Striking balance between pure and applied research is important: CM

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 5:  The scientific community must find the right balance between pure research and science that has practical applications for humankind, Hon’ble Kerala Chief Minister Shri Oommen Chandy said today as he inaugurated an international symposium on Nitric Oxide at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB).

In his address to hundreds of delegates from India and abroad who are participating in the symposium, he said science must lead to better understanding of the world around us and at the same time result in innovations that improve the lives of people.

The Chief Minister noted that research activities bear fruit only when scientists are given a free hand. The Kerala government is committed to ensuring this freedom and any other support that the scientists and researchers need to pursue their work productively, he added.

He congratulated RGCB for the efforts it is taking to “develop skilled manpower and facilitate interaction with national and international researchers”.

Shri Chandy also honoured the Chief Guest at the ceremony, Nobel laureate Prof Ferid Murad, with a traditional Kerala shawl and a memento.

RGCB is hosting the international conference on the “Legacy of Nitric Oxide Discovery: Impact on Disease Biology” in partnership with the Srinivasa Ramanujan Institute for Basic Sciences (SRIBS), a capacity building initiative of the Kerala State Council for Science Technology and Environment (KSCSTE).

Prof V N Rajasekharan Pillai, the Executive Vice President of KSCSTE and the Ex-officio Principal Secretary, state Department of Science and Technology, noted that since the surprising discovery of the biological functions of nitric oxide in the 1980s, innumerable papers have been published on the multifarious roles of the gaseous molecule in the body.

“From asthma to stroke, eczema to male impotence, from neurotransmission to immune system, there is no physiological condition where nitric oxide does not play an important role,” he said. “I’m sure this symposium will reveal even more opportunities for research in nitric oxide biology.”

The symposium is the first collaborative programme by RGCB and SRIBS, and Prof Pillai said he hoped for more such partnerships to promote science and technology in the state.

In his welcome address, RGCB Director Prof M Radhakrishna Pillai said his institute was today at the forefront to research in disease biology in India and nitric oxide is at the centre of its research focus.

Dr Sathish Mundayoor, Dean, RGCB, proposed thanks at the inaugural function

Prof Murad, who shared the 1998 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discovery of the signaling role of nitric oxide in the cardiovascular system, delivered the keynote address and a public lecture at the symposium in the evening. Prof Murad is currently a professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, George Washington University, USA.

The sessions on the first day covered nitric oxide’s role in cardiovascular disease biology, cancer and plant physiology and phytopathology.

Prof Jon Lundberg from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute opened the session in the morning with a plenary lecture on the Nitrate-Nitrite-NO pathway in health and disease with reference to studies that indicate that nitrite and nitrate may have therapeutic potential in diseases such as myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, renal failure and gastric ulcers.

He noted that a new theory is emerging suggesting nitrate as an active component in vegetables which means they potentially have positive health effects including protection from cardiovascular diseases and Type-2 diabetes.

Other speakers included Prof Madhu Khullar (PGIMER, Chandigarh), Prof Amrita Ahluwalia (University of London, UK)¸ Prof. David A. Wink, (National Cancer Institute, Bethesda Maryland, USA), Dr. Vasily A. Yakovlev, (Virginia Commonwealth University,USA), Prof Massimo Delledonne (University of Verona, Italy), Dr.Pradeep Kachroo (University of Kentucky, USA), Dr Srinivas Gopala (SCTIMST, Trivandrum), Dr E V Soniya (RGCB) and Dr Sanjay Ghosh (University of Calcutta).

On the second day on November 6, scientists including Prof. Arthur L. Burnett, (The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland), Prof Ferric C. Fang, (University of Washington, USA), Dr Survo Chatterjee (AU-KBC Research Centre, Chennai) and Dr Anna George(NII, New Delhi) and Prof T Ramasarma (IISc Bengaluru) will deliver lectures on nitric oxide’s functions in reproduction biology, infection and immunity and neurobiology.

Poster presentations are being held on both days of the symposium and the best posters will be presented awards at the valedictory function on Wednesday evening.

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