Research on COVID-19 gets CCMB’s Divya Tej Sowpati ‘CSIR Young Scientist Award’

Divya Tej Sowpati  

Before SARS-CoV-2 pandemic hit the nation, CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB)’s scientist Divya Tej Sowpati was into genome sequencing and research of the common fruit fly or the ‘Drosophila’. “Never handled the viruses before so it brought forth new challenges,” he said, on Tuesday.

But then, he and his team’s pioneering work in sequencing, analysing and tracking the coronavirus variants got him the prestigious ‘CSIR Young Scientist Award’ for biological sciences from the hands of Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, in the presence of Union Minister for Science & Technology Dr Jitender Singh and CSIR DG Shekhar C. Mande in New Delhi.

A post graduate in zoology from Sri Venkateshwara University, Tirupati, Dr. Sowpati wanted to be a doctor but meandered into scientific research with special interest in genetic and epigenetics. He did his PhD from Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics/University of Hyderabad in 2012 and started his own independent group at CCMB in early 2019.

“I was always interested in computer programming and this has helped in my research,” he said. Ever since the pandemic broke out, the scientist and his team had found variants such as A3i for first time in the country, studied how gradually this was taken over by new dominant variants such as A2a, mutations in different variants and compared them with global ones to identify any reason for worry.

“We are on par with rest of the world as far as COVID-19 genome analysis is concerned and we can do much better on data generation,” observed Dr. Sowpati, also involved in sequencing more than 10,000 viral genomes, and analysing more than 60,000 viral genomes to understand the viral evolution. This helped CCMB’s efforts in genome surveillance through Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) of 28 labs.

“We have been fortunate to be a part of COVID-19 mitigation efforts as it gave us an opportunity to utilize our skillsets and knowledge towards a societally relevant work. This award goes to my team, family, friends, colleagues, and mentors for their support and encouragement,” he said.

CCMB Director Dr Vinay K Nandicoori hailed the award and said: “Dr Sowpati is a very talented young scientist and an example of what young researchers like him can achieve with right kind of facilities and ambiance”. ‘Dry swab-based one-step COVID-19 testing method’ developed by the institute was also awarded the ‘Certificate of Merit’ in CSIR’s Technology Award, he added.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 10:37:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/research-on-covid-gets-ccmbs-award/article36719762.ece

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