranks number 1, Brazil 2, Argentina 3, India 4, Canada 5, China 6, Paraguay 7 and Pakistan 8. South Africa 9 and Uruguay 10 round out the top 10. Pakistan has had a bumper crop of cotton in 2011-2012 mainly because of the planting of Bt seeds.

While extra caution is absolutely warranted before introducing genetically modified organisms in the environment, an irrational fear of the unknown would be unacceptable in a country like Pakistan with its dwindling water resources and a growing young population that needs to be fed, clothed, educated and nurtured. Clearly, the technology can help cure diseases and lead to development of new drought-resistant seed varieties producing high crop yields.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani Students Studying Abroad

Pakistan Manufacturing Tablet PCs

Military's Role in Pakistan's Industrialization

Pakistan's Demographic Dividend

Pakistan's Defense Industry Goes High-Tech

Pakistan Launches UAV Production Line at Kamra

Pakistan Going Mainstream in IT Products

Pakistan Launches 100 Mbps FTTH Access

Pakistan's $2.8 Billion IT Industry

Pakistan's Software Prodigy

Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital

Pakistan Graduation Rates Higher Than India's

Pakistan Conducting Research in Antarctica

Pakistani Scientists at CERN

Higher Education Reforms in Pakistan


Ian Barber said...

How advanced is the biotech sector in Pakistan compared China, India and Iran ?

Riaz Haq said...

IB:"How advanced is the biotech sector in Pakistan compared China, India and Iran ?"

None of these countries are anywhere near the top.

In August 2010, Scientific American ranked the top 5 biotech countries in a "Worldview Scorecard" as being USA,Singapore, Canada, Sweden and Denmark, using the following criteria: IP and ability to protect it, intensity, being defined as spending on R&D, availability of venture capital and support, availability of expert manpower and the overall country's ranking in terms of entrepreneurship and other foundations. Countries doing well are those with strong incentives for technology development, and a range of options for obtaining research funding.

As to Pakistan, it's been slow to embrace biotech but the attitudes are changing now.

In terms of human genomics, Pakistan is one of six countries which have done complete mapping of human genes for at least one of their citizens. The six include US, China and India, but not Iran.

Riaz Haq said...

With 2.6 million hectares of Bt cotton planted in 2011, Pakistan ranks 8th in terms of the area for biotech crops in the world, according to ISAA report.

US ranks 1, Brazil 2, Argentina 3, India 4, Canada 5, China 6, Paraguay 7 and Pakistan 8. South Africa 9 and Uruguay 10 round out the top 10.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story on biotech in Pakistan:

Biotechnology is the best option to tackle issues of food security and economic development in developing countries, but in Pakistan it has not yielded desired results because of its entry through ‘back door channels’.

This was the observation of Dr Mariechel Navarro, Manager, Global Knowledge Centre on Crop Biotechnology International Service for Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, who was addressing a workshop titled “International perspective about the future of biotech crops,” here on Friday.

Dr Rhodora Aldemita, Senior Programme Officer of Global Knowledge Centre, also spoke on the use of biotechnology.

Navarro said the biotechnology that was being used on crops in Pakistan was not in line with international standards due to lack of research and development activities as well as insufficient financial resources.

“The number of times pesticides are sprayed has not come down because the technology has entered into the country without research that could address different issues,” she added.

However, she pointed out that biotech cotton in developing countries such as China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bolivia, Burkina Faso and South Africa contributed a lot to improving the income of millions of small resource-poor farmers in 2011.

“The income can be enhanced significantly in the remaining four years of the second decade of commercialisation – from 2012 to 2015 – principally with biotech cotton, maize and rice,” Navarro said.

Owing to the significant benefits, a strong growth in cultivated area continued in 2011 with a double-digit increase of 12 million hectares at an annual growth rate of 8%.

Pradeep Desai MBA said...

Today, simply having the knowledge is not enough especially in biotech and bioengineering. The crucial steps that follow are:

Environment. Areas set aside for the development; for example, Bio Parks etc.

Capital. Government but more importantly the private sector using the tax incentives to put forth funds to start a company.

Market. There has to be a need at least locally for a company to make a return on investment.

Infrastructure. A multitude of companies focussed on different areas have to set up shop to efficiently produce a product.

Collaborate. International companies must see value in partnering with local companies ( Monsanto and Mahco in India) for expertise and technology transfer.

Pharmaceutical field in India is experiencing very high rates of growth not unlike the IT field growth. The same companies are now vying to get in the Bio-Tech field.

Cross border collaboration will help Pakistan and India both if the political climate allows it.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Business Recorder story on Pakistan's bumper crop of cotton and the impact India's cotton export ban:

India - the world's second largest cotton exporter has banned cotton export with immediate effect, opening new corridors for Pakistani exporters to fetch orders for some half a million bales from international market.

Exporters told Business Recorder on Monday that Pakistan will not be directly affected with this move as there were a few deals with Indian exporters this year owing to better cotton crop in the country.

However, with this ban, Pakistan can get more benefits, as this year the country produced a record crop of over 14 million bales and prices in the domestic market are on decline because of slow demand and bumper cotton crop, they added.

On March 5, Indian authorities suddenly announced ban on cotton export with immediate effect to support the local textile industry.

Director General Foreign Trade (DGFT) India has issued official notification No 102(RE-2010)/2009-14 for restrictions with an immediate effect.

Now the cotton export from India will be completely stopped.

Following the notification, export of cotton {ITC (HC) codes 5201 and 5203} has been prohibited till further orders.

Transitional arrangements will not be applicable for the export of cotton and export of cotton against registration certificates already issued will also not be allowed, according to notification issued by DGFT India.

India has imposed ban to protect its local industry, which was expected to suffer huge losses in case of further export from India.

This is the second consecutive year when the Indian government imposed a sudden ban on cotton export, said Pakistani traders.

"This move favours Pakistan as we can get many advantages as China and other countries have massive cotton demand of cotton and Pakistan can be good alternative to India," said Ghulam Rabbani, a leading trader and former director Karachi Cotton Association.

This year Pakistan has a high quality bumper cotton crop because of sowing of BT cotton across the country, he added.

During the current season, so far Pakistan has produced 14.37 million bales till February 2012 compared with 11.5 million bales in the same period of last year, depicting an increase of 2.87 million, Rabbani said.

"Presently, approximately 17 million bales (including 2.1 million of carryover stock) of cotton is available in the domestic market, while, the local consumption stands at 14.4 million bales, which means we have about two million of bales in excess...which can be exported," he said.

Before the Indian ban, China and other countries were focusing India for cotton import, however with recent move of the Indian authorities, Pakistan can get new half a million bales export orders as currently the country has additional cotton and a free trade policy, Rabbani said.

The government of Pakistan has already allowed free trade of cotton, he added.

Talking about cotton deals with India, he said this year there were a few cotton import deals and the move will not hurt Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report on new supercomputer at NUST:

This supercomputer can perform parallel computation at a peak speed of 132 Teraflops i.e. 132 Trillion Operations per second.

It is equipped with multicore processors and graphics co-processors with inter-processor communication speed of 40 Gbps.

Besides its extensive utilization in the computation-intensive research projects in the areas of Fluid Dynamics and Biosciences, this massively parallel facility can also be utilized to handle huge data processing applications of social sciences such as Flood and Weather Forecasting, Oil and Gas Exploration, energy efficient building designs and transportation management at national-level.

The chief guest in his address appreciated the efforts of the entire team associated with the project and encouraged all institutions to come forward and benefit from this massive computational facility acquired by NUST.

He also assured full support by HEC in this regard.

Rector NUST Engr. Muhammad in his welcome address shared his strategic vision and thoughts. He specifically mentioned that acquisition of this supercomputing facility would be a source of inspiration for our valued PhD scholars abroad to return to Pakistan.

This will have an impetus on the collaborative research between universities and other research organizations in country and abroad. Dr Imran Akhtar, the key note speaker, gave a highly motivating and thought provoking talk on the occasion. He encouraged the young researchers to come forward and exploit the facility at its maximum by using their domain knowledge and expertise in computational science in solving the national challenges in the areas of engineering, bio-informatics, political science, psychology and social sciences.

Riaz Haq said...

Details of latest supercomputer at NUST in Pakistan by HPC Wire:

Following India’s announcement of installing that country’s fastest supercomputer, news out of Islamabad reports that Pakistan has just unveiled its speediest super as well.

The system will reside at the Research Center for Modeling and Simulation (RCMS), which was acquired by Pakistan’s National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) through a grant provided by the country’s Ministry of Science and technology. An inauguration event was held where RCMS Principal, Sikandar Hayat noted that the new system is the fastest GPU-based parallel computer in the country.

The system, known as ScREC, is named after the university’s supercomputing research and education center. The cluster consists of 66 nodes equipped with a total of 30,992 cores. The NUST site breaks down the components as follows: 32 dual-socket quad-core nodes, 32 NVIDIA GPUs, a QDR InfiniBand interconnect, and 26.1 TB of storage. Specifics on the CPU or GPU parts were not provided.

While Linpack performance has not been posted, the system runs at a peak of 132 teraflops. Given that most GPU-accelerated TOP500 systems only achieve about a 50 percent Linpack yield of peak performance (depending upon the CPU-GPU ratio and interconnect), the system should deliver at least 60 Linpack teraflops. That would place the system in the current list, giving Pakistan a slot in the TOP500. Unfortunately the rankings are a moving target, and the June update may well exclude sub-60-teraflop machines. The slowest supercomputer on the current TOP500 is at 51 teraflops.

ScREC will be used to assist NUST with research in the areas of computational biology, computational fluid dynamics, image processing, cryptography, medical imaging, geosciences, computational finance, and climate modeling. Specifically, RCMS is currently developing a direct simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) method for subsonic nanoscale gas flows. Other projects include external flow analysis of heavy vehicles to reduce fuel consumption, and numerical investigation on performance and stability of axial compressors used in aircraft engines and gas turbines.

In a welcome address, Rector Nust Engr Muhammad Asghar said, “This will give an impetus for collaborative research between universities and other research organizations within the country and abroad.” and explained that the new facility will inspire scholars studying abroad to return to Pakistan.


Pakistan’s investment in terascale computing exhibits a willingness to promote scientific research – a forward-leaning strategy for a developing nation on the cusp of becoming industrialized. Unlike India’s HPC plans, Pakistan is not attempting to join the ‘supercomputing elite’ here, but rather to promote science collaborations, while creating an incentive for Pakistani researchers and engineers who work abroad to return to the country.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting NY Times story on computing for genomics:

In Silicon Valley, the line between computing and biology has begun to blur in a way that could have enormous consequences for human longevity.

Bill Banyai, an optical physicist at Complete Genomics, has helped make that happen. When he began developing a gene sequencing machine, he relied heavily on his background at two computer networking start-up companies. His digital expertise was essential in designing a factory that automated and greatly lowered the cost of mapping the three billion base pairs that form the human genome.

The promise is that low-cost gene sequencing will lead to a new era of personalized medicine, yielding new approaches for treating cancers and other serious diseases. The arrival of such cures has been glacial, however, although the human genome was originally sequenced more than a decade ago.

Now that is changing, in large part because of the same semiconductor industry manufacturing trends that opened up consumer devices like the PC and the smartphone: exponential increases in processing power and transistor density are accompanied by costs that fall at an accelerating rate.
“Genomes are now being sequenced incredibly cheaply,” said Russ B. Altman, who is a founder of Personalis, a start-up based in Palo Alto, Calif., that is developing software to interpret genomes. “On the discovery and science side we will be able to do clinical trials. We’ll be able to check the entire genome.”

Recently, on the company’s Web site, Dr. Reid predicted that the cost of gene sequencing could eventually be as low as that of a blood test: “I believe that the impact on the medical community of whole human genome sequencing at a cost comparable to a comprehensive blood test will be profound, and it will raise a host of public policy issues (privacy, security, disclosure, reimbursement, interpretation, counseling, etc.), all important topics for future discussions,” he wrote.
In 2011, Complete Genomics became one of the market leaders. This year, it has produced more than 3,000 sequences at a cost of about $5,000 each. Dr. Banyai’s higher capacity second generation system is now being installed and will begin production during the first half of this year. A third generation design has been completed.

What initially set Complete Genomics apart from the field was its strategy of offering gene sequencing as a service, rather than selling a machine to laboratories. More recently, Illumina, one of its crucial competitors, has also begun offering sequencing as a service, in addition to selling its machines.

“Our competitors have to supply kits that can be executed by a graduate student rolling out of bed with a hangover,” said Dr. Reid. “We don’t live with that standard, and that can be tremendously liberating. Ours can be horrifically complex as long as it can be executed by a robot.”

The company also began with the business intent of sequencing only the human genome, rather than those of other species, too — a strategy that was heresy in 2005, when the founders set out to raise money. At that time, only two human genomes had been sequenced. However, Complete Genomics founders argue that focusing just on the human genome has given them a leg up.

“You make a whole bunch of decisions that don’t work well for corn or bacteria, but they work very well for humans,” Dr. Reid said.

Riaz Haq said...

The number of research papers published by Pakistani scientists in peer-reviewed international science journals has grown from 1,174 in 2000 (rank 54) to 6,987 in 2010 (rank 43), according to SCImago Journal & Country Rank (SCR).

Riaz Haq said...

Cotton availability in Pakistan rises 25% YoY, reports fiber2fashion:

There has been a substantial increase of more than 25 percent in arrival of cotton in Pakistan markets this season compared to last season.

Besides, there has also been a significant rise of 77 percent year-on-year in cotton exports from Pakistan this season.

Citing figures from Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA), Mr. Muhammad Azam, Secretary-General and Chief Operating Officer of All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA), told fibre2fashion, “Compared to total arrivals of 11,502,408 cotton bales of 170 kg each during 2010-11 season up to March 1, 2011, a total of 14,378,962 bales have arrived in market this season up to March 1, 2012. Thus, there has been an increase of 2,876,534 bales or 25.01 percent over the previous season.”

Informing about the number of cotton bales pressed by various ginneries across Pakistan, he says, “Up to March 1, 2012, this season, 14,301,516 bales were pressed at various ginneries. In comparison, 11,467,821 bales were pressed during the same period in 2010-11 season. Thus, 2,833,695 bales or 24.71 percent more bales have been pressed this season.”

Talking about cotton exports, he says, “The exports have boomed 77.89 percent this season. Pakistan exported 920,706 bales up to March 1 this season, against exports of 517,567 bales registered during the same period last season. Thus, 403,139 more bales have been exported this season.”

“The textile mills in Pakistan have consumed only 17.68 percent or 1,871,840 more bales this season compared to previous season. Up to March 1, 2012, textile mills in Pakistan purchased 12,462,112 cotton bales, against their purchase of 10,590,272 bales during the same period in 2010-11 season,” he mentions.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Fiber2Fashion report on Pakistan's bumper cotton crop:

With around 14,548,845 bales already reaching the ginneries by March 15, Pakistan’s cotton output for the current season is expected to surpass record 15 million bales, according to Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA).

PCGA Chairman Amanullah Qureshi said the country’s cotton output for next season is pegged at 17 million bales.

He reiterated the need for formulation of National Cotton Policy in consultation with all the industry stakeholders including ginners and growers, so as to protect their interests.

Mr. Qureshi said the Government should develop a mechanism to stabilise the cotton prices, instead of leaving the farmers and ginners at the mercy of textile mill owners.

He claimed that all production estimates presented by Governmental agencies and departments have proved to be incorrect, while those by PCGA have proved right.

He also called upon the Government to approve a bailout package for cotton cultivators who suffered a loss of over Rs. 225 billion due to textile millers lobby.

The PCGA Chairman urged the Government to direct the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) to buy a minimum 0.7 million bales of unsold cotton from ginners.

Riaz Haq said...

Bumper crop enables Pakistan's donation of 500,000 tons to World Food Program, according to Daily Times:

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on Wednesday welcomed a commitment by the newly created Pakistan Ministry of Food Security and Research (MFSR) to annually donate up to 500,000 metric tonnes of wheat to WFP to combat malnutrition and improve food security in poor countries around the world.

WFP Pakistan Country Director Jean-Luc Siblot highly praised the donation, saying, “This in-kind donation is the largest in recent years by any country where WFP has its operations,” adding, “It shows a strong commitment by the government of Pakistan to address the issues of food security and malnutrition in poor countries and will also encourage the international donor community to step up its support.” The donation, valued at $144 million, was announced in a Letter of Intent signed on Wednesday by the ministry and WFP at the end of a six-day food security workshop attended by government representatives, donors, WFP members, the Food and Agricultural Organisation and NGOs, including Oxfam and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute.\03\22\story_22-3-2012_pg7_28

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a APP report on use of genomics in medicine in Pakistan:

Karachi—Medical scientists and researchers stressed the importance of Human Genetics as a subject of vital importance for the progress and betterment of mankind at a three day workshop on Bioinformatics jointly organized by SIUT and COMSTECH.

Clinicians and young researchers, from different parts of the country and from Islamic world, working in the field of life sciences were introduced to the use of internet resources to analyze the vast amount of genetic data being produced by laboratories worldwide during the program that concluded at Sindh Instittue of Urology and Transplant (SIUT) on Saturday.

Hands on training was provided to them as how to use web based bioinformatics tools and resources in order to analyze the enormous amount of genetic data produced through DNA sequences.

Dr. Qasim Ayub and Luca Pagani, globally known for their contributions to the genetic analyses on human populations at the famous Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, in Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom, supervised the deliberations of the workshop.

Characterizing genetic modifications that have enabled modern humans to adapt to their changing environment like those whose ancestors moved out of Africa, greatly help in understanding of the origin and migrations of human populations.

This is of particular relevance for Pakistan because it has been at the cross roads of human migrations for thousands of years, said the experts conducting the workshop.

Dr Qasim Mehdi from SIUT, a leading scientist in the field and the main coordinator of the workshop said that this was an opportune time for conducting such a workshop as thousands of human genomes, including hundreds of Pakistani individuals, are being completely sequenced by an international team of collaborators involved in the ‘1000 Genomes Project’ at the Sanger Institute.

“The ongoing genetic revolution is poised to improve the traditional medical practice,” he said. The paradigm is changing from ‘diagnose and treat’ to ‘predict and prevent’ he commented.

Speakers on the occasion were of unanimous opinion that the development will bring immense benefit to mankind and will enable treatments tailored to the individual and improve our understanding of previously untreatable diseases such as kidney disorders, diabetes, heart diseases and cancer.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a description of a genomics project at the Center for Non-commuicable Diseases to collect and analyze data for 2500 Pakistanis in Lahore, Pakistan:

The 1000 Genomes Project is the first large scale project that aims to sequence the genomes of 2500 people of different global ethnicities, to provide a comprehensive resource on human genetic variation. The goal of the 1000 Genomes Project is to find most genetic variants that have frequencies of at least 1% in the populations studied. Such information will be useful for a range of genetic investigations specifically including genome-wide association studies and mutation screens for various monogenic disorders.

To sequence a person's genome, many copies of the DNA are broken into short pieces and each piece is sequenced. The many copies of DNA mean that the DNA pieces are more-or-less randomly distributed across the genome. The pieces are then aligned to the reference sequence and joined together. The Project currently plans to sequence each sample to about 4X coverage; at this depth sequencing cannot provide the complete genotype of each sample, but should allow the detection of most variants with frequencies as low as 1%. Combining the data from 2500 samples should allow highly accurate estimation (imputation) of the variants and genotypes for each sample that were not seen directly by the light sequencing. As with other major human genome reference projects, data from the 1000 Genomes Project will be made available quickly to the worldwide scientific community through freely accessible public databases.

The Center for Non-Communicable Diseases is the local coordinating center to collect DNA samples from 150 Pakistani individuals (50 families). These samples have been collected from Lahore, Punjab. These Pakistani Punjabi samples are the first South Asian samples that have been collected from South Asia; and will provide a useful resource to conduct informative imputations for genome-wide association studies. These samples will be genotyped for whole-genome and exome sequencing and transformed to develop lymphoblastoid cell lines for various functional experiments.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News report on FAO stats for Pakistan 2011:

The Statistical Book 2011 of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reveals that Pakistan is way behind in wheat, rice, sugarcane and pulses production, both globally and regionally.

According to experts, water shortage, absence of high yield verities of seeds, and lack of research and development are the basic causes of low per hectare yield of crops in Pakistan. The two consecutive floods in 2010 and 2011 have also disrupted the agricultural productivity of the country. The FAO report released last week relates to authenticated data up to year 2010.

According to the report Pakistan is among the top ten producers of wheat with around 24 million ton output in 2010, but its per hectare yield of 2.6 ton pales in comparison with over 115 million ton wheat produced by China with per hectare yield of 4.7 ton.

India obtains 2.8 ton wheat per hectare, Bangladesh 2.4 ton. The United Kingdom with wheat yield of 7.7 ton per hectare is top in productivity but its wheat cycle is spread over one year against five months in Pakistan, the report said.

In rice Pakistan with average productivity of 9 million ton is among the top 12 producers and its per hectare rice yield is 3.1 ton. China again is the largest producer of rice with an output of 197 million ton with per hectare yield of 6.5 ton, Bangladesh obtains 4.2 ton rice per hectare, Sri Lanka 4.1 ton per hectare and even India with rice productivity of 3.3 ton per hectare is ahead of Pakistan, the FAO report said.

In coarse grains China produces 5.2 ton per hectare, Pakistan 2.2 ton per hectare and India only 1.2 ton per hectare. Italy with per hectare yield of 7.6 ton per hectare is the productivity leader in coarse grains.

China produces 0.6 ton per hectare of oil crops while India and Pakistan produce 0.3 ton per hectare. The leader in oil crops production is Malaysia that obtains 4.5 ton of oil crop per hectare.

Pakistan produces 1.1 million to 0.9 million ton of pulses per year with per hectare yield of 0.6 ton which is the lowest in the region. China produces 4.4 million ton pulse per annum at 1.2 ton per hectare which is twice that of Pakistan.

Per hectare production of pulses in Bangladesh is 0.9 ton while it is 0.7 ton in India. India though is the largest producer of pulses in the world with total annual production of 17.11 million ton. The highest per hectare yield of pulses is 3.9 ton which is obtained by the United Kingdom.

In roots and tuber production Pakistan is on top in productivity with per hectare yield of 21.6 ton but it is far below the world best of 42.1 ton obtained by the United States of America. India produces 20.6 ton roots and tuber per hectare, China produces 17.8 ton per hectare and Bangladesh 17.7 ton per hectare. Pakistan’s sugarcane production of 52.4 ton per hectare is slightly higher than that of Bangladesh that obtains 43.8 ton of sugarcane per hectare. India with per hectare yield of 66.1 ton is the leader in sugarcane productivity in the region followed by China that obtains a yield of 65.7 ton per hectare.

Brazil is the largest global producer of sugarcane with total output of 719 million ton at 79.2 ton per hectare. The highest sugarcane yield is obtained by Columbia which produces 118.1 ton per hectare, the FAO report said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times report on a traveling exhibit to promote chemistry learning in Pakistan:

The International Traveling Expo ‘It’s all about Chemistry’ opened at Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) on Wednesday.

Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) in collaboration with the embassy of France in Islamabad and Scientific, Technical, Industrial and Cultural Centre (CCSTI), France has arranged the Expo, prepared by Centre Sciences-France, UNESCO and partners, for providing a first-hand picture of the role of chemistry in daily life to students and general public.

The Expo is aimed at increasing the interest of young people in Chemistry and to generate enthusiasm among students for take chemistry as a subject of their studies.

The expo started its journey in Pakistan from Karachi in January and after travelling through Tandojam, Khairpur, DG Khan, Multan, Lahore, Mansehra, Peshawar and Swat has reached Islamabad from where it would travel to Sibbi and conclude in Quetta.

Study of Chemistry is critical in addressing challenges such as global climate change, in providing sustainable sources of clean water, food energy and in well-being of people.

The science of chemistry and its applications produce medicines, fuels, metals and virtually all other manufactured products.

PSF Chairman Prof Dr Manzoor Soomro inaugurated the 3-day Expo while French Attache for Cooperation Gilles Angles, AIOU Faculty of Sciences Dean Prof Dr Noshad Khan and AIOU Chemistry Department’s Chairperson Prof Dr Naghmana Rashid were also present on this occasion.

The displays of the expo include Black and White Chemistry, Molecules in Action, Nature Returns with a bang, Intelligent Textiles-Dress Intelligently, Dress Usefully, Materials that Heal Automatically, Oil-bases or Water-based paint, Pure air at home, What’s Going on in my saucepan, Town Water or field Water, Experts against Fraud, When Art and Science Meet, Molecular Motors, Bio-fuels for Green Driving and Responsible Farming etc.

Dr Manzoor Soomro highlighted the PSF programmes and activities for promotion of science in the country for mental developmental of the nation and socio-economic development of the country.

He said PSF’s subsidiary organisation Pakistan Museum of Natural History is playing an important role in imparting education on natural sciences through informal means.

He appreciated French embassy for its cooperation to PSF in its different programmes as well as providing opportunity of higher education to students of far flung areas of Pakistan through its scholarships programme...\03\29\story_29-3-2012_pg5_5

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BR report on State Bank of Pakistan's ag loans target for the year:

The State Bank of Pakistan has set Rs 285 billion target for disbursement of agriculture loan among small farmers for current fiscal year.

Director Development Finance of SBP Karachi, Dr Muhammad Saleem said this while addressing "Agricultural & Industrial Awareness Convention-2012" here on Tuesday.

Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Higher Education Minister Qazi Muhammad Asad Khan participated as chief guest in the convention organised by the State Bank, Rawalpindi in collaboration with commercial banks and insurance companies.

More than 120 stalls of handicrafts, clothing agriculture equipment, handmade beautiful jewellers, banking products and food, etc, were set up by women from various organisations and banks to promote rural culture and potential of trade in these areas.

Horse dancing and culture displays made this event more beautiful.

More than 1500 people including students, farmers and women participated in the convention.

Chief Manager State Bank Akhtar Raza, Group Head of United Bank Ltd (UBL) Jameel Ahmed, Vice Chancellor Hazara University Haripur, Professor Dr Sahawat and others were also present on the occasion.

Dr Muhammad Saleem said the SBP had set Rs 270 billion agriculture loans target for small farmers in the previous financial year while actually Rs 260 billion loan was distributed among farmers.

He said that agri loan is being given to farmers through one-window operation.

He said farmers could give better output if banks provide them loan in time on easy instalments.

"Agriculture is backbones of our economy and its share in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 21 percent.

Livelihood of 47 percent people is directly or indirectly is linked with agriculture sector.

The SBP is playing pivotal role in progress of agriculture sector by providing loans especially to small farmers," he said.

Dr Muhammad Saleem said the SBP formulates policy in consultation with all the stakeholders including farmers.

The SBP changes its policy with passage of time by keeping the necessities of farmers in view.

Addressing the convention, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Higher Education Minister Qazi Muhammad Asad Khan said land of Haripur is fertile and the farmers of this area can give maximum production if they were given some financial support for seed, fertiliser and tractor and other inputs necessary for increasing production.

He urged the SBP to set up its branch in Haripur for promotion of small industries and agriculture sector.

About the Haripur University, He said Haripur has also become a part of the community of 120 universities.

"The government should increase budget for education to 4% of GDP.

The quality of education can only be improved by increasing the budget for this sector.

Group head of UBL, Jameel Ahmed said the State Bank has good legal framework and governance in the region.

The employees of the Bank are servants of people.

"It is your money and used to benefit you," he added.

Vice Chancellor Hazara University Haripur, Professor Dr Sahawat said knowledge-based economy and use of latest technology is of vital importance for progress of agriculture sector.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Zee News report on crop yields in South Asia:

Productivity of major food crops such as wheat, rice, maize and pulses in India is almost half of that in neighbouring China, according to a data.

In fact, yield of staple grains like maize and pulses in India is even less than that of countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar, the data presented in Parliament by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar last week said.

The productivity of rice in India is 3,264 kg per hectare, while in China it is 6,548 kg a hectare, the data compiled by UN's agriculture body FAO for the year 2010 said.

It is also high in Bangladesh at 4,182 kg/hectare and Myanmar at 4,123 kg per hectare.

China also tops the list in wheat with yields of 4,748 kg per hectare, whereas for India it stands at 3,264 kg a hectare.

India stands at the bottom in terms of maize and pulses productivity compared to China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Bangladesh leads the tally in terms of maize yields with 5,837 kg per hectare, followed by China at 5,459 kg a hectare, Myanmar 3,636 kg/hectare, Pakistan 3,558 kg per hectare, Nepal 2,118 kg every hectare, Sri Lanka 2,806 kg a hectare and in India it is 1,958 kg/hectare.

In pulses, China tops the list with 1,567 kg per hectare followed by Myanmar at 1,114 kg a hectare, Bangladesh at 871 kg/hectare, Nepal 791 kg per hectare, Pakistan 762 kg every hectare, while in India it stands at 694 kg per hectare.

Pawar said that productivity depends on factors like rainfall, extent of inputs such as fertiliser, micro-nutrients, seed replacement rate, duration of crop, extent of area sown under any crop and the nature of lands used for cultivation.

To enhance the agricultural production, the government is working on frontier areas of research like marker assisted selection, stem cell research, nanotechnology, cloning genome resource conservation, Pawar said.

The National Institute of Abiotic Research Management has been established in Maharashtra to address issues related to impending climate change, he added.

That apart, the National Institute of Biotic Stress Management and Indian Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology are in the pipeline for undertaking high quality research, the minister added.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News report on US assistance for higher education & research in Pakistan:

Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dr. Javaid Laghari, Chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to create three Centers for Advanced Studies at Pakistani universities.

With US support, these centers will promote the development of Pakistan's water, energy, and agriculture sectors through applied research, training for specialists, university linkages, and the contributions towards policy formulation, said in a press statement issued by US Embassy here on Friday.

"US-Pakistan cooperation in higher education spans more than six decades. This new program presents a new milestone in our joint efforts to strengthen Pakistan's university system to support the growth of the country's economy," said Dr. Rajiv Shah at the signing ceremony.

The Centers for Advanced Studies is a five-year $127 million program sponsored by USAID. The Center for Advanced Studies in Agriculture and Food Security will be established with US support at the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad, Punjab.

The Center for Advanced Studies in Water will be created at the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology in Jamshoro. Meanwhile, the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad will open the Center for Advanced Studies in Energy.

A satellite center for energy will be established at the University of Engineering and Technology in Peshawar.

A key component of the Center for Advanced Studies Program is linking Pakistani universities to universities in the United States.

These linkages will help engender, support, and fund joint applied research, student and faculty exchanges, pedagogical improvement, and development of new courses according to the needs of industry. It is expected that other universities will use these centers as a model for future growth and improvements.

The signing ceremony for the launch of the Centers for Advanced Studies Program was attended by the Vice Chancellors from the four participating universities, representatives from the Higher Education Commission, members of the Ministry of Science and Technology, other officials, and students.,-HEC-sign-MoU-for-advanced-studies

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times report on ecology workshop in Islamabad:

Five-day International Training Workshop on ‘Modern Research Techniques in Ecology’ will start here from Monday (tomorrow).

Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH), Pakistan Science Foundation in collaboration with Department of Animal Sciences, Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) Islamabad and Snow Leopard Foundation, Pakistan has organised this workshop to build capacity of the participants in designing ecological studies and analysis of simple to complex ecological data and develop different statistical models.

The workshop will provide hands on training on modern data collection techniques and develop expertise in data analysis using statistical software ‘R-Programme’ which is widely used by ecologists. The workshop will also provide an opportunity to researchers to interact with the foreign scientists and benefit from their vast experience in wildlife conservation practices.

Resource persons of the workshop include Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway’s Dr Richard Bischof, Snow Leopard Trust, USA, Science and Conservation Director Dr Charudutt Mishra, University of Siena, Italy’s Prof Sandro Lovari, Snow Leopard Programs, Panthera, USA Executive Director Dr Tom McCarthy, Oryx-The International Journal of Conservation, Fauna and Flora International, Cambridge, UK Editor Dr Martin Fisher, QAU Department of Animal Sciences Dr Muhammad Ali Nawaz and PMNH Zoological Sciences Division Director Dr Muhammad Rafiq.

Ecological research in Pakistan remained an ignored field. During last couple of decades, life sciences departments of universities have predominantly focused on research in the fields like microbiology, molecular biology, genetics and physiology. The disciplines of ecology and taxonomy were considered old fashioned and least important. However, the situation is now being realised by the academia and research and conservation organisations, and many of them have a desire to develop capacities in ecological research. As limited expertise in this field is available in the country, international collaboration and involvement of researchers from the technologically advanced countries is very much required which can help in capacity building for research-based conservation.\04\15\story_15-4-2012_pg5_10

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of a paper on nanotechnology in Pakistan:

Pakistan stands out well in setting up a nanotechnology center by the Pakistan Council of scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR), where facilities are for industry to use as well as for conducting R&D that meets industry needs. Its nanotechnology lab facilities are utilized for the development, synthesis and characterization of 12 different nanocomposite coatings used in industries including Orthopedic implants & Surgical, Cutting
Tool, Tool & Die and Textiles. Nanotechnology policy in Pakistan is made by its National Commission
on Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST). “We place our priority in industry development and support.
We have now a fully functional nanotechnology center that focuses on nanocoating, nanomaterials
and nanopowder R&D and industry development”, Dr Shehzad Alam, Director General of the PCSIR of
the Ministry of Science and Technology, emphasized during his presentation.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on falling Lotte profits because of oversupply, lower demand and lower prices of polyester:


After making more than Rs2 billion in the same quarter last year, Lotte Pakistan PTA profits nosedived 93% to Rs151 million amid falling prices of its primary product during January to March 2012.

The massive decline was on account of reduced primary margins amid oversupply of the product emerging in the Asian PTA (purified terephthalic acid) industry.

PTA is widely used in making polyester fibres along with food and beverage containers. Polyester fibres are used to make fabrics for apparel and home furnishings such as bed sheets and curtains. It is also spun together with natural fibres such as cotton to produce a cloth with improved properties such as wrinkle resistance.

Demand from the PSF sector has shifted towards cotton amid bumper crop and lower prices.

The result is still better than market expectation as analysts expected the company to post a loss. The stock value increased by Rs0.16 to Rs8.79 at the Karachi Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

PTA prices fell 18% to average $1,190 per ton in the review period compared with US$1,457 per ton in the same quarter last year.

Overall gross margins dipped to 2% compared with 24% in the same quarter last year.

Reduced earnings also attributed to 52% decline in interest income to Rs130 million against Rs272 million in the period under review. The company’s cash balance has declined due to capital expenditure associated with its power project.

Riaz Haq said...

ICAC picks Pak scientist as researcher of the year, reports Dawn:

A Pakistan-based scientist has been honoured by the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), the body said in a statement released this week.

Dr Yusuf Zafar, who is the director general agriculture and biotechnology at the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission was declared ‘Scientist of the Year-2012’ for his pioneering work in the cotton biotechnology sector.

Zafar has over 110 scientific papers (published in national and international journals) to his name. According to ICAC, “in cotton virology his group covers nearly 90 per cent of the global published literature.”

The Faisalabad-based scientist played a key role in bringing together the world’s major cotton groups, including Australia, China, UK and USA, for the purpose of conducting joint research.

Heading the National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering in Faisalabad, Zafar and his team have contributed helped produce nearly 100 M. Phil and 30 Ph. D Pakistan-based students, focussing on various aspects of research and development in cotton. He has, meanwhile, remained in the front line to establish Biosafety Protocols, Plant Breeder Rights, Intellectual Property Rights/Patents and ISO certification in Pakistan.

In 2001, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission awarded him Best Scientist of the Year Award. The President of Pakistan awarded him ‘Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (Medal of Distinction) in 2004, the highest recognition for a researcher.

In other honours, Zafar has also won the Rockefeller Foundation and UNESCO Research Awards on Agri-Biotechnology, and is member of the USDA Cochran Fellow on Agriculture Biotechnology.

Apart from leading the Faisalabad institute, he is on the Board of Governors of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology-ICGEB (Italy), FAO country focal person on agriculture biotechnology and member of the Cotton Policy Committee of the government.

The ‘Scientist of the year -2012’ award was announced by ICAC late Wednesday. ICAC is an intergovernmental body with 54 members and provides services to Common Funds for Commodity (CFC), an organisation of UNCTAD-UN family.

Applications for the award are invited each year by the Washington DC-based institute and the selection committee comprises five anonymous judges outside the ICAC Secretariat.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Pak Observer on canola hybrid seeds developed in Pakistan:

Islamabad—Pakistan can earn Rupees 200 billion by producing canola crop. This was stated by Dr. Akbar Shah, Director, Oil seed Programme at the National Agricultural research Centre (NARC), while addressing the farmers invited to attend Mela, organized by Oil Seed Programme of the NARC for introduction of Canola Hybrid crop here at NARC. The Mela was attended by Framers and other stake holders and scientists.

It is to be noted that Canola oil is the healthiest of all commonly used edible oils. It is lowest in saturated fat, high in cholesterol-lowering mono-unsaturated fat and the best source of omega-3 fats of all popular oils. Canola oil has distinct health benefits than many other vegetable edible oils. It is fast emerging as healthiest oils in tandem with olive oil.

Dr. Akbar said that Pakistan is spending huge amount on import of edible oil. So to reduce the import bill PARC scientists introduced the new Canola Hybrid variety to farmers, he added. He informed that Pakistan’s annual edible oil requirement is 2 million tones. Keeping in view the importance of this crop NARC has developed Canola Hybrid for increasing the oilseed production to make the country self sufficient in edible oil. He said that farmers can earn Rs.40, 000 to 50,000 from one acre by producing canola crop.

Dr. Akbar said that Canola is an important crop for enhancing edible oil production. Farmers can benefit to enhance their income by cultivating Canola crop which not only help to meet the country’s requirement but also help to cut down the edible oil import, he added.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Daily times report on cotton & textile industry in Pakistan:

All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA), with over 50 percent ($14.8 billion) contribution to the total national exports ($25 billion) and 78 percent share in the textile exports of the country, is the largest trade union of Pakistan as well as contributor to the national economy of the country.

Due to effective policies and leadership of APTMA, this year cotton production increased to 15 million bales despite two million bales lost due to floodwaters, as compared to the last year’s 11.7 million bales, thus making Pakistan self-sufficient in cotton sector for the first time in 10 years.

To rid the country of energy crisis, the association is actively engaged with various stakeholders, including the Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL), Petroleum and Gas Ministry and standing committees of the National Assembly. Out of 300 days, gas remained closed for 156 days causing loss of $5 billion cotton to production capacity of the country. Advocating the case effectively with the government, the association ensured five days a week gas supply to the industry, besides getting electricity load shedding exemption.

The association’s proposal of levying gas surcharge for gas exploration and laying of new pipelines was accepted. The APTMA leadership and members are also advocating for the Vision 2020 to resolve the gas crisis and sustainable growth of the energy sector, while clarifying how much energy is going to be produced from hydel, coal and other sources besides gas exploration. The association believes that only a futuristic vision can ensure affordable energy for the industry as well as domestic sector of the country.

APTMA group leader Gohar Ejaz said their strong advocacy for the free market mechanism during 2010-11 helped transfer Rs 400 million to Pakistani cotton farmers, equal to their income of eight years, and in the wake of price increase in the international market, remained the biggest contribution of APTMA for the welfare of the stakeholders. He said farmers got prosperity, which resulted in value addition to the crop and an increase of $5 billion export. While in 2011-12, resolving the energy crisis for the Punjab industry remained one of the biggest contributions of APTMA, he said.
Research and development is the key to survival and growth of any industry. Realising this aspect, APTMA has made it a law to collect Rs 20 per cotton bale from the mills to spend this amount on research through Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC), a semi-autonomous body, with the federal minister for textile industry as its president. Last year, APTMA contributed Rs 300 million, as collected against the production of 15 million cotton bales in the country.

APTMA is also fulfilling its corporate social responsibility towards promotion of textile education in Pakistan. The association established textile colleges in Faisalabad, Karachi and other cities, which were later handed over to the government.

Established since 1957, APTMA is the premier textile industry association having 350 member mills and offices in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar. Although textile sector has a total 14 associations of various stakeholders, APTMA is the only body, which is taking up the case of whole sector to provincial, national and international level for the growth of the sector – from farmer to exporters.

Textile industry contributes 8.5 percent of the GDP, while APTMA is 50 percent of 8.5 percent textile contribution towards GDP. APTMA provides direct employment to one million workforce as well as three million indirect jobs.

Pakistan is the fourth largest cotton producer in the world as 98 percent of 15 million cotton bales produced in Pakistan are consumed by APTMA members.\05\07\story_7-5-2012_pg7_5

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report on decline in nanotech research in Pakistan:

Nanotechnology research in Pakistan, which had shown a trend of higher publication numbers over the last decade, has suffered from the country’s present financial crisis, a study said.

In 2008 the government did not extend the term of the National Commission for Nanoscience and Technology, initially set up in 2003 for three years and later extended for two more years.

The study, published online on 29 March in Scientometrics, said research publications in the field had grown from seven in 2000 to an impressive 542 papers in 2011, registering a 29 per cent annual growth rate.

This is higher than the average annual growth rate of 23 per cent registered globally, said Rizwan Sarwar Bajwa, research associate at the Preston Institute of Nanoscience and Technology in Islamabad who, together with his colleague Khwaja Yaldram, had carried out the study.

Much of the contribution came from 13 universities while only two state-owned research and development institutions in the country participated in nanoscience and nanotechnology research.

The study attributed the spurt in research and publications to heavy government spending on manpower training and procuring the latest equipment for laboratories working in the field.

“Unfortunately, the present financial crunch faced by the country could have a negative impact on the progress achieved so far,” the study concluded.

“The publication shows that despite availability of funding, the research and development institutes contributed very little in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology,” Bajwa, lead author of the study.

If developing countries such as Pakistan do not engage in basic research in nanoscience, they will end up as consumers of hi-tech products from other countries, he said.

Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, observed that higher publication numbers are not a true indicator of progress in a field.

“A better indicator is citations. But, if self-citations are removed the numbers will collapse,” Hoodbhoy said.

“Another metric of progress could be the creation of nanodevices and their commercial production. In the absence of such steps, it is not clear what is being achieved by the mass production of papers,” added Hoodbhoy.

Bajwa attributed the country’s few patents in the field to a dearth of funds for research, due to which many scientists confine themselves to teaching.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of a Nature magazine article on higher education support in Musharraf years:

Despite the problems, science has been flourishing in Karachi and other Pakistani cities, thanks to an unprecedented investment in the country's higher-education system between 2002 and 2008 (see 'Rollercoaster budget'). As funding increased more than fivefold in that time, new institutes focusing on proteomics and agricultural research sprouted, and the University of Karachi's natural sciences department rose from nowhere to 223 in the 2009 QS World University Rankings.
The surge in higher-education investment occurred after the rise to power of General Pervez Musharraf in 1999, who as leader of the army had led a low-key coup d'├ętat and installed himself as de facto president. Musharraf was a liberal progressive who hoped to modernize Pakistan. "It was a moment in Pakistani history that now seems so distant," says Adil Najam, an expert in international development at Boston University in Massachusetts.

With the economy booming in the early 2000s, Pakistani academics sensed an opportunity. Higher education had never had much popular support in the country, where literacy hovers at about 50%, but in Musharraf they saw a champion. In a series of reports, Najam and others made the case that if the nation could mobilize its universities, it could transform from a poor agricultural state into a knowledge economy (see Nature 461, 38–39; 2009). The group called for a new Higher Education Commission (HEC) to manage the investment, as well as better wages for professors, more grants for PhD students and a boost in research funding.
Rahman, a chemist at the University of Karachi and, at the time, the minister for science and technology, enthusiastically set out to overhaul the nation's universities. With Musharraf's support, annual research funding shot up 474% to 270 million rupees (US$4.5 million in 2002) in the first year alone. The HEC set aside money for PhD students and created a tenure-track system that would give qualified professors a monthly salary of around US$1,000–4,000 — excellent pay by Pakistani standards.

Rahman's strong scientific background, enthusiasm for reform and impressive ability to secure cash made him a hit at home and abroad. "It really was an anomaly that we had a person of that stature with that kind of backing," says Naveed Naqvi, a senior education economist at the World Bank, based in Islamabad. "Atta-ur-Rahman was a force of nature."
Between 2003 and 2009, Pakistan churned out about 3,000 PhDs, roughly the same number awarded throughout its previous 55-year history. More than 7,000 PhD students are now in training at home and abroad. Meanwhile, scientific research publications have soared from roughly 800 in 2002 to more than 4,000 in 2009 (see 'Publishing power')...

Riaz Haq said...

In a recent book "Abundance", author Peter Diamandis argues that that advanced science is becoming much more accessible to a wider number of people through movements such as the world-wide DIY movement spurred by better low-cost tools and technologies for things such as "bio-hacking" and development of artificial intelligence. It's no longer an exclusive preserve of a few elite scientists in multi-million dollar labs.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET piece on Pakistani universities among top 300 in Asia:

Investments in higher education seem to have reaped dividends as six universities of Pakistan, including the University of Karachi (KU), have won a place among the top 300 Asian universities.

The QS Asian University Rankings 2012 list shows National University of Science and Technology (#108), KU (#191-200), Aga Khan University (#201-250), Lahore University of Management Sciences (#251-300) and The University of Lahore (#251-300) in the top 300 universities of the continent.

Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) is the world’s most renowned and prestigious ranking agency.

A statement issued on Wednesday by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) claimed that the rankings speak volumes about the hard work put in by the management and faculty of these universities.

The HEC has consistently supported the varsities in terms of infrastructure, digital libraries, opportunities for innovative research, collaborative research projects with leading international institutions and participating in international exchange programmes, it was said.

Pakistani universities have produced more PhDs in the past nine years (3,280) – since the establishment of the HEC – than in the first 55 years (3,000) of the country’s establishment.

Research output has grown eight-fold since 2002 (from 815 in 2002 to 6,200 in 2011) which is a remarkable achievement by any world standard. Eighty per cent of these research publications are coming from higher education institutes. The output has more than doubled in the last three years and is expected to double again in the next three.

Around 5,000 scholars from Pakistan have presented their research work at leading conferences of the world and have established academic linkages with their counterparts in every leading university of the world in the US, UK, China, Germany, France, Australia, Korea, etc.

According to the HEC, Pakistani scientists, engineers and technologists are the country’s biggest strategic asset. Till five years ago, they were concentrated in a few strategic organisations, but the higher education revolution brought about by the HEC has ensured that every engineering and science and technology university has started to blossom into a centre of research and innovation.

The HEC declared that it has been able to break the elitist myth of availability of talent only in large cities by providing scholarships to talented students belonging to the middle class and poor segments of the society.

Currently, the education commission is focusing on expansion of facilities for biotechnology and genetics, immunology, robotics and automation, nanotechnology, superconductivity, photo-optics and lasers, electromagnetics and nuclear fusion for energy, it was stated.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are the names of 6 Pakistani universities among top 300 Asian universities ranked by QS 2012:

#108 NUST Islamabad

#191-200 University of Karachi

#201-250 Agha Khan University Karachi

#201-250 Univ of Engg & Tech (UET) Lahore

#251-300 Lahore University of Management Sciences

#251-300 University of Lahore

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times story on biotech in South Asia:

The government is committed to promoting bio-technology for crop productivity enhancement and food security in the country, said State Minister for National Food Security and Research Sardar Moazzam Ali Jatoi here on Thursday.

“The government has established bio-technology departments at more than 90 percent universities to create awareness and utility of modern bio-technological crops among the youth in the country,” he added. He was addressing the concluding session of a three-day SAARC Regional Conference titled ‘New Frontiers in Agricultural Genomic and Biotechnology’.

The event was organised by the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) and National Institute for Genomic and Advance Biotechnology (NIGAB) with an aim to highlight the food security issue and seek possible solutions to the food scarcity and provide the SSARC member states to share their experiences and expertise among the member states for food security in the region. National Food Security and Research Secretary Abdul Basit, Food Security Additional Secretary Dr Ghulam Mohammad Ali chief organiser of the event and NIGAB director, delegates from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan also spoke on the occasion.

PARC Chairman Naveed Salimi, NARC DG Dr Sharif, agriculture scientists, students and researchers also attended the conference. State Minister for National Food Security and Research Sardar Moazzam Ali Jatoi said that the government has strengthened Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) for grant of scholarships to emerging young scholars for higher studies in biotechnology at local and foreign universities.

He added that legislation on Act for Plant Breeders Rights and Seed Act (1976) amendment is in the parliament for approval. “The government is facilitating the research institutes of Pakistan for the development of collaboration with international public and private research organisations,” he remarked. “In this regard with the personal interest and involvement of president of Pakistan and prime minister memorandum of understandings have been signed with Chinese and Brazil governments for research on BT cotton, sugarcane, ethanol production, banana and oil seed crops research,” he remarked. Jatoi added that an active programme has been started in collaboration with USA for the eradication of cotton leaf curl virus through genetic engineering, foot and mouth disease in animals.

The State Minister for Food and National Security also stressed the need for a solid and a joint forum at SAARC level and setting up of SAARC biotechnology commission to achieve this objective. He said that Pakistan would extend full cooperation in this regard.

Speaking on the occasion, Basit said that SAARC region is broadly classified as low income or low middle income category in global parlance. He said that poverty and hunger remain one of the major challenges before the region and agriculture remains predominant sector of the regional economies.

“A vast majority of population in the region lives in rural areas and depend upon agriculture for livelihood and sustenance and for efficient and effective communications, then should be a joint meetings of member states scientists at least once a year to discuss the regional biotechnology related research and development issues,” he remarked. Dr Sharif said that livestock is one of the major income generating resources of rural community in the region and called for research on the use of bio technology tools for promotion livestock sector in order to increase milk and meat production and disease management. The conclusion of the conference a number of recommendations for the development of SAARC region were put forward for the governments and policy makers in the region..\06\08\story_8-6-2012_pg5_15

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on Dr. Ataur Rehman speech on knowledge economy in Pakistan:

“With the initiatives taken by the HEC, Pakistan was poised to make a major breakthrough and evolve into a knowledge economy from an agricultural economy,” he said. He lamented that an official notification was issued on November 30, 2010 to fragment the HEC and break it into pieces.

Rehman, however, being the Pakistan Academy of Science president intervened and approached the apex court to receive an order which declared the fragmentation of the HEC to be unconstitutional. “The government, however, slashed the commission’s budget by 50 per cent and a number of development programmes in universities have come to a halt,” he said.

Making a reference to an article in The Hindustan Times, he said, “The rapid developments posed a threat to India, but we ourselves are our own worst enemy.” He added we had this aim that Pakistan should not equal India but outdo it in terms of research outpost.

He also highlighted the fact that during his term as minister, he successfully convinced the former president, Pervez Musharraf, to increase the education budget by 2,400 per cent and that of science and technology by 1,600 per cent.

According to Dr Rehman, around 11,000 scholarships were awarded to students to study abroad at mostly European universities.

He said that the world’s largest Fulbright scholarship programme was initiated, with a research grant worth $100,000 dollars and a job arranged for the recipient a year prior of returning to Pakistan.

The HEC also developed the Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN) through which 60,000 textbooks and 25,000 research journals were made accessible to students at their educational institutions. The students’ enrolment at the universities climbed up to 850,000 from 270,000 in just nine years while the universities produced 3,685 PhDs in such a short span which earlier were 3,200 in total from 1947 till 2000.

As for technological development, Dr Rehman said that fiber-optics lines which were laid in 40 cities in the year 2000, expanded to 400 cities allowing access to internet in nearly 1,000 cities and villages from just 29 cities previously.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News report on Pakistan's published scientific research output:

Pakistan is expected to have second highest increase in research output ranking in the world, increasing from its current position of 43 to 27 in 2018. An encouraging news for higher education sector in Pakistan, the ranking is announced by the Scopus, world’s largest abstract, citation database of research literature and analytical tool similar to Web of Science (Impact Factor).

The Scopus initiated a forecasting exercise on predicting in April 2011 under the topic, “How World Scientific Output will be in 2018”. According to the results of this mega exercise based on the research output from 2003-2010, Pakistan is expected to have the second highest increase in research output ranking in the world.

Commenting on this development, HEC Executive Director Professor Dr. Sohail H. Naqvi said this ranking recognises the tremendous growth in research in higher education sector of Pakistan over the past ten years and it also predicts the a bright future for research in Pakistan.” The HEC has accomplished more in nine years since its establishment than was achieved in the first 55 years of Pakistan’s existence. Recently, six Pakistani universities have been ranked among the top 300 Asian universities.

Research output has grown eight-folds since 2002 (from 815 in 2002 to 6,200 in 2011). Around 80 per cent of these research publications from Pakistan are coming from higher education institutions. Output has more than doubled just in the last 3 years and is expected to double again in the next 3 years.

More than 5,000 Pakistani scholars have been facilitated to present their research work in leading conferences of the world. The HEC Video Conference Network is established in all public sector universities by covering 31 cities. The network is recognised one of the mega interactive network by having total 79 purpose built e-classroom based videoconference set-up.

Access to 140 plus free software provided to over 1 million students in higher education sector and there has been more than 80,000 downloads from 68 universities during 2011-12. During 2011-12, a total of 447 accredited lectures/ lecture series have been conducted by both Local and Foreign Speakers under the Virtual Education Programme, totalling to 1,043 lectures since commencement of programme.

The academic circles have termed the Scopus ranking as great success and honour for the county in particular and higher education sector in general. They believe that if the continuous support may be given to this sector and the faculty continues their work with same zeal and vigour, Pakistani higher education sector can win more laurels for the country.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on US research grants for Science & Tech in Pakistan:

US Charge d’ Affaires Ambassador Richard Hoagland announced $4 million in new grants for Pakistani and American researchers to collaborate on projects in science and technology.

Hoagland praised the successes of over 70 joint projects funded over the previous four phases, and encouraged Pakistani scientists and researchers to apply for the Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation funds before November 30, 2012, to improve life standards of Pakistani people throughout the country.

The Executive Director of Higher Education Commission Sohail Naqvi and the Secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology Akhlaq Ahmad Tarar were also present on the occasion.

“The US-Pakistan Science and Technology Cooperation Program is one of the highlights of the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship. This opportunity will not only support joint US-Pakistan research across a wide range of topics, but will also help bring the fruits of research into the hands of the private sector, increasing technology transfer opportunities and supporting broad-based economic growth in Pakistan,” Hoagland said.

During the event, a select cadre of scientists shared their innovative work with the US Embassy guests.

The program welcomes proposals across a wide range of topics, including but not limited to education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, agriculture, democracy and governance, environment, energy, social sciences, and economic development. Proposals focused on technology transfer, entrepreneurship, innovation, and commercialization will be given special consideration.

Complete details on the cooperation program and ways to contribute are available on the national academies website.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BR report on Pak & US scientists collaborating on fighting cotton diseases in Pakistan:

Five American scientists travelled to Pakistan to help Pakistani scientists and farmers combat cotton disease, which has infected cotton throughout country’s cotton belt and can substantially reduce yields and incomes for farmers.

American and Pakistani scientists, in coordination with Pakistan’s Ministry of Textiles and Industry and the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA), launched a workshop to develop solutions to the Cotton Leaf Curl Virus (CLCV) problem in Pakistan. This workshop is part of the U.S. government sponsored Cotton Productivity Enhancement Program.

In his remarks, Todd Drennan, U.S. Agricultural Counsellor, said “Agriculture touches so many lives in Pakistan and is a vital part of Pakistan’s economy. The United States wants to help enhance the productivity of Pakistan’s agricultural sector, especially small farmers. This cooperation between U.S. and Pakistani scientists on cotton is an example of that commitment.”

The workshop completes a ten day visit by the American technical team. The team met Pakistani cotton scientists to discuss the results of research on CLCV. The team also visited cotton breeding trials in Faisalabad and Multan. As a result of these trials, which are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the team reported good news that some new varieties of cotton are showing preliminary signs of resistance to CLCV.

Small farmers are especially vulnerable to the economic impacts caused by this disease.

Because of this, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has designed the cotton disease research project to help Pakistani farmers. American agricultural scientists continually visit Pakistan to collaborate on research to combat disease affecting Pakistan’s principal crops, especially cotton and wheat.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a TOI story of dearth of research in India:

NEW DELHI: At a time when India is being looked at as the next big knowledge superpower, this could come as a shocker. Just 3.5% of global research output in 2010 was actually from India. In most disciplines, India's share in global research output was actually much below this overall average count.

Sample this - India's share of world research output in clinical medicine was a meagre 1.9% in 2010, 0.5% in psychiatry, 1.4% in neurosciences, 1.8% in immunology, 2.1% in molecular biology and just 3.5% in environmental research.

In mathematics, India's share of world output stood at around 2% in 2010 while it was 17% for China. In case of materials sciences, India's share of world research stood at 6.4% in 2010 while China's stood at 26% -- a rise from 5% in 1996.

While India's research on physics stood at 4.6% in 2010, China's stood at 19%.

In 2010, India's largest shares of world research output were in chemistry (6.5%), materials science (6.4%), agricultural sciences (6.2%), pharmacology and toxicology (6.1%), microbiology (4.9%), physics (4.6%) and engineering (4.2%).

India is often referred to as the next big place for computer sciences. But the figures on its research is abysmally low. Only 2.4% of global research on computer sciences was from India in 2010 while the world share moved to three emerging research economies - China 15%, Korea 6.3% and Taiwan 5.7%.

India's global share of research in economics stood at 0.7% in 2010 while in social sciences it was worse - 0.6%.

The biggest declines in volume of research between 1981 and 2010 were in plant and animal sciences (-2.2%) and agricultural sciences (-1.6%). The most significant expansions were in pharmacology and toxicology (+4.2%), microbiology (+3.2%) and materials sciences (+3.1%).

These are the findings of the study on India's research output and collaboration conducted by Thomson Reuters and recently submitted to the department of science and technology.

"India has been the sleeping giant of Asia. Research in the university sector, stagnant for at least two decades, is now accelerating but it will be a long haul to restore India as an Asian knowledge hub. Indian higher education is faced with powerful dilemmas and difficult choices - public/private, access/equity, uncertain regulation, different teaching standards and contested research quality," the report said.

According to it, India's share of world output in engineering fell from 4.3% in 1981 to 2.2% by 1995. India later regained its lost share, increasing to 4.25 by 2010. However, even then, India was overtaken by China (16.4%), Korea (5.4%) and Taiwan (4.4%).

India, where agriculture dominates economic standards, had quite a large share in agricultural sciences which averaged 7.45% over the 1981 to 1995 period, well ahead of other emerging research economies. Its share, however, fell to 6.2% in 2010. Even in the field of plant and animal sciences, the global research output fell from 6.1% in 1981 to 3.9% in 2010.

The report said, "India has a long and distinguished history as a country of knowledge, learning and innovation. In the recent past, however, it has failed to realize its undoubted potential as a home for world class research."

It added, "During the 1980s and 90s, the output of India's research was almost static while other countries grew rapidly, particularly in Asia. China expanded with an intensity and drive that led it rapidly to overtake leading European countries in the volume of its research publications. India is just beginning on this gradient."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's PakObserver on growing number of people with doctorate degrees i Pakistan:

Saturday, November 24, 2012 - Islamabad—The Pakistani universities are now able to produce more PhDs in the next 3 years as compared to last 10 years. The total number of PhDs in Pakistan has reached the figure of 8,142. According to the available statistics, the number of PhDs has increased from 348 (1947 to 2002) to 679 in 2012 in agriculture and veterinary sciences, from 586 to 1,096 in biological sciences, from 14 to 123 in business education, from merely 21 to 262 in engineering and technology and from 709 to 1,071 in physical sciences, Technology Times Reported.

In social sciences, the number increased to 887 from 108 during last ten years. The figures also indicate that during the last decade, special emphasis has been paid to the disciplines of agriculture and veterinary science, biological, physical and social sciences, business education, engineering and technology. “HEC has so far introduced various indigenous scholarship schemes to create a critical mass of highly qualified human resources in all fields of studies who conduct research on issues of importance to Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nature report on Pakistan's science & technology policy:

As they hail Pakistan's first comprehensive national science, technology and innovation (ST&I) policy, the country's science leaders are hopeful of effective implementation and funding.

The 'National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy–2012', launched last month (23 November) with support from the Pakistan Council for Science and Technology and the ministry of science and technology, is expected to help Pakistan emerge as a scientifically sensitive nation.

Describing the policy, at the launch, as "demand-driven and people-centric ", Changez Khan Jamali, federal minister for science and technology, said it was a milestone in Pakistan's self-reliant development strategy.

Jamali said the new policy was focused on improving the quality of life for common people through the creation of a conducive industrial and economic environment.

Pakistan has an ambitious plan to increase its science budget to 1 and 2 per cent of annual gross domestic product spending by 2015 and 2020 respectively, against the present 0.6 per cent.

Akhlaq Ahmed Tarar, secretary in the ministry, told SciDev.Net that he looked forward to "having close to 1 per cent allocation in the 2013 budget."

"The only fuel to make this policy a success is real political and fiscal support, which government is committed to provide – so there are hopes for an innovative and technologically advanced future for Pakistan," Tarar said.

A national policy for ST&I has been in the making since 1960 when the National Science Commission of Pakistan was constituted and tasked with finding ways to promote scientific research.

However, various hurdles stood in the way, the chief among them in more recent years being funding cuts forced by the recession and natural disasters.

The new policy focuses on environment science, biotechnology, energy, water, minerals, ocean-sciences and engineering as critical areas demanding priority.

It recognises innovation as an integral part of the S&T system while emphasising development of human resources, training and education.

Manzoor Soomro, chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation, an autonomous body under the science ministry, told SciDev.Net that to make the new policy serve the country's socio-economic development better, public-private partnerships and academia-industry linkages would need to be forged.

"Higher Education Commission and the well-developed offices of research, innovation and commercialisation that already maintain R&D links with different public-private organisations, would be the beneficiaries of this policy," Soomro said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News story on life sciences conf in Pakistan:

Terence Taylor is the founding president of the International Council for Life Sciences (ICLS). Previously, he was vice-president of the Global Health and Security at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), president and executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies-US (IISS-US). He had earlier worked as an assistant director with the IISS at its London headquarters.
---------------- He was in Karachi to the Fourth ICLS-KIBGE International Conference on “Science, Technology & Engineering: Innovative, Yet Responsible” recently and was interviewed by The News. Excerpts follow:

Q: What was your impression of the ICLS-KIBGE International Conference?

A: How delighted I was to be back in Karachi with my colleagues and friends, in particular the leadership of ICLS-Pakistan. I thank Dr A Q Khan Institute of Biotechnology & Genetic Engineering (KIBGE), University of Karachi, for the splendid organisational event. I made a series of points at the conference rising from the discussion. Firstly, importance of communication between scientific disciplines, including the social scientists and with engineers. I also stressed the need of communication with the scientific community, legislators and the general public. I talked about the importance to build confidence between scientific community, about what they are doing and are taking exclusive steps to assure safety, security and ethical conduct in carrying out their work. I also stressed the need to build and sustain the network of engineers and scientists in Pakistan and I called for ideas, particularly the younger generation how to bring this about.

Q: You are associated with life sciences. What opportunities do you find in exchange programmes in life sciences between Pakistan and the United States?

A: There is a splendid opportunity to exploit the exciting advances in life sciences, which the scientific community in Pakistan should seize. This is due to the intensive nature of the way in which life sciences are moving forward. It is being driven by the rapid advances in information technology and genetic sequencing. Thus, it is about people and knowledge that can be transformed and accessed at a relatively low cost. In effect, it is democratisation of sciences.

Q: What are your expectations from the ICLS-Pakistan?

A: It is now the time for action and that has to come from you. ICLS-Pakistan is ready to help to play whatever role is necessary to make things happen. I suggested two things that you might think to about doing; first it would be a good thing if there is Pakistani participation in the next World Conference on Research Integrity, which takes place in Montreal in May 2013. This would be a wonderful opportunity for Pakistani scientists and engineers to demonstrate their commitment to responsible commitment of science. Second, I would like to see teams of young Pakistani scientists and engineers in The International Genetically Engineered Mechanics Competition. It is a competition in which teams from universities and colleges take part by designing and demonstrating machines and devices that they themselves have made which deliver a useful purpose for answering a specific problem. The competition takes place on a regional basis. I hope the teams from Pakistan will participate in the 2013 Asian Regional Competition. I will encourage young Pakistani scientists and engineers to go to the website of ICLS-Pakistan of the responsible conduct of science project which is at

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times on China's BGI acquiring a Silicon Valley US DNA sequencing firm:

Complete Genomics, a struggling DNA sequencing company in Silicon Valley, said on Monday that it had agreed to be acquired for $117.6 million by BGI-Shenzhen, a Chinese company that operates the world’s largest sequencing operation.

The price of $3.15 a share represents an 18 percent premium to Complete Genomics’ closing price on Friday and a 54 percent premium to the closing price on June 4, the day before the company announced that it would fire 55 employees to save cash and that it had hired an adviser to explore strategic alternatives.

The deal, which will be carried out by a tender offer, is the latest sign of consolidation in the rapidly changing and fiercely competitive market for DNA sequencing. The price of determining the DNA blueprint of a person is tumbling and sequencing is starting to be used for medical diagnosis, not just for basic research.

In 2010, Life Technologies acquired Ion Torrent, and earlier this year, Illumina, the leading manufacturer of sequencing machines, successfully fought off a $6.2 billion hostile bid from Roche.

The deal will give BGI a base of operations in the United States as well as its own sequencing technology. Included is some new technology, described in a paper in the journal Nature in July, that would allow for highly accurate sequencing using tiny samples and would make sequencing more useful for medical diagnosis.

Until now, BGI has been offering sequencing using machines made by others, mainly Illumina. But Illumina has also been offering a sequencing service, in competition with BGI and with Complete Genomics. So it is possible that BGI wants to reduce its dependence on Illumina’s technology.

Complete Genomics, based in Mountain View, Calif., pioneered a new model, offering sequencing as a service instead of selling sequencing machines to laboratories that would do the work themselves.
BGI-Shenzhen is descended from an organization started in 1999 as the Beijing Genomics Institute to play China’s part in the international Human Genome Project.

It is believed to be the world’s largest genome sequencing operation and a symbol of China’s ambitions to play a major role in genomics, and in biotechnology in general. BGI shocked the industry in 2010 when it placed a record order for 128 of Illumina’s high-end HiSeq 2000 sequencing machines at a cost undoubtedly reaching tens of millions of dollars.

While Complete Genomics specializes in human genomes, BGI has sequenced not only human genomes but those of the giant panda and asparagus, not to mention numerous pathogens. It has entered into collaborations with numerous companies, universities and nonprofit organizations in the United States, including Merck; the University of California, Davis; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and Autism Speaks.

Riaz Haq said...

In an ET Op Ed piece titled "Let’s stop promoting corruption in Pakistan’s universities", Prof Pervez Hoodbhoy argues that HEC is encouraging corruption in producing research papers.

What Hoodbhoy ignores is that “Publish or Perish” is the mantra for university professors in the United States. Such incentives have helped push genuine research along with some junk. But the Americans have not thrown the baby out with the bath water, nor should Pakistan.

Pakistan should implement its ambitious plan to increase its science budget to 1 and 2 per cent of annual gross domestic product spending by 2015 and 2020 respectively, from 0.6 per cent now.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times report on AI and Robotics education in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD: Robotics as a discipline of science and technology is being taught at the graduate and post-graduate levels by more than 60 universities of Engineering Science and Technology in Pakistan, official sources told Daily Times here on Saturday.

The research and development (R&D) in advanced fields of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence has also been undertaken by some of laboratories established in the R&D institutes and universities in Pakistan. The official in the Ministry of Science and Technology claimed that there is a technical group engaged in development of automation of industrial processes at the National Institute of Electronics (NIE), Islamabad. The group has developed Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), which are used in automatic industrial controls.

The Centre for Intelligent Machines and Robotics (IMR) at the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology has a Research Group, which is undertaking research related to robotics, computer vision and machine learning. The IMR Research Group is conducting basic and applied research in robotics technologies relevant to industrial and societal tasks; the robotics technology in Pakistan has the potential role in boosting the productivity and competitiveness. The researchers at CIIT are working for projects on visual guided robotic systems for use in surgery, navigation control, mapping and geometric representation of environmental parameters.

National Engineering Robotics Contest (NERC) is an inter universities robotics competition held annually since 2005 at the NUST. The contest is organised by HEC, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Careers Project with more than 60 Pakistani universities participating in the event, and aims to train individuals for engineering services in Pakistan, and cash prizes are awarded to the winners.

NERC 2011 held at the College of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (EME), Rawalpindi from June 28 to July 2. Many universities like FAST, GIKI, LUMS, CASE and UET Lahore participated in the event, where students were encouraged to design, develop and programme their respective robots.

R&D projects on Tele-Surgical Training Robot and Simulators and Development of Intelligent Robotic Wheelchairs are being undertaken by NUST funded by ICT R&D Fund.

International workshops and seminars for knowledge sharing and events at national level for talent hunt among youth in the fields of robotics have been organised regularly at NUST. Specialisation in robotics is a popular choice for students going abroad to study under various scholarships schemes for research and PhD. This field offers job opportunities, and robotics engineers can apply their mastery in diverse fields like modern warfare, surgery, nano-technology and space-exploration.

The official claimed that developing a robot comes with the goal of finding a solution to the problem. Along with the technical know-how, interest in research is essential. This field has promising opportunities, with no boundaries and will continue to grow with the advancement of science and technology in the near future.\02\10\story_10-2-2013_pg5_12

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on nanochemistry lab in Karachi:

The country’s first ever nanochemistry laboratory is slated to open at Karachi University next year.

A ceremony to mark the beginning of the construction of the facility, called Latif Ebrahim Jamal Research Institute of Nanotechnology, was held at the institution on Monday. The first-of-its-kind research centre in the country will be a part of the university’s International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) and receive Rs50 million worth of funds from the Husein Ebrahim Jamal Foundation.

The director of ICCBS, Prof. Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary, said that the new centre will be housed in a two-storey building with ten large laboratories, a central instrument room, dedicated library, a central workshop, a pilot plant and faculty, seminar and meetings rooms.

Speaking at the occasion, the founder of the Higher Education Commission, Dr Attaur Rahman, said, “In today’s world, nanotechnology has a major influence on the development of science and technology as well as engineering. The world of nanotechnology involves shrinking things down to a whole new level, where things are a billion times smaller than the world of metres that we live in.” He added that the country’s progress in the field of nanotechnology is strategically important for rapid industrial development. Dr Rahman added that in the near future, many fields, including manufacturing of new diagnostics, medicines, agrochemicals, defence products and engineering equipment will become dependent on nanochemistry.

The university’s dean of sciences, Prof. Shahana Urooj Kazmi, was quite optimistic that Pakistan will be able to create a pool of skilled manpower in the discipline as well as a network with international experts. “I believe the scientists from across the world will have a great time doing research with the latest equipment at the state-of-the-art centre.”

The HEJ Foundation had also played a key-role in the establishment of world-famous HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry at the university, which garnered tremendous recognition for Pakistan in the fields of chemical and biological sciences, said its chairperson, Aziz Latif Jamal. The foundation had also established the largest digital library in the region, named as LEJ National Science Information Centre. It has access to over 31,000 science journals and around 60,000 books from 220 international publishers.

Sindh governor’s adviser on higher education, Aftab Lodhi, was also present at the event.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times report on graduation at Rawalpindi's Arid University which specializes in promoting in farming on rain-fed land:

1580 students were awarded degrees, while 39 were decorated with medals in the 14th convocation of Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi (PMAS-AAUR) here on Thursday.
28 graduates got gold medals, seven silver medals, four bronze medals, while 14 students got PhD degrees. Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad, Executive Director, Higher Education Commission was the guest of the day while His Excellency Choongjoo Choi, Ambassador of South Korea was the Guest of Honor. Prof. Dr. Rai Niaz Ahmad, Vice Chancellor of PMAS-AAUR was the chief guest on the occasion.
Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad, Executive Director, Higher Education Commission, said in his address that the Universities’ faculties have great potential and HEC is trying its best to provide all opportunities to facilitate them. He said HEC would continuously support institutions of higher learning. Dr. Mukhtar congratulated the graduates and expressed the views that the students are the future of Pakistan and “can make Pakistan prosper through the art of education andtechnology. It is the dire need of the time to promote education at higher level in the country and universities are source of creation of new dimensions in the field of research &knowledge.” He emphasized that students must contribute for the development of country. He also lauded the efforts of the University administration for research based education.
Prof. Dr. Rai Niaz Ahmad, Vice Chancellor, PMAS-AAUR in his address said that University stood 7th in HEC ranking out of a 116 universities of Pakistan whereas among agriculture universities PMAS-AAUR achieved 2nd position. He further said that last year the university started two new degree programs BS Forestry and Ph.D. Computer Science, in addition to this various short-term training courses were also arranged for the farmers of the area to strengthen the ties between the university and the community at large. Dr. Ahmad also asked the gathering to create favourable environment for research, brace cooperation with national and international R & D organisations. While sharing the future plan, Vice Chancellor said the university administration is going to establish a new Faculty of Agriculture Engineering and Pak-Korea Capacity Building Centre for Agriculture & Livestock Technology with the help of Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). The total cost of the project is US $ 3.5 million, he concluded.
His Excellency Choongjoo Choi, Ambassador of South Korea, offered assurances that the Korean Embassy would do its best to enhance the development of Pakistan. While discussing agriculture and livestock he said that these are the backbone of a country and students must play their role in the agricultural development of Pakistan.\03\29\story_29-3-2013_pg11_3

Riaz Haq said...

A recent UNESCO report shows that Pakistan had 162 science and tech researchers per million people in 2009, a 2X increase from from 80 in 2005.

By contrast India had 152 S&T researchers per million inhabitants in 2009, up from 136 in 2005.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Frontier Post story on stalled progress in biotech since Musarraf's departure:

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international agreement that specifically address the safety of transgenic organisms or Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) in the environment in relation to international trade. Pakistan signed the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in 2001. However, due to the slow establishment of infrastructure and facilities for the Protocol implementation, the ratification came in March 2009. It is worth mentioning that during Gen. Musharraf regime (1999-2008), much emphasis was placed on science and technology and Higher Education Commission (HEC) was established under the able leadership of Dr. Atta-Ur-Rehman. First time in the history of Pakistan, a fairly large proportion of the country’s annual budget was allocated for science and technology with the emergence of new universities and research institutes across the country. Biotechnology as a new baby also received a big share of the allotted funds for building biotechnology infrastructure including new buildings, purchase of equipments and trained and skilled manpower. Thousands of biotech graduates were sent abroad on scholarships to get training, expertise and overall foreign research exposure. However, this golden period did not sustained longer and came to an end with the transition of government from military rule to democracy. Under the huge pressure from the so-called inherited challenges including energy crisis, global recession and the mounting international debts, the new democratically elected government imposed big cuts on the funds allocated for higher education. In addition, poor management at the administrative level, gross mismanagement in funds allocation and appointments of incompetent and non-technical personnel resulted in hip-hazard research activities with no clear cut future goals. Apart from that, research duplications, lack of coordination among the ongoing research activities at various biotech centers, failure in targeting priority research areas, lack of industry link with biotech research and lack of awareness among common people towards adoption of new technologies and their products, further aggravated the future of biotechnology in Pakistan. These illogical and unhealthy manoeuvrings undoubtedly damaged the future vision of socio-economic development as perceived by the progress of biotechnology and other science and technology related areas working under the HEC. The recent worsening of the energy crisis and continued electricity shortage in the country added further fuel to the fire. In the current situation with low funding for research activities and frequent power shortage, it is almost impossible to carry on biotechnology research activities of international quality and standards at the university and institute level. During the first decade of 2000, which represents the initial phase of biotech establishment in the country, a major portion of the allotted funds for biotech institutes was spent on purchase of expensive and state of the art research equipments. However, the present situation is that most of these equipments are not functional due to either lack of trained and skilled manpower or shortage of funds to fulfill their energy and other consumption requirements. That is the main reason, our biotech institutes are mainly focusing on theory rather than quality and product-oriented practical research of international standards.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nation report on Pakistan's rising research publications in international journals:

Pakistan has witnessed, an impressive 50 per cent increase in the number of research publications during just the last two years, going up from 3939 to 6200 in the higher education sector of Pakistan.

This has been the second highest increase worldwide. Scimago, the world's leading research database, forecast that if this research trend from Pakistan continues, then by 2018, Pakistan will move ahead 26 notches in world ranking, from 43 to 27, and for the first time ever, will cross Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand in Asia. Today Pakistan is publishing more research papers per capita than India.
The number of PhD faculty at our public universities has also increased by almost 50%, from 4203 to 6067 in just the last 2 years alone. This is the result of the HEC PhD scholars that have started returning back and joining universities. These scholars are being selected for pursuing studies at leading universities of the academically advanced countries through a well-defined open, transparent and merit based mechanism.
About 10 to 15 scholars are completing their PhDs every week and are being placed by HEC at the universities under Interim Placement of Fresh PhDs Programme (IPFP). Other HEC incentives include a 0.5 million research grant to every returning scholar. Currently, there are hundreds of fresh foreign PhDs currently inducted into various universities across the country.
The number of PhD students enrolled at the universities has increased by over 40% in just the last one year, from 6937 to 9858 students, while over 28122 students are registered for MPhil/MS, up from 16960, an increase of 65% in just two years.
The increase in the number of PhDs awarded is again very similar, from 628 to 927 in the last 3 years, and will surge exponentially in the future as more PhD faculty and students join the universities.
Commenting on these developments, Dr. Javaid R. Laghari Chairperson HEC said that Universities are the single most important producers of knowledge and research that leads to innovation and entrepreneurship.
By introducing innovation, creativity and interdisciplinary research as a vital component of teaching, and with knowledge exchange programs, the university contributes more directly to the economy and the society than many other institutions in the country.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from Time magazine's story (titled The Original Genius Bar) of the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton which captures the history of R&D in America:

Founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner, an educational theorist, and siblings Louis Bamberger and Caroline Bamberger Fuld, department-store moguls who provided the initial endowment of $5 million, the institute was meant to counteract a trend in the U.S. toward applied science. Dubbed an "intellectual hotel" by one director, J. Robert Oppenheimer, it was a magnet during World War II for mathematicians and physicists, including Einstein, who were fleeing the Nazis. The early decades of the institute's history, just before and after the war, coincided with a formative period for science in the U.S., when MIT morphed from a technical school into a place for ambitious research and AT&T's Bell Labs invented the transistor. Men like von Neumann, who created game theory, Oppenheimer, the chain-smoking father of the atomic bomb, and Kennan, an architect of U.S. foreign policy toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War, turned the institute into a hub for academics who had a direct line to Washington. When historian George Dyson was growing up there in the 1950s and '60s--his father Freeman Dyson was working on, among other things, a way to propel spacecraft by exploding nuclear bombs beneath them--he recalls, "If you spilled your food at the table, you were going to hit somebody who could go to the telephone and call the President of the United States."

Today the institute employs 28 permanent faculty members in schools of history, math, social science and natural sciences, along with roughly 200 visiting members who are selected for research fellowships of one to five years. Some 80% of the institute's operating expenses are funded by income from its endowment, which has been supplemented since the Bamberger days by donors including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former trustee. (The campus now includes a Bloomberg Hall.) The rest of the operating budget comes from grants from private foundations and the government, mostly the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and NASA. As director, Dijkgraaf answers to a board of trustees that includes former Harvard dean Benedict Gross, Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein and Google's Eric Schmidt. The chairman of the board is Charles Simonyi, the billionaire philanthropist and former Microsoft executive who became a space tourist in 2007....,33009,2147285,00.html

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan to launch Science TV channel, reports Daily Times:

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Science Club (PSC) has launched beta version of Pakistan’s first science, technology, innovation and educational television,, which will be fully functional by August 14.
Pakistan PSC President Abdul Rauf told APP that with the launch of this channel, people would be able to access significant amounts of information with reference to any topic in a short time through different programmes.
He said today television has become an important part of people’s life as a source of information, entertainment, a great tool for learning and education, and communications.
Many different programme genres have been used to address diverse audiences for a variety of formal and non-formal learning purposes with scientifically measured results, he said.
Abdul Rauf said the channel would air educational programmes in all subjects, including physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology and zoology, offering an excellent opportunity for young people to learn.
“In remote villages, it will help spread education to willing students through distance learning. Educational television will educate masses on hygiene, literacy, childcare and farming methods or on any topic related to day to day happenings,” he said.
PSC President said would cover all events from Pakistan related to science and technology and educational activities.
It will also offer free online courses of web application development, DIY (do it yourself) projects, project management and other science and technology topics.
He said also has an entertainment category with science fiction movies, cartoons and science entertainment programmes.
The channel will cover science and technology educational activities in addition to popularising the subjects through disseminating the relevant information and latest progress to students and common people.
Rauf said this television channel can prove to be very useful, easy to access at anytime from anywhere and users can access a significant amount of information with reference to any topic in a short time regardless of geographic barriers, allowing them to consult different points of view as well as hands-on experience through different DIY (do it yourself) projects.
The channel will use interactive and innovative programmes for this purpose that cover topics of science, chemistry, physics, education, technology, DIY projects, e-learning, documentaries, news, interviews, events, experiments and entertainment.
“The main objective of this web TV is to promote scientific culture and the youth’s interest in science, technology and innovations. The channel would also popularise science for laymen and students, seeking to cultivate the spirit of scientific inquiry and the love of learning in its audience,” said Abdul Rauf.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story on Pakistan becoming associate member of CERN:

Pakistan on Friday moved a step closer to becoming associate member of European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.
According to scientists at the National Centre for Physics (NCP) which has been collaborating with CERN since 2000, the CERN Council unanimously approved in principle Pakistan’s name for the process of achieving associate membership, at a meeting on September 17.
The final approval for associate membership depends upon the report of a CERN “fact-finding mission” which will visit Pakistan in February 2014, said Dr Hafeez Hoorani, who is the Director Research at NCP.
The Council’s approval marks the culmination of a process that was initiated by Pakistani scientists in 2008 and has witnessed scientific lobbying, political delays and even a diplomatic campaign by the Pakistani Foreign Office. It also signals the beginning of a process that could potentially lead to Pakistan’s associate membership by the end of 2014.

Located on the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland, CERN conducts some of the most complex scientific experiments of all-time in a bid to understand the structure of the universe. It is the birthplace of the World Wide Web and is home to the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
Pakistan is already contributing to CERN projects including designing detection technology and providing personnel support for the LHC’s maintenance. Associate membership could take the level of collaboration up a notch....
The CERN Council consists of 20 member states — all European countries — which are represented by two members each, a scientist and a diplomat. According to NCP scientists, the diplomats were reluctant when Pakistan’s associate membership application came up this year.
CERN has three associate members at present: Serbia, Israel and Ukraine. Responding to a question, Hoorani said Pakistan has also beaten regional neighbour India to the membership process.
Following the approval from the Council, a four-member CERN team led by Director for Research and Computing, Sergio Bertolluci, will visit Pakistan in 2014, he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report on an emerging science city in Karachi:

....Of these five centers, one is the only institute for human clinical trials in Pakistan, the other a core of computational biology and the third provides consultancy to people suffering from genetic diseases.


The centers and their growth have been working towards what has been termed as a ‘silent revolution’ and had been described by Professor Wolfgang Voelter of Tubingen University as a ‘miracle.’

The Hussain Ebrahim Jamal (HEJ) Research Institute of Chemistry was only a small post graduate institute before a generous donation of Rs 5 million in 1976 set the center towards the path of excellence. Latif Ebrahim Jamal’s endowment, on behalf of the Hussain Ebrahim Jamal Foundation, was the largest private funding for science in Pakistan at the time.

The center houses old NMR machines of 300 megahertz to state-of-the-art Liquid Chromatograph Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (LCNMR).

Under the leadership of eminent chemist Dr Salimuzzaman Siddiqui and Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, the institute became a magnet for more funding and projects from around the world. Over a period of time, it received $30 million in funding from various countries. Recently, Islamic Development Bank (IDB) donated $ 40 million for research on regional and tropical diseases. Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, a renowned chemist and the former chairman of Higher Education Commission said,

Currently, the center has one of the largest PhD programs in the country in the fields of natural product chemistry, plant biotechnology, computational biology, spectroscopy and other disciplines at the frontiers of science.

Young scholars research scientific literature at the LEJ National Science Information Center. The facility is connected to the world’s largest science database, ranging from thousands of primary research journals and books. -Photo by author
Young scholars research scientific literature at the LEJ National Science Information Center. The facility is connected to the world’s largest science database, ranging from thousands of primary research journals and books. -Photo by author
The ground floor of the institute holds 12 state-of-the-art Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) machines that are vital in the research of the structure, reaction and other properties of various compounds and molecules, as well as an X-ray crystallography setup which uses X-rays to learn the structure of crystalline material.

The X-ray crystallography setup is used to construct 3-D structures of molecules under study. -Photo by author
The X-ray crystallography setup is used to construct 3-D structures of molecules under study. -Photo by author
“We have recently finished the structure of a compound showing anti-inflammatory activity,” said Sammer Yousuf, senior research officer at the institute who was awarded the Regional Prize for Young Scientists by the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) in 2011 for her work.

“In the last two and a half years our institute was awarded 24 international patents,” Dr Rehman proudly adds.

Since its inception, the HEJ which was inducted into the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) in the ‘90s has produced hundreds of doctorates, thousands of papers and hundreds of international patents, and also helps over 350 industries across Pakistan. The Industrial Analytical Center at the HEJ provides testing, consultancy and research for various industries in Pakistan.

The construction of a state-of-the-art center for nanotechnology is underway while the Jamil-ur-Rehman Center for Genome Research, also falling under HEJ, is almost complete. The center, named after Dr Rehman’s father who was the main donor of the institute, already houses modern gene sequencing machines.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nation news story on Knowledge Hub in Karachi:

KARACHI - First time in the history of country, Latif Ebrahim Jamal National Science Information Center (LEJNSIC), Karachi University (KU), is going to start an open learning program, named ‘LEJ Knowledge HUB’, in Pakistan and globally as well.
These views were expressed by former HEC chairman Prof Attaur Rahman while speaking at a press conference at Karachi Press Club on Friday.
“Pakistan is now among the first in the world to initiate a learning platform which includes integrated courses from various major world sources for ready accessibility, structured mentoring and assessment system,” he added.
He said the programme has potential to change the entire landscape of higher education in Pakistan and the developing world.
Chairman Husein Ebrahim Jamal Foundation Mr Aziz Latif Jamal and Director International Center for Chemical, Biological Sciences (ICCBS-KU) Prof Iqbal Chaudhary were also present on the occasion.
Prof Attaur Rahman said that the vision of the program was to provide an interface for the researchers and reputed institutions from around the world to collaborate, share and enhance their knowledge. An easily accessible treasure chest of unending information is being made available to students, faculty and researchers alike, he maintained.
The entire programme is led by our most celebrated scientist and global leader in education, Prof Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman as a monumental service to the nation and the world at large. Talking about his federal minister ship, he said that the first major steps to enter into the new IT age were taken in Pakistan when I (Prof Atta) was the Federal Minister of Science & Technology in 2000-2002.
“Internet access was confined to only 29 cities till early 2,000. It was rapidly expanded to cover 2,000 cities, towns and villages during the next two years. Fiber was expanded from 40 cities to over a 1000 cities and towns. Bandwidth had been priced ridiculously high till then ---$ 87,000 per month for a 2 MB line per month. The rapid improvements in the IT infra-structure allowed me later as Chairman Higher Education Commission to use them for the benefit of the higher education sector,” he held.
“In the year 2001, a satellite was placed in space (PakSat 1) and a couple of transponders were set aside for distance learning courses of the Virtual University that we established in Lahore. Today the Virtual University provides quality education to over 100,000 students and has teaching programs across Pakistan and abroad,” he maintained.
Dr Atta said that the inaugural ceremony of the LEJ Knowledge HUB will be held at Sindh Governor House on December 12, when the 4-day 14th Asian Symposium on Medicinal Plants, Spices and Other Natural Products (ASOMPS) will also be concluded; President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain will inaugurate the country’s great knowledge resource.”
Aziz Latif Jamal said: “LatifEbrahim Jamal National Science Information Center (LEJNSIC) has been serving as a hub of information dissemination and focal center of the Virtual Education Project Pakistan (VEPP) since 2008, led and supervised by Attaur Rahman and Prof Iqbal Choudhary.
Talking about the significance of the Asian Symposium, Prof Iqbal Choudhary said that a special session is dedicated to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ASOMPS, which started in 1960 from Peshawar (Pakistan). Moreover, some plenary and keynote lectures will be also arranged through video conferencing.
“The program will consist of plenary lectures, keynote lectures, session lectures and poster presentations. Each session will address a theme topic within the area of Medicinal Plants and other Related Natural Products. Special events will be arranged to ensure a lively interaction between scientists and students of natural product chemistry,” he opined....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a SciDev story on slow progress in nanotechnology research and development in Pakistan:

[KARACHI] Nanotechnology research in Pakistan, which had shown a trend of higher publication numbers over the last decade, has suffered from the country’s present financial crisis, a study said.

In 2008 the government did not extend the term of the National Commission for Nanoscience and Technology, initially set up in 2003 for three years and later extended for two more years.

The study, published online on 29 March in Scientometrics, said research publications in the field had grown from seven in 2000 to an impressive 542 papers in 2011, registering a 29 per cent annual growth rate.

This is higher than the average annual growth rate of 23 per cent registered globally, said Rizwan Sarwar Bajwa, research associate at the Preston Institute of Nanoscience and Technology in Islamabad who, together with his colleague Khwaja Yaldram, had carried out the study.

Much of the contribution came from 13 universities while only two state-owned research and development institutions in the country participated in nanoscience and nanotechnology research.

The study attributed the spurt in research and publications to heavy government spending on manpower training and procuring the latest equipment for laboratories working in the field.

"Unfortunately, the present financial crunch faced by the country could have a negative impact on the progress achieved so far," the study concluded.

"The publication shows that despite availability of funding, the research and development institutes contributed very little in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology," Bajwa, lead author of the study, told SciDev.Net.

If developing countries such as Pakistan do not engage in basic research in nanoscience, they will end up as consumers of hi-tech products from other countries, he said.

Riaz Haq said...

In addition to the economic revival, Musharraf focused on social sector as well. Pakistan's HDI grew an average rate of 2.7% per year under President Musharraf from 2000 to 2007, and then its pace slowed to 0.7% per year in 2008 to 2012 under elected politicians, according to the 2013 Human Development Report titled “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World”.

Overall, Pakistan's human development score rose by 18.9% during Musharraf years and increased just 3.4% under elected leadership since 2008. The news on the human development front got even worse in the last three years, with HDI growth slowing down as low as 0.59% — a paltry average annual increase of under 0.20 per cent. Going further back to the  decade of 1990s when the civilian leadership of the country alternated between PML (N) and PPP,  the increase in Pakistan's HDI was 9.3% from 1990 to 2000, less than half of the HDI gain of 18.9% on Musharraf's watch from 2000 to 2007.

Acceleration of HDI growth during Musharraf years was not an accident.  Not only did Musharraf's policies accelerate economic growth, helped create 13 million new jobs, cut poverty in half and halved the country's total debt burden in the period from 2000 to 2007, his government also ensured significant investment and focus on education and health care. The annual budget for higher education increased from only Rs 500 million in 2000 to Rs 28 billion in 2008, to lay the foundations of the development of a strong knowledge economy, according to former education minister Dr. Ata ur Rehman. Student enrollment in universities increased from 270,000 to 900,000 and the number of universities and degree awarding institutions increased from 57 in 2000 to 137 by 2008. In 2011, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2007 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the various PSUs including Pakistan Steel and PIA, both of which  continue to sustain huge losses due to patronage-based hiring.

Abdul Hannan said...

A Highly informative blog for all biotechnologist's. I need to know the current status of "Genomic Medicine" in Pakistan. And what needs to be done for its betterment.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani scientists have developed a “genetic barcode” system which could be used for accurate and quick identification of medicinally important halophytes (salt tolerant plants) across the world.

The method can be a valuable tool for plant taxonomists to find useful halophytes. The scientists from the Dr A Q Khan Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (KIBGE) at Karachi University collected different species of genus, Suaeda or Sea Blite commonly found in Asia.

They also gathered different samples from across Pakistan and they targeted specific chloroplast gene with the hopes of finding a similar DNA sequence to develop a potential bar code common in halophytes.

The team examined Suaeda. fruticosa, S. monoica, S. acuminata, S. heterophylla and S. oluf species. They studied three chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) regions rbcL, matK and psbB, psbN, psbT and one nuclear DNA (nrDNA) region or Internal Transcribed Spacer (ITS) was tested for the identification of Suaeda species.

To develop the barcode, the scholars studied 11 fresh and herbarium samples of five different species of Suaeda. The samples were collected from Uthal and Hub, Balochistan and five different cities of Sindh and Punjab.

DNA barcoding is a comparatively new technique in which almost every plant or animal can be identified through matching genetic make up between species.

The other established technique is taxonomy, a study of physical appearance to identify animals, birds and plants.

By establishing a DNA region as a yardstick from the genome of an animals or plants, a barcode can be developed to identify other close species. It works in the same way as scanners and the black stripes on the products in super stores.

The one good example is 648 base-pair region in the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase 1 gene (“CO1”) that is being used for the identification of many birds, butterflies and fish.

The scenario is different in plants as rbcl and matK are being used as the barcode regions. However, the technique will produce more viable results if used with taxonomy.

Riaz Haq said...

Three US and four Pakistani universities have agreed to collaborate on research on energy, water and agriculture.

The US will provide $127 million for the establishment of the Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS).

The partnership will harness applied research and find innovative and practical solutions for Pakistan’s energy, water, and agriculture and food security challenges.

The details were revealed on Monday by a US embassy group at a roundtable discussion with journalists. Officials also shared details the upcoming inaugural meeting of Education, Science, and Technology Working Group (ESTWG).

The projects are to be launched on Wednesday at Planning Commission and National University of Science and Technology Islamabad and will be led by a US delegation along with Pakistani government officials.

While giving an overview of the programme, US Embassy Assistance Coordinator Brian Aggeler said the ESTWG is the sixth and newest working group under the US-Pak Strategic Dialogue, which is diplomatic framework for sustained engagement between both countries.

US Cultural Affairs Officer Judith Ravin said the programme is in line with the four Es of collaboration (economy, education, energy and extremism).

“It is an opportunity for these universities to maximise their capital and touch entire higher education sector,” Ravin said.

Under the CAS programme, the University of Agriculture Faisalabad and University of California, Davis will collaborate in agriculture and food security. In the energy sector, NUST and University of Engineering and Technology Peshawar will jointly work with the Arizona State University, while Mehran University of Engineering and Technology Jamshoro will work with the University of Utah for water projects.

USAID Education Office Deputy Director Garth Willis said revised curricula, financial assistance and laboratories will be established for the chosen universities through a competitive process.

Under the programme, scholarships, exchange programmes and leading networking activities will be provided. Similarly, construction, rehabilitation and up-gradation of CAS facilities are also part of the programme.

Riaz Haq said...

Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong has said that China would establish Bio‑Tech Research Laboratory in Pakistan under a joint venture programme to promote agriculture sector in the country.

The lab would offer excellent opportunities to carry out joint study and research and also enhance maximum cooperation between scientists of both countries, he said.

He called for maximum cooperation between the two countries in the fields of science, technology, agriculture and power sector.

Meanwhile Chinese Embassy sources here in Islamabad said Ambassador Sun paid a productive visit to Multan on July 10 and 11. He met Asad Ullah Khan, Commissioner of Multan and exchanged views on strengthening friendship and bilateral cooperation.

He paid site-visits to Fatima 2x60MW Bagasse Power Plant and encouraged the Chinese companies to participate in the construction of power projects in Pakistan. The Fatima 2x60MW Bagasse Power Plant constructed by Chinese contractor is applying advanced and environment-friendly technology, which will become a high-efficiency biomass power plant and add electricity to the Pakistani grid when being completed in 2016.

Ambassador Sun visited a Chinese Cotton Ginning Company and Multan Cotton Research Station. The Chinese Company aims to build a cotton industrial chain in Multan. The Multan Cotton Research Station is part of the China-Pakistan Joint Bio-Tech Laboratory. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif witnessed the signing of the MoU of this Joint Laboratory in April this year.

The Research Station has bred 16 cotton varieties of antivirus, heat and drought tolerant species. The Ambassador said, Chinese side would like to seek the possibility to expand the agriculture cooperation between the two countries.

He reiterated China’s support to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, including infrastructure construction and production capacity cooperation. He called for cultural and people-to-people exchanges. He said that the Chinese side will provide Chinese government scholarship for students in Multan to study in China. He is fully convinced that the deep-rooted friendship between the two countries will be passed on from generation to generation.

Ambassador Sun also visited the culture and historical sites in Multan during his tour.

Riaz Haq said...

#chemistry Olympiad 2016 to be held in #Karachi #Pakistan

KARACHI: Pakistan will host the 48th International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) next year at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), Karachi University (KU).

This was announced at a press conference held at the H.E.J. Research Institute of Chemistry, KU on Monday.

Around 300 young chemists and 150 experts from 75 countries are expected to participate in the international chemistry competition to be held from July 20 to 29, 2016.

The event will be jointly hosted by ICCBS-KU and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) Pakistan.

“Holding this prestigious global event in the country is an honour for the nation. The event will be held under foolproof security,” said president of the IChO 2016, Prof Atta-ur-Rahman.

Riaz Haq said...

The leaders of the University of Utah and Mehran University of Engineering and Technology traded memorandums of agreement Tuesday in the new campus law building, formalizing an academic partnership for water research.

Although the signing of a memorandum of agreement does not bind either party by law to uphold agreements made regarding the project, the documents are treated with the highest respect by both institutions.

"Utah and Pakistan surely share common ground in this sector. We both cope with water scarcity and the need for better ground management," University of Utah President David Pershing said.

The partnership will serve as a model of cooperation, address critical water issues and train the next generation's water professionals, Pershing said.

The educational partnership is part of a program known as United States-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Water and is funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

Academic programs resulting from the project will include master's and doctorate degrees in three water disciplines at Mehran University, which provides many opportunities for research and will be the primary center for the project because it's located in the water-stressed Sindh province of Pakistan.

According to M. Aslam Uqaili, vice chancellor of Mehran University, the higher education institution received nearly 500 applicants for 50 positions in the upcoming academic water programs.

Meanwhile, U. faculty, staff and students will have several research opportunities as they collaborate with Pakistani academics and five other partner institutions, including Colorado State University.

"It aligns very well with strategic priorities of our institution," said Ruth Watkins, head of academic affairs at the U.

Watkins said the partnership will help bring in expert faculty to the University of Utah, assist in achieving the school's environmental goals, and increase the presence of women in technology and science.

Participating parties are also hoping the pending research will address four overarching water problems in Pakistan: surface and groundwater availability, hazard and risk management, environmental quality, and climate change.

"The situation in Pakistan, as far as water scarcity is concerned both for human consumption as well as for agriculture, is something that really does need to be tackled," said Hamid Asghar Khan, consul general of Pakistan in Los Angeles.

In some areas of Pakistan, young children die from the lack of proper drinking water, Khan said.

Finding water solutions Pakistan is just the beginning. United States Agency for International Development officials are hoping new technology will be applicable to other water-stressed regions throughout the world.

Riaz Haq said...

Arizona State University will help bring light to Pakistan via a partnership celebrated Thursday.

Officials gathered on the Tempe campus to mark the initiative, in which ASU is partnering with two top Pakistani universities for five years to hunt for energy solutions for the South Asian nation.

More than 70 percent of the Pakistani population does not receive steady electricity. About 1,200 people died in Karachi this summer because of lack of power for air-conditioning and water pumps, according to a U.S. government official at the event.

The collaboration will focus on applied research relevant to Pakistan’s energy needs. Together academia, industry and the Pakistani government will work to formulate a sustainable energy policy.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded the $18 million project to ASU to establish the Partnership Center for Advanced Studies in Energy (PCASE) in association with Pakistan’s National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad and the University of Engineering and Technology-Peshawar.

ASU has worked with USAID on more than $40 million in grant-awarded projects; currently more than 30 projects are active. The grant to establish the Pakistani partnership is the largest USAID grant received by ASU to date.

“There are parts of Islamabad today that are without energy most of the time,” U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said at the Thursday event. “I believe that this development will have a direct impact on the people of Pakistan.”

Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president for the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU, said McCain is a senator who thinks globally.

“We are so fortunate to have him here today,” Panchanathan said.

Lately the two Pakistani universities have initiated programs that the population needs, said Mohammad Shahid, the pro rector of the National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad.

“We want to fill in the gaps,” Shahid said. “There is a dire need.”

It’s vital the project makes life better for the people of Pakistan, said Syed Imtiaz Hussain Gilani, vice chancellor with the University of Engineering and Technology in Peshawar.

“With things calming down in the political arena, I think this is the time for the private sector to come in and invest,” Gilani said. “It’s a country that needs everything, not just energy. … I hope the frontier spirit I feel on this campus drives some people to come forward and invest.”

The creation of the two energy research centers – one at each Pakistani university – is expected to improve U.S.-Pakistani relations.

Both countries’ interest in renewable energy supersedes whatever may be happening in the diplomatic realm, said Larry Sampler, assistant to the administrator in the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, USAID.

“Truly we are part of a wonderful team effort that going forward is going to do wonderful things,” Sampler said.

Riaz Haq said...

University of #California #Davis, #Pakistan launch $17M food,agriculture Center For Advanced Studies at #Faisalabad …

The launch of a $17 million collaborative project linking UC Davis and Pakistan’s leading agricultural university was celebrated today at UCD, which will receive $10 million of the funds.

The new U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Agriculture and Food Security, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, will make it possible for faculty members and graduate students from both countries to study and do research at each other’s campuses. The project also is designed to update curriculum and technical resources at Pakistan’s University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.

Present for today’s ceremonial launch were dignitaries from Pakistan, USAID and UCD.

“UC Davis has been partnering with colleagues in Pakistan since 2009, sharing expertise in agriculture from crop production to post-harvest handling,” said James Hill, associate dean emeritus of International Programs for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UCD.

“Establishment of this new center will allow us to build on those efforts, with a renewed emphasis on an exchange of faculty and graduate students,” he said.

During its first year of funding, the center will plan several workshops to assist the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, with technology transfer and entrepreneurship to strengthen its connections to the private sector. UCD also will initiate programs in both research and curriculum development to improve graduate studies.

Hill noted that two other Pakistan-focused projects are already underway through the International Programs office, primarily in the area of horticultural crops and agricultural extension activities.

Agriculture is the largest sector of Pakistan’s economy, providing jobs for half of that country’s labor force. Some of the traditionally important crops in Pakistan are wheat, cotton, rice, sugar cane and maize. In recent years, crops like beans, peas, lentils, onions, potatoes, chilies and tomatoes also have increased in importance, along with fruit crops such as citrus and mangoes.

The newly funded center at UCD is the most recent of several partnerships of the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies, a $127 million investment from USAID, linking universities in the two countries and using applied research to solve Pakistan’s challenges in energy, water and food security.

The overall program includes construction of laboratories, research facilities and libraries in Pakistan. Other participating U.S. universities include the University of Utah and Arizona State University, focusing on water and energy, respectively.

Riaz Haq said...

#China to build $1.5 billion science park in #Islamabad #Pakistan …

China on Wednesday agreed to invest $1.5 billion to set up Pakistan-China Science Park in Islamabad.

Minister for Science and Technology Rana Tanvir Hussain - who is on a visit to China - signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with his Chinese counterpart UN Urmaqi. He also invited the Chinese investers to visit Islamabad in next month to select location for construction of the Park by March 2016. He expressed his gratitude for huge investment in Pakistan.

The minister said that Pakistan and China had a lot to share with each other in term of technology, expertise and business. “We are looking to strengthen our mutual ties on economic as well as technological fronts,” he said, adding that this project would prove to be a link of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It would bring prosperity to the people of both sides.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan ranks among top 10 for #science contribution in #Asia for 1996-2014 …

Riaz Haq said...

MedCong: Medical corridor between #Pakistan and #China to collaborate in health sciences and serve the poor. #CPEC …

KARACHI: Medcong will serve as a medical corridor with China that will benefit poor patients in the two countries, said former federal minister and former Higher Education Commission chairperson Prof Attaur Rehman on Friday.

He was speaking at the inauguration of the first-ever three-day Pak-China Medical Congress (Medcong). The event, attended by senior medical experts of the two neighbouring countries, was inaugurated by Prof Rehman.

The Medcong, which is jointly being organised by Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) in collaboration with Chinese Medical Association (CMA), aims at paving the way for a medical corridor between Pakistan and China.

Addressing the ceremony, Prof Rehman said that Pakistan and China have strong high-level collaboration with each other. “The relations between both the countries have been improving day by day in various sectors, including education, research, medical, infrastructure building and other fields,” he said.

Prof Rehman said the establishment of a medical corridor with China will benefit the two countries’ poor patients. Tremendous opportunities exist for the medical students and researchers of the two countries, once provided with a chance to work together, he said.

CMA president Prof Yan Fei Liu said in his speech that Pakistan is magnificent, rich in natural resources and cultural heritage. “This ancient and magical land gave birth to a brilliant civilisation,” he said. “The Pakistani people are kind-hearted, hardworking, talented and courageous with the spirit of perseverance and [are] unyielding.”

According to him, CMA and PMA are going to make coherent efforts to build a Pak-China medical corridor to deepen the implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and to seek bilateral exchanges and cooperation in medical education, patient caring, academia exchanges, medical information and experience sharing.

Prof Tipu Sultan, senior doctor and chairperson of the organising committee of Medcong said that China and Pakistan have been dear and close friends since long. “The academic and professional cooperation between the PMA and the CMA will bear great results,” he said.

A 44-member delegation representing the medical fraternity from China, including CMA vice-president and secretary-general Dr Keqin Rao, CMA deputy secretary-general Dr Lingo Lu, CMA international relations department deputy director Qing Long Meng and CMA project manager Weili Zhao are participating in the congress. The delegates, comprising medical experts from Sri Lanka, England and United Arab Emirates, are also participating in the congress along with their counterparts from different parts of Pakistan.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was also inked by the PMA and its Chinese counterpart, the CMA, during the congress. Both the PMA and CMA were declared sister concerns under the MoU while the decision to rotate the event every two years in the two countries will also be finalised.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Govt to patronize #stem cell #technology: minister. …

Federal Minister for National Health Services Regulation and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar pledged to patronise stem cell technology in Pakistan to offer cost-effective medical treatment for diseases varying from arthritis to cancer.

Speaking at first international seminar on stem cell technology, she said that the government would encourage private players to promote the new technology in Pakistan. The seminar was organised by the Al-Sayed Hospital in which leading experts in stem cell technology, lawmakers, and senior officials of health departments also participated.

The federal minister stated that providing affordable healthcare services was one of the top priorities of the government. She agreed with expert Dr Salman Gilani that lack of modern techniques was forcing the patients get treatment from abroad. Unsal Gundogan, Prof Murat Erturk and neurosurgeon Prof Haluk Deda came all the way from Turkey to attend the seminar.

Atigen-Cell Technology, a leading stem cell facility in Asia, has been facilitating patients in Pakistan on cheapest rates. Dr Gilani informed the participants that the stem cells were specialised cells in human body that were activated once there is any injury or disease and try to restore the normal function of the body. “As physicians, we collect stem cells from the body and deliver them where they are required to bring that tissue or organ back to normal,” he said.

He said that the stem cell transplant was the latest and most cutting edge technique for the treatment with various illnesses and was becoming a popular option worldwide for the treatment of those diseases that did not have any adequate management available. He also said that the stem cell transplant has provided hope for the treatment of many diseases that were thought to be untreatable in the past.

There are almost 100 individual diseases that can be treated through stem cell transplant today and more and more treatments are being added frequently. Several patients, treated at the Al-Sayed Hospital, narrated their speedy recovery from the diseases they were suffering for years. Heart and kidney transplant surgeon Dr Tauseef expressed the hope that the stem cell technology would help patients avoid expensive and complicated treatments like surgery etc.

MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar, MNA Maiza Hameed, MNA Abdul Qahar Khan and Col (r) Mukhtar also spoke at the occasion.

Riaz Haq said...

Secret #Harvard meeting on synthetic #human #genome incites #ethics debate, draws academics ire. #DNA

About 150 scientists assembled at Harvard on Tuesday for an off-the-record, no-media-allowed discussion of how to create, from scratch, an intact genome, including the genetic code of a human being. The idea is to go beyond "reading" genetic material to actively "writing" it, George Church, a Harvard Medical School researcher who helped organized the event, told The Post in an interview Friday morning.

Scientists can synthesize DNA chemically, and these techniques could ultimately lead to complete genomes that could be implanted in cells for research purposes. No one should panic just yet about mad scientists running amok: The researchers are not talking about making synthetic human beings. But the gathering drew a rebuke from two academics who heard about the event and didn't think it should have been held behind closed doors.

Drew Endy, associate professor of bioengineering at Stanford University, and Laurie Zoloth, a professor of medical ethics and humanities at Northwestern University, published an essay this week raising questions about whether the gathering at Harvard had gone too far. After citing the beneficial possibilities of such research, they raised the thornier ethical questions:

In a world where human reproduction has already become a competitive marketplace, with eggs, sperm and embryos carrying a price, it is easy to make up far stranger uses of human genome synthesis capacities. Would it be OK, for example, to sequence and then synthesize Einstein’s genome? If so how many Einstein genomes should be made and installed in cells, and who would get to make them? Taking a step back, just because something becomes possible, how should we approach determining if it is ethical to pursue?

Meanwhile, Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Berkeley, Calif.-based Center for Genetics and Society, a politically progressive organization that has had a skeptical view of biotechnology, issued a statement Friday criticizing the Harvard gathering: "If these reports are accurate, the meeting looks like a move to privatize the current conversation about heritable genetic modification."

Church told The Post that the meeting was originally supposed to be open.

The organizers had planned to stream video of the event, and invite numerous journalists, he said. But they had also hoped to pair the event with an article, written by many scientists, that had submitted to a major scientific journal.

The article still hasn't been published and the organizers decided to keep the event private, Church said. He said the organizers wanted to avoid being accused of "science by press release" without a peer-reviewed article backing them up.

He said the video of the event will be released when the peer-reviewed article is published, likely in the very near future. "It wasn't secret. There was nothing secret or private about it," Church said. But he added: "Probably with 20-20 hindsight we shouldn't have tried to couple it with a peer-reviewed paper.”

Something tells us this isn't the last time we're going to be talking about synthetic humanoids.

Riaz Haq said...

The Force awakens
Salman Hameed TFT Issue: 09 Sep 2016
What is behind the flourishing amateur astronomy scene in Pakistan? Salman Hameed explains

Pakistan does not have an enviable record in the sciences. The current Nature Index for research output places Pakistan at number 52 – just between Georgia and Bulgaria. However, there is currently a thriving amateur astronomy scene in several Pakistani cities, where the love of the sciences and the joy of sharing the knowledge of the night sky are in full display. Later this month, the various amateur astronomy societies in the country will gather together to launch a new umbrella organisation, The Astronomical League of Pakistan (ALOP). Given the state of the education and the sciences in the country, it is worth exploring the reasons for this unqualified success.

I have been involved with and following the astronomy scene in Pakistan for close to thirty years. I was part of a group of FSc. Intermediate students in Karachi who started Amastropak, the first amateur astronomy society in Pakistan back in 1988. While there were ups and downs in the activities of the society over the years, it could never muster a critical mass of active members, and it eventually shut down in the late 1990s. But now things are different and I have never seen the state of amateur astronomy in Pakistan so lively and so strong. Last month I had the pleasure of meeting astronomy enthusiasts in Lahore and Karachi, and what a treat it was! Both the Lahore Astronomical Society (LAST) and the Karachi Astronomers Society (KAS) boast an active membership of well over a hundred each and they are passionate devotees of the night skies. Most of the members have day jobs unrelated to astronomy, but they squeeze every last second of their free time (or not so free time) for astronomy.


Perhaps the biggest reason astronomy is flourishing is that there is now a committed community of astronomers around and they are eager to spread their own knowledge and passion. This community did not materialise overnight. No one guided the process. No one pressed for any direction. But there has been a thread of continuity, sometimes tenuous and sometimes strong, over the past three decades, and it is that thread that provided comfort in knowing that are others who share common interests across local space and local time.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s Highly Cited Research Papers have increased ten fold in the last 10 years. #science #technology #BRIC …
In the last decade, Pakistan’s scientific productivity increased by more than 4 times, from approximately 2,000 articles per year in 2006 to more than 9,000 articles in 2015. During this time, the number of Highly Cited Papers featuring Pakistan-based authors increased tenfold, from 9 articles in 2006 to 98 in 2015.

Furthermore, in the last 10 years Pakistan has emerged as the country with the highest percentage of Highly Cited Papers compared with the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

This report provides comparisons between Pakistan and BRIC nations taking a look at productivity and leveraging contextual indicators. This analysis points to the fact that Pakistan can be benchmarked with emerging and dynamic countries such as those in the BRIC group.

Riaz Haq said...

#US #Pakistan #Knowledge Corridor to send 10,000 scholars to US, the Higher Education Vision 2025 via @techjuicepk

Reaffirming its commitment towards a developing Pakistan, the Government of Pakistan has announced that an agenda on set of goals to be achieved in the education sector, the Higher Education Vision 2025 will soon be announced and shared with general public.

While addressing an interactive discussion session on the Higher Education Vision 2025, the Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Ahsan Iqbal announced that the the draft on the Higher Education Vision 2025 is in its final phases and will be shared soon, reported Dawn. Chairman HEC Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed were also among the other notable guests who graced the gathering.

Ahsan Iqbal shared the to-be incorporated points with the gathering stating that the emphasis is being pivoted from the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields to the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) fields. Stressing over the importance of Arts education, Ahsan Iqbal said that Government will be establishing an academy to promote the study on social sciences across the country.

Mukhtar Ahmed agreed and pointed that HEC already had redesigned its goals in the light of national goals as prescribed in the Vision. Ahsan Iqbal also mentioned that, as part of the US-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor, 10,000 Pakistani scholars will be sent to the United States for higher study in the next 10 years.

The Higher Education Vision 2025 consists of a set of goals which the state will aspire to achieve in coming years through to 2025. The document will give a direction to the government’s efforts in the education sector and will help it remain focused towards the set targets. The reaffirmation of this resolute is necessary as it also helps state in keeping up with the ongoing developments and improvements in the education sector from around the globe.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s 1st #hybrid #rice #research opens at International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences #Karachi …

The vice chancellor of the University of Karachi, Professor Dr Muhammad Ajmal Khan, inaugurated the Sino-Pakistan Hybrid Rice Research Centre (SPHRRC) at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), KU, on Wednesday.

The audience was informed that it was first of its kind centre in the country and had been set up at a cost of Rs150 million on the premises of the country’s leading research establishment of the ICCBS.

“The research centre has state-of-the-art research facilities, including NMR spectroscopes, plant tissue culture technology, genomics and greenhouses.” The curtain-opening ceremony was attended by ICCBS Patron-in-Chief Professor Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, Consul General of China in Karachi Wang Yu, China National Rice Research Institute (CNRRI) of Hangzhou’s Director General Professor Dr Cheng Shihua and ICCBS Director Professor Dr Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary.

Chinese Consul General Wang Yu said that Pakistan was famous for its high quality rice, while China was great importer of high quality Pakistani rice. Talking about the hybrid rice centre, he observed that the ICCBS owned highly qualified scholars and state-of-the-art research equipment.

Riaz Haq said...

Mutant Varieties Satisfy Market and add USD 6 Billion to Pakistan’s Economy

When Pakistani farmers harvested fields planted with a new mutant variety of cotton, not only did they have a higher yield, they also received a higher price at the market because of the improved fibre quality. Farmers who adopted mutant varieties of sesame released in 2016 saw yields double and income increase, and now these new varieties cover 50 percent of the area planted to sesame in the entire country. Those who planted a mutant variety of castor bean released in 2017, bred for early maturity and high oil content, have already planted it on 2 000 ha and are making an extra USD 618 per ha. These are just a few of dozens of advances made possible by Pakistan’s Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology (NIAB) which, with the support of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division, has used mutation breeding to improve varieties of eight different crops – benefitting millions of Pakistani farmers and their families, and adding billions to the Pakistan economy.

Across the millennia, those entrusted with saving seeds for planting in future seasons have always made decisions related to the environment, choosing seeds from varieties that will give them the best chance of a good harvest. Even as science has advanced the field from simply saving seeds to cross breeding and now to mutation breeding, the crucial role of the plant breeder has remained largely unchanged – developing varieties that can thrive in whatever the local environment has to offer and be resilient enough to adapt to change. Since 1969, Pakistan’s Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology (NIAB), an institute of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, has overseen the development of 43 mutant crop varieties, ranging from sesame seed to castor bean to mandarin to cotton – all bred in response to what Pakistan’s farmers and their consumers need.

The government of Pakistan recognizes the importance of breeding crop varieties specifically for the Pakistan situation – its terrain, its climate, the needs and capacities of its farmers and, of course, when it comes to food crops, the taste and texture that will appeal to consumers. This government support of the NIAB mutant breeding programme has paid back in terms of increased yields and higher quality products, which have not only contributed to farmers’ livelihoods, it has meant more food for the marketplace and improved food security. Two sesame varieties released in 2016 and 2017 have double the yield of traditional varieties and are more suitable for modern cultivation techniques. The mutant mandarin variety, NIAB Kinnow, released in 2017, has an increased yield of more than 30 percent and reduced seed count from around 50 to just 3-5 seeds per fruit, which makes it more valuable and popular for export.

NIAB has received support from the Joint Division for more than 30 years, including equipment and technology packages for mutation breeding, individual staff trainingthrough fellowships, and national and regional training courses. The mutation breeding process calls for irradiating and then planting crop seeds, and then screening them as they grow in the following generations to see which induced changes that emerge could be helpful for breeding in future generations – from aesthetics of colour and texture to physiological changes that account for traits such as heat or cold tolerance, resilience or length of the growing period.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistani, #Chinese firms to make #coronavirus jab in #Pakistan . Searle Pakistan will be the first company to manufacture a #COVID19 #vaccine in Pakistan, said the jab has shown promising results in Phase 1 and 2 trials. #pandemic #pharmaceutical

A Pakistani pharmaceutical company has signed a deal with a Chinese firm to produce a COVID-19 vaccine in the country, according to an official announcement on Thursday.

In a letter to the Pakistan Stock Exchange, Searle Company Limited said it had finalized an agreement with China’s Livzon Mapharm Inc. to manufacture a novel coronavirus vaccine – V-01 – in Pakistan.

“The Searle Company Limited has successfully concluded an exclusive licensing and supply agreement with Livzon Mapharm Inc. for the Recombinant Novel Coronavirus Vaccine (V-01),” read the letter.

“The licensing agreement also covers the manufacturing transition of (V-01) in Pakistan.”

Searle, which will be the first company to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine in Pakistan, said the jab has shown promising results in Phase 1 and 2 trials.

“The Phase Ill clinical study will include multiple countries and enroll more than 20,000 subjects, with the aim to evaluate the efficacy, safety, and immunogenicity of V-01 program,” the letter said.

According to the company, the vaccine has “many potential advantages such as strong safety profile … long durability, and easy to scale up for manufacturing.”

Searle said it was hopeful that “the relevant authorities will take up the matter on urgent basis and support fast-track approval to carry out Phase 3 clinical trials in Pakistan.”

Pakistan has so far approved four COVID-19 vaccines for use in the country – China’s Sinopharm and CanSino, along with Russia’s Sputnik V and the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.

Infections hitting new highs

Pakistan on Friday reported 5,234 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily spike since June 20 last year, raising its overall tally to 678,165.

Another 83 patients died in the last 24 hours, pushing the fatality count to 14,613, according to the Health Ministry.

As many as 607,205 patients have recovered so far, leaving the number of active cases at 56,347, latest data showed.

Infections have surged in the South Asian country of over 200 million in recent days, with more than 75,000 reported in March alone.

Asad Umar, the country’s planning minister who is leading its pandemic response, said the entire region has been experiencing a “severe” COVID-19 spike.

“It is vital that we all contribute to containing the spread by taking sensible precautions. Wear a mask, avoid crowded places, wash hands or sanitize often, reduce travel to only essential work,” he said on Twitter.

As part of efforts to stem surging infections, the government has reimposed a blanket ban on all kinds of public gatherings across the country and is enforcing expanded lockdowns in the worst-hit areas.

Educational institutes have also been closed until at least April 11 in districts with high infection rates.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan to make single-dose Covid vaccine
Chinese team to help scientists, NIH official tells NA penal

An official told a National Assembly panel on Tuesday that the National Institute of Health (NIH) is going to make Pakistan’s own single-dose coronavirus vaccine soon. “We are going to make a single-dose vaccine for Covid-19,” NIH Executive Director Major General Aamer Ikram told the NA Standing Committee on National Health Services. “We conducted the clinical trial of Chinese Covid-19 vaccine CanSinoBio in Pakistan.

The tests that were first conducted on 300 subjects are now administered in more than 150,000 laboratories,” he added. Later talking to the media, Major General Ikram said Pakistan was among the first countries to take part in the clinical trial of CanSinoBio vaccine. “Pakistan had requested China to transfer the technology for the vaccine. The raw material for the vaccine is going to arrive this month. “We hope that we will be able to take some measures for preparation of the vaccine by the end of April. The NIH has procured all the equipment and chemicals needed in this regard.

“Our team is ready to undertake this task while a Chinese team has also arrived in Pakistan. The Chinese team will oversee our team at the NIH,” he said. Earlier briefing the parliamentary panel, Maj Gen Ikram said the NIH Act is also being amended to restructure the organization and make it more vibrant. “Under the new law, there will be seven executive directors and one chief executive director. Employees of the departments merged with the NIH will be able to get a golden handshake within three months.”

He said the NIH has now set up a disease center in every district of the country. The plant which was closed a few years back has been made functional again. “Once the new plant is ready, the process for manufacturing the Covid vaccine will begin. The NIH is going to make its own single-dose vaccine in the near future,” the official said. He said the NIH does not get any funds from the Ministry of Health. “We spent Rs20 million on salaries. All the experts have been included in the NIH board,” he added.

The NA committee lauded the NIH’s efforts and declared it good news for the nation. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Faisal Sultan told the committee that Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed him to resolve the issue of three government hospitals in Karachi in consultation with the provincial government of Sindh. “If the Sindh government wants to run the hospitals, then we have no objections. We are bound to follow the Supreme Court’s orders. Now we will work together to find a solution in accordance with the law. We want to further improve the institutions,” Sultan said.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan inaugurates 1st science tech park
Move is step toward creating knowledge-based economy, says Prime Minister Imran Khan
Islamuddin Sajid |

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday inaugurated the country's first science and technology park in the capital Islamabad.

It was established at the National University of Science and Technology, a leading higher education institution of the country.

"This is a big achievement and we are determined to turn Pakistan into a knowledge-based economy and innovation by utilizing the energies of youth at proper platforms," Khan said, addressing the inaugural ceremony aired on state-run Pakistan Television.

The project would extend to the other parts of the country as well, he added.

The park will host start-ups in diverse areas, particularly agriculture, health and smart technologies.

"This park will serve as a launchpad for the country’s leading researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs," said Technology Minister Fawad Hussain.