Research for meeting unmet needs: Taxonomy of translational models, 2018

Research for meeting unmet needs: Taxonomy of translational models

Anil gupta

A very large number of high-tech labs in the country were set up to solve the unmet needs of the society but the pace at which solutions flow to society has been rather slow. Recently during foundation day lecture at one of such leading labs, we had a very open and self-critical discussion on the models of translational research.
Let us begin with four basic models: one, we make a readymade cloth and give it to the user, take it or leave it. The user has no choice except to use it as it is. Second: I give semi-stitched cloth to the users and they get it finally stitched accordingly to their needs to have final dresses. User have some choice to shape the final form of the solution. Third: I talk to users, understand their needs and then jointly design, weave and stich the cloth they need. A need driven collaborative design model. Fourth: I study the way users cope with the problems, identify the most successful or healthy users who have either not faced the problem or have resolved it through their own knowledge and creativity. I build upon it, add value and improve the effectiveness of local solution/s. To illustrate, Robert Abramovitch, a Michigan State University microbiologist and TB expert, recently found that a centuries old Chinese traditional medicine artemisinin helped in control of TB by not letting Tb bacterium become dormant (Otherwise, patients get a false sense of relief during dormancy making treatment longer and more difficult).
Each model has its own merit, and will work in specific conditions. But we have to develop contingent conditions under which one or the other model will work. There are other challenges in translational research in a culturally, ethnically and biologically diverse country like India. Given differences in food and lifestyle habits, the complementary conditions under which a given treatment works better or worse is often not studied. Huge data of tens of thousands of patients visiting many large hospitals daily in different hospitals has never been analysed. Obviously, we will never have contingent models till we start analysing big data urgently and make translation models more participative, open and networked with strong participation of social scientists.
Very rarely we study people who don’t suffer from a problem even when all conditions favouring the existence of problem prevail in the given situation. In any distribution, why focus on only one tail. If we study average decline in malnutrition exists among children, there could be several patterns in the distribution of decline, stagnancy and enhancement in some locations. Further, some areas may not have this problem either at all or may have at a very low level. The decline may be higher in areas where the initial level was low and lesser where the level was high. Each of this situation requires different public policy interventions with or without additional research.
But of policy makers are used to study only average trends, and have no time for granular analysis using data mining and analytic approaches, then lack of progress in these vital problems in not surprising.
Government has lately given added focus on AI, Data Mining and other such tools but if we don’t define user needs painstakingly, we will get answers we know already. Contextualising policy interventions and action research are the need of the hour. The Translational research needs impetus for linking R & D knowledge systems with community knowledge and survival systems.

p.s. in the context of NRF, these issues become even more important

Broken mirror

When it rained out of season
Some eyes were wet
But some were lit bright
Paradoxes are pervasive
You can choose
A valley of voids
Or a peak of promises

Coherent chaos

Coherent chaos
Malignant meanings
Why are you so hopeful?

Maybe the seeds are sprouting
Silence will speak
Tide is turning

Pitcher of perseverance leaking

I had faltered again

and again

falling for small silvers of solace

may seem trivial

does not first leak

in the pitcher of perseverance seem small too

till it does not hold any water
ask yourself

don’t hide your face



Harnessing the true potential of Grassroots Innovation. Human Rights and The Intellectual Property System

Harnessing the true potential of Grassroots Innovation.
Human Rights and The Intellectual Property System

When faced with an unmet social need, most people adjust and adapt and thus reinforce inertia. But a few try to transcend the constraints and innovate a new solution reducing drudgery, making life easier, more productive and often in sync with environment, though not always. The Honey Bee Network has been scouting, spreading, and spawning innovations from grassroots but lately also for grassroots. There are many ways in which communities and individuals explore solutions to their own but also larger social problems. They may modify materials, methods, applications or delivery system to develop innovative solutions. In this context, traditional knowledge also plays an important role in some of the innovations.

Traditional knowledge, hereinafter TK, is a broad concept that is deeply rooted in the life of billions of people, especially within the indigenous/local communities that have developed it across the world. TK manifests in several fields, from medicinal uses of plants and herbs to artistic creations. Bio-prospective activities during the 90 have brought the TK problematic to the international fora: the indigenous communities, South Governments, NGOs, and some other groups have complained against the everlasting misappropriation of TK. Since genetic resources are scarce in the North, TK has been reaching increasing value for transnational companies and Universities research groups who have turned their interest to it as a critical source of their R+D projects to advance their business and academic agendas and to promote innovation in health, nutrition, climate change, and UN SDG goals. Furthermore, unfettered access to genetic resources and TK plays an important role in many grassroots innovations.

mornings when rays have to be delivered

imagine a morning
chilly and a bit dark still
waiting to be broken
a silence of inertia
how does one overcome distraction
of deviant ideas
and slow burrowing ants
making their own way to deliver
the rays of sun
in the dark alleys of my own heart

?When the errors amplify the leaking substance!

When the errors amplify the leaking substance!

When a substantial truth gets sublimated by the conundrum of errors, often self-inflicted, the search for alibi begins. We start looking for masks which will cover our faces but keep eyes and ears uncovered. The uncovered part makes the masking less complete and thus bearable.
This is the paradox. Why do we search alibi for defending our deliberate vulnerabilities. We have invented a rich repertoire of concepts, complexes and contrived obsessions, on which rests for our vulnerabilities. We are ok. Our vulnerabilities are not ok.
The trunk of an old tree often becomes hollow at the base. Why does it allow the animals to make their shelter even when its own stability is endangered. May be falling down becomes less painful, a whiff of air someday just takes it toll and the tree becomes a log of wood.
Let us reflect on the masking, hollowing and falling down….
Mask is actually an Uncovering, lest we complain we did not hear, or that we did not see.

The substance starts leaking, because we are not able to hold it together in our anxiety to manage the mask, loosely, tightly

The wet grass & dry eyes

The night was quiet
Morning a bit wet
Could not gather all the flowers
Meant to adorn my temple
I am still unsure
When will the bells toll
When will the leaves fall
Spring is too far
But the door is ajar
I will wait
For the shadows to state
The truth of the moment
Hope that choice is prudent