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 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...

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 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 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...

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...

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 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 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 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 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...

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 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 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...

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.

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...

#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...

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...

#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...

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.

Riaz Haq said...

Migration of academics: Economic development does not necessarily lead to brain drain

A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock, Germany, developed a database on international migration of academics in order to assess emigration patterns and trends for this key group of innovators. Their paper was published in PNAS on Jan. 18.

As a first step, the team produced a database that contains the number of academics who publish papers regularly, and migration flows and migration rates for all countries that include academics who published papers listed on the bibliographic database Scopus. The migration database was obtained by leveraging metadata of more than 36 million journal articles and reviews published from 1996 to 2021.

"This migration database is a major resource to advance our understanding of the migration of academics," says MPIDR Researcher Ebru Sanliturk. Data Scientist Maciej Danko adds: "While the underlying data are proprietary, our approach generates anonymized aggregate-level datasets that can be shared for noncommercial purposes and that we are making publicly available for scientific research."

MPIDR Researcher Aliakbar Akbaritabar explains how they processed the bibliographic data in order to receive information about the migration patterns of academics: "We used the metadata of the article title, name of the authors and affiliations of almost every article and review published in Scopus since 1996. We followed every single one of the roughly 17 million researchers listed in the bibliographic database through the years and noticed changes in affiliation and, by using that tactic we know how many academics left a given country every year."

The researchers' empirical analysis focused on the relationship between emigration and economic development, indicating that academic setting patterns may differ widely from population-level ones.

Previous literature has shown that, as low-income countries become richer, overall emigration rates initially rise. At a certain point the increase slows down and the trend reverses, with emigration rates declining.

This means that favoring economic development has the counterintuitive effect of initially increasing migration from low- and middle-income countries, rather than decreasing it.

Is this pattern also generally valid for migration of scientists?

Not really.

The researchers found that, when considering academics, the pattern is the opposite: in low- and middle-income countries, emigration rates decrease as the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita increases. Then, starting from around 25,000 US Dollars in GDP, the trend reverses and emigration propensity increases as countries get richer.

MPIDR Director Emilio Zagheni adds, "Academics are a crucial group of innovators whose work has relevant economic effects. We showed that their propensity to emigrate does not immediately increase with economic development—indeed it decreases until a high-income turning point and then increases. This implies that increasing economic development does not necessarily lead to an academic brain drain in low- and middle-income countries."

Unveiling these and related patterns, and addressing big scientific questions with societal implications, was possible only because of painstaking work in preparing this new global database of migration of academics. "We are putting the final touches on an even more comprehensive database, the Scholarly Migration Database, which will be released on its own website soon," says software developer Tom Theile.