BENGALURU: From those who have worked in areas related to sexual violence and jurisprudence, to biodiversity of Indian ecosystems and new point-of-care testing platform for PCR-based medical diagnostics, six scientists and social scientists were presented the Infosys Science Awards at the 13th edition on Thursday. The awardees in six fields were given a pure gold medal, a citation and a prize purse of $100,000.
One of the awardees, Chandrasekhar Nair, CTO of Molbio Diagnostics in Bengaluru, who developed and deployed TrueNat, a novel point-of-care testing platform for PCR-based medical diagnostics, at a large-scale, iterated the need for strengthening the healthcare ecosystem to prevent further pandemics. He said that PCR, as a technique, fascinated him and his team to diagnose pathogens sensitively and specifically, and started looking at the problem more than 20 years ago. For it to be useful in India and other places, they set about creating a product that was easy to use, required minimal or no training or infrastructure. Today, it is distributed in 40 countries and made an impact when India needed it most, he said.
Pratiksha Baxi, who worked on courtroom ethnography for 18 months, and illegal processes such as ‘compromises’ by rape survivors, said that unfortunately, the judiciary is misogynist because law is embedded in society and women lawyers and judges have experienced sexual harassment within the judiciary. “We require a lot more work in the judiciary to end the problem of sexism and harassment because we can’t think of law as seperate from society” she added.
Infosys founder N R Narayana Murthy said, India has done a good job in Covid management. “If we look at the number of people we have lost to Covid, or the number of cases compared to total population, it’s a much smaller percentage compared to most other nations. Of course, no one knows about China, but we need to continue what we are doing with less complacence and more discipline. We don’t need to do anything more than what the government has been saying all these months. If we take normal precautions, we can contain the new Omicron strain,” he said.
S Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Infosys, stressed on the need for data protection laws and said it will help make data available in a reliable format which is useful for research. “Typically, the data available for research is anonymised and population-level data,” he said.
EngG & Computer Science: Chandrasekhar Nair, for development and large-scale deployment of new point-of-care testing platform for PCR based medical diagnostics
Humanities: Angela Barreto Xavier, for analysis of conversion and violence in the Portuguese empire in India, especially Goa
Life Sciences: Mahesh Sankaran, for work on ecology of tropical Savannah ecosystems and contributions to sustaining the biodiversity of important Indian ecosystems such as Western Ghats.
Mathematical Sciences: Neeraj Kayal, for work on complexity theory which provides tools to understand efficiency and limitations of algorithms.
Physical Sciences : Bedangadas Mohanty, for investigations of the nuclear force which will help understand it in detail, and can help harness nuclear energy.
Social Sciences: Pratiksha Baxi, for pioneering work on sexual violence and jurisprudence which shows gendered violence is reproduced by juridical practice.