The second annual meeting of the ASPIC clubs was held on 20th February 2020 at Hotel Aida, Kottayam, India.
The meeting was attended by student and staff representatives from 14 out of the 15 functional ASPIC clubs. The meeting featured an array of expert talks on AMR in relation to various fields and was instrumental in planning activities for the year.
The key note address of the meeting was given by Dr A P Thomas, Visiting Professor and Director of ACESSD, School of Environmental Sciences, MG University, on Environmental Dimensions of Antimicrobial Resistance. The session was chaired by Dr TJ James, Head, Environmental studies, SH College, Thevara. Dr Thomas mentioned various drivers of AMR with respect to contamination of the environment and explained on the concept of antimicrobial ‘pollution’. He also spoke on various issues such as heightened rates of resistance and presence of antibiotic residues in water bodies. The talk summarized the impact of AMR on the environment and the need for better awareness and policy initiatives.
The second session was led by Prof Thomas Mathew, Director, School of Biosciences, Mar Thoma College, Thiruvalla on the topic ‘Linking Science and Society’. The session was chaired by Dr Prasanth Rathinam, Asst. Professor and Scientist, Pusphagiri Research Center. The talk encompassed the broader theme of science and society; and was helpful for students in understanding the need for researchers and scientists to engage on the pressing needs of the society. Prof. Mathew briefed on the important contributions of various eminent scientists over the decades and called for more innovative solutions on the issue of AMR from the upcoming generation of researchers and scientists.
After a short break, the next session was on the topic ‘Antimicrobial Resistance in Tuberculosis: Research Perspectives’ by Dr Sathish Mundayoor, Doyen of Science, IUCBR, Kottayam. The session was chaired by Dr Jinu John, Asst. Professor of Biotechnology, CMS college, Kottayam. The session included various developments on drug resistance in Tuberculosis and the research progress made in the domain. Dr Mundayoor further enlightened the students on various scopes of research and possible career opportunities in the area.
The next session titled ‘Antimicrobial properties of Nanoparticles’ by Dr Nandakumar Kalarikkal, Director, IIUCNN, MG University and chaired by Dr K Sudha, Asst. Professor of Biotechnology, St Peters College, was on the application of nanoparticles as medicines and the antimicrobial properties of nanoparticles. Dr Kalarikkal spoke on the possible research avenues in nanoscience research and how it can open new vistas in finding solutions for the problem of AMR. He also gave examples of his team’s research on evaluating antimicrobial properties of various nanoparticles and their feasibility in practical situations.
The forenoon session concluded with a session by Dr. Ramesh N, Asst. Professor, School of Biosciences, VIT University, Vellore and was chaired by Dr Prakash Williams, Asst. Professor of Biotechnology, Bishop Moore College. The session was on the topic ‘Phage therapy for overcoming AMR: What’s new?’. Dr Ramesh gave a brief overview on the topic and presented various findings from his research projects. The technical sessions ended with an overall view of the developments in AMR in different fields and were much appreciated by the audience.
The afternoon started off with a session by Mr. Satya Sivaraman, Communications Coordinator, ReAct Asia Pacific and was chaired by Harish Radhakrishnan, Asst. Professor of Biosciences, Mar Thoma College. Mr. Satya engaged the audience on the topic ‘Communicating about AMR to the public’ and spoke on various health perspectives seen in the country on medicine use and antibiotic resistance. Mr. Satya also spoke of how the student clubs could be vital in engaging larger audiences on the issue of antibiotic resistance. Later on, Dr Philip Mathew addressed the audience on the need to further increase the mandate of ASPIC network and pitched various ideas to expand the activity base of the individual clubs. The sessions ended with feedback from all the participants.
“The activities of the club can be further enhanced through such meetings and look forward to further engaging the club on various issues related to antibiotic resistance”
Dr Jinu John, Asst Professor of Biotechnology, CMS College, Kottayam, India
Decisions taken at the meeting:
- It was decided to have a President, General Secretary and other committee members for the entire ASPIC network to ensure better ownership and sustainability from the students’ side. A working club office with basic facilities can also be provided to the office bearers.
- A biannual meeting for the office bearers of all ASPIC clubs can be convened to make the leadership of the network robust. Faculty members of clubs can be included in the process too.
- The seed fund for conducting club activities will be continued for the year 2020 too. The seed fund reimburses a nominal amount to the individual clubs for conducting activities. The seed fund was recognized to be beneficial in generating more activities from the clubs.
- Along with community engagement activities of the clubs, areas of academic interest can also be explored to ensure research aptitudes and interest in students.
- Student engagement through competitions such as Innovate4AMR and Photography competitions will be promoted by the individual clubs.
The success of ASPIC club network was celebrated through the annual meeting and the organizers promised to expand the network in the coming year. There will be more clubs coming up outside the state of Kerala- something which can ensure diversity within the network. The network is possibly the largest student initiative in the world, on the theme antimicrobial resistance.