Asian Scientist Magazine (Nov. 15, 2023) — Tata Sons, a global enterprise headquartered in India, and The New York Academy of Sciences have announced the winners of the Tata Transformation Prize. The Prize recognizes and supports visionary scientists in India who are developing innovative solutions to critical societal challenges. An international jury of renowned experts selected three scientists from 169 entries for their innovations in food security, sustainability, and healthcare. Each winner will receive INR 2 crores (approximately US$240,000) and will be honoured at a ceremony in Mumbai in December 2023.
The 2023 Tata Transformation Prize Winners are:
Food Security category winner: Shilpi Sharma
Professor Sharma from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi was selected for her work in the engineering of the soil microbiome using synthetic microbial communities, called microBIOme-based soil TRANSFORMation (BIOTRANSFORM). Unlike conventional farming that uses agrochemicals and synthetic fertilizers, soil amended organically has the natural ability to suppress a wide range of plant pathogens, which reduce crop productivity. Her work will be the first to map the natural suppressive potential of soil across six states of India and to harness this potential by microbiome engineering to facilitate sustainable agriculture in the country and beyond.
Sustainability category winner: Purnananda Guptasarma
Professor Guptasarma from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Mohali was awarded for his breakthrough methods to degrade polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a common plastic pollutant, using enzymes. PET is currently produced and used at unsustainable levels, creating worldwide plastic pollution and micro-plastic contamination in the air, water, and soil, as well as in animal and human bodies. Only 9% percent of PET is actually recycled worldwide. Guptasarma’s enzyme-driven strategy uses engineered thermostable enzymes and reactions to demonstrate that solid PET can be broken up into its smallest molecular building blocks with high yield and ultra-high purity to enable PET’s degradation and recycling into virgin plastic. Building on this proof of concept at the laboratory-scale, Guptasarma will further identify and improve enzymatic reagents and reactions for PET degradation and attempt to produce the best enzymes in quantities allowing pilot-scale PET-waste degradation and recycling.
Healthcare category winner: Anurag Singh Rathore
Professor Rathore from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi is a healthcare pioneer aiming to reduce the manufacturing cost of biotherapeutics for treating cancer and autoimmune diseases, thus enabling equal access to these top-tier, expensive treatments currently out of reach for 90% of the Indian population. Rathore has established a state-of-the-art drug manufacturing facility with continuous processing that incorporates novel methods for real-time process monitoring and control. Rathore’s innovation is projected to reduce manufacturing costs by 50-75%, making best-in-class biotherapeutics for complex diseases significantly more affordable for Indian populations in need and further advancing India’s position at the forefront of global medical innovation.
Source: Tata Transformation Prize; Image: Ajun Chuah/ Asian Scientist Magazine
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