Past Event

Vaccines and Variants: The Local and the Global in Covid Research

July 28, 2021
6:30 PM - 7:30 PM
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Join us for an important panel on vaccines and vaccine research in India, featuring experts from Columbia University and leading Indian institutions. 
In the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, our lives seem to be dominated by two major topics — ‘vaccines’ and ‘variants.’ While the WHO has recently moved away from geographical nomenclature to describe variants, the virus continues to mutate in its genome and raise considerable public health concerns, especially in countries such as India which are struggling to meet vaccine demands. Given the urgent need, vaccine developers have condensed the clinical process, running trial phases simultaneously. But ensuring demographic diversity in trials is important as it helps ensure safety and effectiveness across populations and may increase confidence in people of different ethnicities. 
Our panel of experts will discuss how India is represented in current clinical trials, what the ongoing trials within the country are, and which scientific establishments are spearheading these trials. With biological leaks being linked to the origin of the coronavirus, they will address how regional research labs are maintaining international safety standards. Furthermore, they will deliberate on how global equity, accessibility, and scientific cooperation can be sustained for combatting the current pandemic and its mutations as well as future outbreaks.

Vincent Racaniello
Higgins Professor of Microbiology & Immunology, Columbia University Medical Center

Nischay Mishra
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Center for Infection and Immunity, Columbia University Medical Center

Gagandeep Kang
Professor of Microbiology, Division of Gastrointestinal Sciences, Christian Medical College

Ravina Aggarwal
Director, Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai

About the Speakers:
Vincent Racaniello

Vincent Racaniello, Higgins Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, has done laboratory research on viruses for over 41 years. Dr. Racaniello is the recipient of an Irma T. Hirschl Career Scientist Award, the Searle Scholars Award, the Eli Lilly Award of the American Society for Microbiology in 1992, and an NIH Merit Award. He has served as an editor for the Journal of Virology, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, and PLoS Pathogens. He was a member of the WHO Steering Committee on Hepatitis/Polio, Chair of the NIH Virology Study Section, and Co-Chair of the Gordon Conference on Viruses and Cells. In 2015 he was President of the American Society for Virology. The research in Dr. Racaniello's laboratory has focussed on the biology of RNA viruses. His work produced the first infectious clone of an RNA virus, the discovery of the cell receptor for poliovirus, and the establishment of a transgenic mouse model for poliomyelitis. Dr. Racaniello has co-authored a virology textbook, distributed videocasts of his virology lectures online, written a blog about viruses, and produced podcasts on viruses, parasites, bacteria, evolution, and immunology.

Nischay Mishra

Nischay Mishra is Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Mailman School of Public Health. He is a virologist and molecular biologist with over 17 years of experience in infectious diseases. With his work at the Center for Infection and Immunity, Professor Mishra contributed to developing sequencing platforms and also piloted the development of the first highly multiplexed serological array at Columbia University. In collaboration with NIV, PUNE & ICMR, New Delhi, he led the project to determine pathogenic burden in children suffering from acute encephalitis syndrome, Eastern Uttar Pradesh by using state-of-the-art sequencing and serological methods. During the period of Zika virus outbreak in Americas, he supervised development of a pentaplex qPCR assay for simultaneous in vitro diagnosis of Zika virus, dengue viruses, chikungunya virus, West Nile virus and human housekeeping gene. Recently, Professor Mishra developed a “Triplex SARS-CoV-2 rRT PCR assay” for in-vitro diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 RNA for molecular diagnosis of COVID-19 and obtained emergency user authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (SARS-CoV-2 rRT-PCR Test). He is a key member of CII/CUIMC plasma therapy and plasma trial studies for SARS-CoV-2 in NYC and Rio de Janeiro. He has also discovered many new viruses in humans, livestock, and wild that include New Jersey Polyomavirus, Tilapia lake virus, MERS CoV bat reservoir, etc.

Gagandeep Kang

Gagandeep Kang is currently Professor of Microbiology in the Division of Gastrointestinal Sciences at Christian Medical College, Vellore. Professor Kang is the first woman from India to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. She is also the first Indian woman to be elected to Fellowship of the American Academy of Microbiology and the only physician-scientist to receive the Infosys Award in Life Sciences. Professor Kang works on enteric infections in children, particularly on transmission and immune responses, in order to design effective interventions. Her current studies include active hospital and community based surveillance and clinical trials of new and existing vaccines, with use of molecular based assays to study the diversity of pathogens and the immune response of children with viral and parasitic enteric infections.