The first-ever Nina Saxena Excellence in Technology Award, first of its kind India-Wide technical innovation Award instituted by IIT Kharagpur last year, was presented on Aug 18, 2007, to Dr. S P S Khanuja, Director,
Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants and his team. His innovation comprises pioneering work in anti-malaria treatment through plant genotype development. The Award had received 24 nominations from across countries. A 12-member jury of experts adjudged the nominations on the basis of innovativeness, applicability, and most importantly the potential of the application for social development with specific reference to backward areas in India.

Speaking on the occasion Professor Ajoy Chakraborty, Dean, Alumni Affairs, Kharagpur, said "Dr. Nina Saxena was a student of my department and apart from being an exceptionally bright student was dedicated towards alleviating poverty and boosting overall economic growth in India. This award has kept her vision and philosophy of life intact by aptly recognizing the innovation of Dr. S.P.S Khanuja".
Dr. Khanuja's research at the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) is aimed at treating chloroquine-resistant or cerebral malaria. With the Indian pharmaceutical industry is currently dependent on imported artemesinin for treatment of this type of malaria. Dr. Khanuja led the CIMAP research initiative, through a path-breaking molecular genetics approach, to improve the metabolic potential of Artemisia to synthesize this drug molecule. In this process, a DNA tagged super genotype "CIM-Arogya" of Artemisia annua was acheived, with the resultant artemisinin content reaching a level of 0.8 per cent to 1.05 per cent. The drug yielding plant genotype developed through molecular breeding is a first for malaria treatment in India.

The initiative has another benefit-CIMAP scientists guided farmers to succesfully cultivate Artemisisa annua, which resulted in the generation of employment opportunities to the tune of about 150 work days per hectare cultivation.This genotype is the first drug yielding plan genotype developed through breeding. With its agrotechnology and downstream processing it could be licensed to six pharma industries linking farmers for assured cultivation spread to an area of about 2000 acres in northrn initially.

Presenting the award to the winner, Chief Guest Professor K.L. Chopra former Director of IIT Kharagpur said " The award-winning research exemplifies the best of scientific research, Its outcome is beneficial to those who receive its product and those who participate in its production. It is beneficial economically as well as in the area of healthcare. It sceintifically optimizes the benefit of something that is grown naturally. I am proud to present the Nina Saxena Excellence in technology Award to Dr. S P S Khanuja, director of Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic plants, for his revolutionary research".
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