Andhra Pradesh

IISER students collaborating with Harvard to fight anaemia

IISER Tirupati and Harvard University teams during a virtual brainstorming session held recently.  

Students of Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Tirupati, are at the forefront in eradicating anaemia in India, which has been a cause of concern among policymakers, nutritionists and food security experts.

Shreyas Samir Parkhie and Shubhra Singhal, graduate students from IISER Tirupati, along with Kumaresh Krishnan, an MCO graduate from Harvard University, won the Seed for Change Grant of $10,000 from The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard. The grant will be used to actualise their project INDIA EATS, an acronym for India Eradicating Anaemia Through Spirulina.

Though 40% of the Indian population experiences anaemia, the high cost of supplements is a major impediment in addressing the issue. The brainstorming session conducted between the institutes churned up a number of factors, from which spirulina finally emerged as a viable solution. A member of the algae family, spirulina is rich in iron and has already been shown to be a better supplement than the conventional iron and folic acid tablets being used as a standard treatment for anaemia. Studies have also shown that spirulina increases haemoglobin levels among adolescents, children and pregnant women.

“This is a project that can contribute a lot to Indian society, especially rural women who are prone to anaemia. Shubra and Shreyas were motivated in socially relevant projects right from the beginning at IISER,” observes Vasudharani Devanathan, an IISER academic who introduced them to Kumaresh and mentored them along with Venkatesh Murthy, a faculty member from Harvard.

Shubra and Shreyas, who are waiting to return to the campus in tune with the COVID-19 Unlock guidelines, feel elated at the sanction of the ambitious project.

On growing the algae on a large scale at a minimal cost, the team is contemplating to use industrial waste. “Previous studies have shown that spirulina can be grown in minimally-treated waste water and enriched with iron. This could help us solve two problems in one go,” adds Dr. Vasudharani.

The India EATS team also nurtures a plan to form partnerships with NGOs and local groups to spread awareness about the well-meaning project.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 11:24:02 AM |

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