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6th July 2020

Interview@IITD: Prof. Sunil K Khare

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Research and innovation have been two significant components of Vision IIT Delhi. The Industrial Research & Development (IRD) Unit was specifically set-up in the Institute (i) to provide specialized administrative and managerial support for the operation of sponsored projects (ii) to promote cutting edge research by liaising with various funding agencies (iii) collaborations with leading research and academic institutions across the globe (iii) to develop state of the art research labs and infrastructure and (iv) setting-up Centre of excellence in specialized research areas.

Over the years, the Institute has set up many modern laboratories and operationalized a large number of nationally and internationally relevant research projects with significant outcomes.

Dean IRD Prof Sunil Khare talks to Dr. Vanita Srivastava from the Communication Cell about the focus areas of research, efforts made towards COVID research, and more.

Edited excerpts:

IIT Delhi has established a robust ecosystem for COVID research. Can you elucidate some of the research being done in this field and how much fund has been allocated for the purpose?

We have been actively pursuing research on different aspects of COVID related challenges, which include the development and production of PPEs, structure modeling of viral proteins for treatment targets using bioactive, detection assay for nCoV, modeling for the predictions of COVID spread, and designing low-cost ventilators.

Currently, six projects supported by government funding agencies and four industry-sponsored projects on COVID research are operational through IRD Unit. Besides above, the Principal Scientific Advisor Office is implementing a concerted effort on COVID research through a cluster of institutions. IITD is playing an integral part in it and coordinating these projects.

Amongst the success stories, a probe free COVID detection kit developed at IITD approved by ICMR and being licensed through FITT; large scale production and distribution of the PPE, "KAWATCH" and other antimicrobial masks, have been significantly applauded.

What will be the main focus of research in the coming few months?

As per the need in the current situation, the focus remains on COVID research. However, other thrust areas envisioned by the Institute viz.–energy, health, environment, and sustainable infrastructure will continue to be worked upon.

Has the pandemic had any fallout on the research progress?

The pandemic lockdown did affect the pace of the research, as the laboratories were closed, however extensive and round the clock research on COVID, problems balanced the output. We have been quite productive in this period and accomplished the targets.

How do you propose to spruce the research landscape of the institute? What are some major research projects in the pipeline?

As the situation improves, we will resume the work on the implementations of on-going sponsored and industrial research with extra efforts to meet the timelines. Projects. We have recently been entrusted to lead two major programs namely, Technology Innovation Hub on Robotics, Operation research for food supply chain management, sponsored by DST, and United Nations World Food, respectively.

Can you throw some light on research collaborations?

The Institute lays strong emphasis on the sponsored and collaborative research with various National and International research and industrial institutions. In fact, IITD has been recognized as the Institute of Eminence by Govt of India.

We have signed MoUs with prestigious national and international institutions like All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), National Institute of Immunology (NII), All India Institute of Ayurveda, and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for collaborative research. More than a hundred Multi-Institutional Faculty Interdisciplinary Research Projects (MFIRP) are operational under these MOU. Similar collaborative International MFIRPs are operational with NCTU, Taiwan, UCL UK, and Clemson University, USA, on the research problems of global relevance. I see further growth and excellence in IITD Research in years to come.