The Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India has given a grant of INR 9.50 Crore to Ashoka University under its ‘Promotion of University Research and Scientific Excellence’ (PURSE) programme to accelerate research on the “Holistic View of Disease Dynamics in Indian Context”. The utilisation period of the grant is 4 years.
INR 1 crore out of the total sanctioned amount will be utilised for the analysis of ancient DNA samples from archaeological findings from various sites - a uniquely interdisciplinary project spanning from Disease Biology to History (Archaeology), supported by the Department of Science and Technology.
The grant will be deployed for Ashoka’s ongoing research on historical evolution of various diseases in India, with a focus on their relation with climatic factors, food habits, demographic variations, age, gender and socio-economic background of individuals. Further, to train students across a range of disciplines to answer critical questions around such diseases. This will pave way for development of human resource capacity as well as effective counter-strategies that are specifically suitable for the Indian context.
“Addressing the dynamic concerns around prevailing infectious diseases and potential future outbreaks effectively requires an interdisciplinary approach, that takes into account inputs from natural as well as social sciences. At Ashoka, this approach is the bedrock of our educational offerings and research initiatives. Our excellent faculty body, as well as continued investments in research infrastructure, makes us well-positioned to take on such challenges. We are grateful to the Department of Science and Technology for recognising Ashoka’s research strength, and extending this prestigious grant for further research work”, said Professor Somak Ray Chaudhury, Vice Chancellor, Ashoka University.
Speaking on the need for such a research initiative, Dr. Anurag Agrawal, Dean, BioSciences and Health Research, Trivedi School of Biosciences, Ashoka University, said, “In recent years, while on one side we have observed the emergence of a large number of novel infectious agents like COVID-19, on the other many old diseases like Tuberculosis are coming back along with new pathogen variants and causing major public health problems. We do not have sufficient means of predicting what kind of pathogen is likely to emerge as the next big threat, especially in the Indian context. Therefore, this research initiative will prepare the ground for medical practitioners, experts and policymakers to develop cutting edge solutions to such threats.”
Ashoka is currently making a big push into R&D, particularly by strengthening its capacity and offerings in natural sciences. It is developing a new science campus next to the existing one in Sonepat (Haryana). The new campus will house schools for biosciences, physical sciences, mathematics and advanced computing, in addition to a dedicated science park and research laboratories. The university has also commenced various cutting-edge research projects; it has entered into collaborations with industry and several other eminent institutions for R&D in areas such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, genome analysis and novel rare diseases, to name a few.
Launched in 2009, the main objective of DST-PURSE program is to strengthen the research capacity of performing Indian Universities, provide support for nurturing the research ecosystem, and strengthening the R&D base of the universities in the country. Ashoka is one of the 12 leading universities who have received the grant under the DST-PURSE 2022 scheme.
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