State of Life Sciences R&D 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:

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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

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Pakistan's $2.8 Billion IT Industry

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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%.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Business Recorder story on Pakistan's bumper crop of cotton and the impact India's cotton export ban:

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

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

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

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

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

Now the cotton export from India will be completely stopped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking about cotton deals with India, he said this year there were a few cotton import deals and the move will not hurt Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Dawn report on new supercomputer at NUST:

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

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

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

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

He also assured full support by HEC in this regard.

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

This will have an impetus on the collaborative research between universities and other research organizations in country and abroad. Dr Imran Akhtar, the key note speaker, gave a highly motivating and thought provoking talk on the occasion. He encouraged the young researchers to come forward and exploit the facility at its maximum by using their domain knowledge and expertise in computational science in solving the national challenges in the areas of engineering, bio-informatics, political science, psychology and social sciences.
Riaz Haq said…
The number of research papers published by Pakistani scientists in peer-reviewed international science journals has grown from 1,174 in 2000 (rank 54) to 6,987 in 2010 (rank 43), according to SCImago Journal & Country Rank (SCR).
Riaz Haq said…
Cotton availability in Pakistan rises 25% YoY, reports fiber2fashion:

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

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

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

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

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

“The textile mills in Pakistan have consumed only 17.68 percent or 1,871,840 more bales this season compared to previous season. Up to March 1, 2012, textile mills in Pakistan purchased 12,462,112 cotton bales, against their purchase of 10,590,272 bales during the same period in 2010-11 season,” he mentions.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Fiber2Fashion report on Pakistan's bumper cotton crop:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The PCGA Chairman urged the Government to direct the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) to buy a minimum 0.7 million bales of unsold cotton from ginners.
Riaz Haq said…
Bumper crop enables Pakistan's donation of 500,000 tons to World Food Program, according to Daily Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speakers on the occasion were of unanimous opinion that the development will bring immense benefit to mankind and will enable treatments tailored to the individual and improve our understanding of previously untreatable diseases such as kidney disorders, diabetes, heart diseases and cancer.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a description of a genomics project at the Center for Non-commuicable Diseases to collect and analyze data for 2500 Pakistanis in Lahore, Pakistan:

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

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

The Center for Non-Communicable Diseases is the local coordinating center to collect DNA samples from 150 Pakistani individuals (50 families). These samples have been collected from Lahore, Punjab. These Pakistani Punjabi samples are the first South Asian samples that have been collected from South Asia; and will provide a useful resource to conduct informative imputations for genome-wide association studies. These samples will be genotyped for whole-genome and exome sequencing and transformed to develop lymphoblastoid cell lines for various functional experiments.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a News report on FAO stats for Pakistan 2011:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brazil is the largest global producer of sugarcane with total output of 719 million ton at 79.2 ton per hectare. The highest sugarcane yield is obtained by Columbia which produces 118.1 ton per hectare, the FAO report said.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a BR report on State Bank of Pakistan's ag loans target for the year:

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

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

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

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

Horse dancing and culture displays made this event more beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The employees of the Bank are servants of people.

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

Vice Chancellor Hazara University Haripur, Professor Dr Sahawat said knowledge-based economy and use of latest technology is of vital importance for progress of agriculture sector.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Zee News report on crop yields in South Asia:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That apart, the National Institute of Biotic Stress Management and Indian Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology are in the pipeline for undertaking high quality research, the minister added.
Riaz Haq said…
Here 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…
Here are excerpts of a Nature magazine article on higher education support in Musharraf years:

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

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

Rahman's strong scientific background, enthusiasm for reform and impressive ability to secure cash made him a hit at home and abroad. "It really was an anomaly that we had a person of that stature with that kind of backing," says Naveed Naqvi, a senior education economist at the World Bank, based in Islamabad. "Atta-ur-Rahman was a force of nature."
Between 2003 and 2009, Pakistan churned out about 3,000 PhDs, roughly the same number awarded throughout its previous 55-year history. More than 7,000 PhD students are now in training at home and abroad. Meanwhile, scientific research publications have soared from roughly 800 in 2002 to more than 4,000 in 2009 (see 'Publishing power')...
Riaz Haq said…
In a recent book "Abundance", author Peter Diamandis argues that that advanced science is becoming much more accessible to a wider number of people through movements such as the world-wide DIY movement spurred by better low-cost tools and technologies for things such as "bio-hacking" and development of artificial intelligence. It's no longer an exclusive preserve of a few elite scientists in multi-million dollar labs.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's 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 a News report on Pakistan's published scientific research output:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The academic circles have termed the Scopus ranking as great success and honour for the county in particular and higher education sector in general. They believe that if the continuous support may be given to this sector and the faculty continues their work with same zeal and vigour, Pakistani higher education sector can win more laurels for the country.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Nature report on Pakistan's science & technology policy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Higher Education Commission and the well-developed offices of research, innovation and commercialisation that already maintain R&D links with different public-private organisations, would be the beneficiaries of this policy," Soomro said.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a News story on life sciences conf in Pakistan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

While Complete Genomics specializes in human genomes, BGI has sequenced not only human genomes but those of the giant panda and asparagus, not to mention numerous pathogens. It has entered into collaborations with numerous companies, universities and nonprofit organizations in the United States, including Merck; the University of California, Davis; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and Autism Speaks.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an ET report on nanochemistry lab in Karachi:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sindh governor’s adviser on higher education, Aftab Lodhi, was also present at the event.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an Express Tribune story on Pakistan becoming associate member of CERN:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If developing countries such as Pakistan do not engage in basic research in nanoscience, they will end up as consumers of hi-tech products from other countries, he said.
Riaz Haq said…
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…
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…
#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…
MedCong: Medical corridor between #Pakistan and #China to collaborate in health sciences and serve the poor. #CPEC …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was also inked by the PMA and its Chinese counterpart, the CMA, during the congress. Both the PMA and CMA were declared sister concerns under the MoU while the decision to rotate the event every two years in the two countries will also be finalised.
Riaz Haq said…
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 1st #hybrid #rice #research opens at International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences #Karachi …

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

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

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

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

Riaz Haq said…
Mutant Varieties Satisfy Market and add USD 6 Billion to Pakistan’s Economy

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

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

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

NIAB has received support from the Joint Division for more than 30 years, including equipment and technology packages for mutation breeding, individual staff trainingthrough fellowships, and national and regional training courses. The mutation breeding process calls for irradiating and then planting crop seeds, and then screening them as they grow in the following generations to see which induced changes that emerge could be helpful for breeding in future generations – from aesthetics of colour and texture to physiological changes that account for traits such as heat or cold tolerance, resilience or length of the growing period.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani, #Chinese firms to make #coronavirus jab in #Pakistan . Searle Pakistan will be the first company to manufacture a #COVID19 #vaccine in Pakistan, said the jab has shown promising results in Phase 1 and 2 trials. #pandemic #pharmaceutical

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infections hitting new highs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The NA committee lauded the NIH’s efforts and declared it good news for the nation. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Faisal Sultan told the committee that Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed him to resolve the issue of three government hospitals in Karachi in consultation with the provincial government of Sindh. “If the Sindh government wants to run the hospitals, then we have no objections. We are bound to follow the Supreme Court’s orders. Now we will work together to find a solution in accordance with the law. We want to further improve the institutions,” Sultan said.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan inaugurates 1st science tech park
Move is step toward creating knowledge-based economy, says Prime Minister Imran Khan
Islamuddin Sajid |

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

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

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

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

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

"This park will serve as a launchpad for the country’s leading researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs," said Technology Minister Fawad Hussain.
Riaz Haq said…
#Chinese #nanotechnology to help #Pakistan in high-yield #agriculture, increase #food #production, raise farmers' #incomes, solve problems such as abandoned #farmland & the adverse impact of excessive use of #pesticides and #fertilizer. #technology

China is ready to extend its achievements to the iron-brother Pakistan in the field of nanotechnology to promote high-yield agriculture, said Dr. Wu Zhiguo, Director of Nano Application Technology Research Office of Gansu Academy of Sciences.

Nanotechnology for high-efficacy agriculture will promote traditional agriculture on the road of high-quality connotative development. It can effectively promote farmers increase in production and income and solve problems such as abandoned farmland and the adverse effects caused by excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers.

We tend to extend this achievement to our iron brother Pakistan, he highlighted on a video meeting with Prof. Dr. Muhammad Yaseen from University of Faisalabad (UAF).

Ma. Yutian, Executive Director General of Gansu BRI Technology Transfer Center also attended the meeting, China Economic Net (CEN) reported on Thursday.

Dr. Wu further explained that at present, they have developed a series of nanoparticles, including iron, copper, silicon, zinc, and other series of high-quality nano-micro-fertilizer products.

The proprietary nanoparticles can increase production and efficiency, improve quality, resist pests and diseases and natural disasters, effectively reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and improve soil conditions.

In 2017, Prof. Yan Pengxun, Distinguished Researcher at Lanzhou Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, proposed to use high-quality elemental nano-powders for agriculture and nanotechnology high-yield agriculture.

In the past four years, sufficient trials, demonstrations and promotion of grain, fruits, vegetables, forage grass, and Chinese herbal medicine have been carried out in 23 provinces and municipalities in China. The total trial field has been accumulated more than 4,200 acres.

Prof. Dr. Muhammad Yaseen affirmed the results of Nanotechnology for High-yield Agriculture project and said that at present, 44 percent of the arable land in Pakistan is used to grow wheat, and the production of wheat is related to the food security of the whole country.

However, the yield of wheat per unit in Pakistan is lower than the world average, and agricultural scientists in Pakistan have been trying to introduce higher-yielding wheat varieties and new technologies.

Pakistan’s Faisalabad, a sister city of Gansu, welcomes the results of Nanotechnology for High-yield agriculture project to be tested in Faisalabad and we are looking forward to its success and its expansion throughout Pakistan to increase food production, Prof. Dr. Yaseen stressed.

On this occasion, Ma Bin, Chairman of Pakistan Qijun international Trading Co., Ltd., underlined that over the years, under the guidance of the Belt and Road Initiative and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the research and cooperation between China and Pakistan in agriculture have been continuously promoted.

The results of Nanotechnology for High-yield Agriculture project will not only benefit Pakistani farmers, but also open a new way for China agricultural science and technology to reach the world.

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