#TFOD (The Fate Of Diseases, August 27, 2016):

Is your disease human? Are you infected? Do you have an orphan or a rare disease? Has (the) polio (virus) been eradicated? ‘Can’ vaccines be made for all infectious diseases, & is eradication for ever? Why was there an epidemic of measles after the collapse of Soviet Union? Can anything be done about the strong genetic predisposition to (say) Huntington’s Chorea? Is diabetes non-communicable? Does society create different kinds of disabilities? Is all blindness treatable? Why aren’t radical interventions possible on the brain? Do infection, disease and mortality rates always follow a pattern across time? How does childhood variously influence diseases later in life? Will there always be new diseases, & why? Why don’t plants infect humans, when animals do? Can mosquitoes transmit HIV? How did we get dengue? Are vectors also hosts? Can cures cause diseases? Are all (including ‘lifestyle’?) diseases systemic? How do young landless labourers get diabetes? Is inequality a significant determinant of diseases? Is a disease free (sub) world possible? Or, can diseases eradicate entire species (including the human race)? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from neuroscience (Dr. Garga Chatterjee, ISI, Kolkata), virology (Dr. Shahid Jameel, The Wellcome Trust/ DBT India Alliance, New Delhi), & political economy/history of health (Prof. Mohan Rao, JNU, New Delhi).

Listen in….

SynTalk is pleased and privileged to have hosted the following SynTalkrs (in alphabetical order) on its #TFOD show.

Dr. Garga Chatterjee (cognitive neuroscience, public culture, decentralized systems) is an Assistant Professor at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata and the Research Director of Ghilu Lab for Brain, Science and Society at the ISI; ‘Ghilu’ is Bangla for the visible grey matter of the brain (neo cortex). He trained as a medical doctor at the Medical College, University of Calcutta. After his M.B.B.S (2005), he received his Ph.D. (2011) from Harvard University in Cognition, Brain and Behavior for which he studied perceptual and cognitive processes of face recognition disorders. Thereafter, he was a postdoctoral fellow (2011-14) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he worked on vision recovery processes in clinically blind children with bilateral congenital cataract. He is the Review Editor for ‘Cognitive Science’, which is a part of the ‘Frontiers in Psychology’ journals. As the director of Ghilu Lab at ISI, he is leading research in areas such as cognition and twins, cognitive neurotoxicity, cognition and nutrition, behavioral and socio-economic correlates of human skin colour, congenital blindness and sight recovery, brain ethics and brain rights, internet and brain structure, & visual awareness and consciousness. He is also a commentator on issues of South Asian public culture and politics. His columns appear regularly in popular Bangla, English and Hindi publications  of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan like Hindu, Scroll, Dawn, Caravan, Anandabazar Patrika, Dhaka Tribune, Hindustan Times, DNA, and many others.

Dr. Shahid Jameel (virology, biochemistry) is currently the CEO of The Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, where he is identifying and nurturing the next generation of biomedical science leaders for India, since 2013. He has spent three decades researching viruses that cause disease in humans. He did his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Chemistry from Aligarh Muslim University and IIT (Kanpur), respectively. He then shifted to Washington State University (USA) for a Ph.D. in Biochemistry (1984). His postdoctoral work in Molecular Virology was carried out at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (USA). In 1988 he was invited to set up the Virology Group at the newly established International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB, New Delhi), where he continued as Group Leader till 2013. While at ICGEB, Dr. Jameel worked on the hepatitis E virus (HEV) and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The question that formed the core of his research was how viruses with such small genomes can control a far more complex host. For his work on human viruses, Dr. Jameel was awarded the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize in Medicine (2000). Dr. Jameel has also received numerous other awards such as International Senior Research Fellowship in Biomedical Sciences, The Wellcome Trust, UK (2001), B. M. Birla Science Prize in Biology (1995), and Biotechnology Career Fellowship, Rockefeller Foundation (1991). He is also an elected Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), Indian Academy of Sciences (IAS) and the National Academy of Sciences, India (NASI). He also hopes to become a better photographer.

Prof. Mohan Rao (history/political economy of health) is Professor at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health (CSMCH), School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. A medical doctor specialised in public health, he has written extensively on health and population policy, and on the history and politics of health and family planning. He is the author of ‘From Population Control to Reproductive Health: Malthusian Arithmetic’ (Sage, New Delhi, 2004) and has edited ‘Disinvesting in Health: The World Bank’s Health Prescriptions’ (Sage, New Delhi, 1999) and ‘The Unheard Scream: Reproductive Health and Women’s Lives in India’ (Zubaan/Kali for Women, New Delhi, 2004). He has edited, with Sarah Sexton of Cornerhouse, UK, the volume ‘Markets and Malthus: Population, Gender and Health in Neoliberal Times’ (Sage, New Delhi, 2010). With Sarah Hodges, he has edited ‘Public Health and Private Wealth: Stem Cells, Surrogacy and Other Strategic Bodies’ (OUP, 2016). He has been a member of the National Population Commission, and several Working Groups of the National Rural Health Mission of the Government of India. He has worked on the Committee established by the National Human Rights Commission to examine the two-child norm in population policy. He is on the Executive Committee of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies. He is also actively involved in the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (People’s Health Movement). Prof. Rao is a referee for essays and books for leading journals and publishing houses and is on the editorial board of the ‘Indian Journal of Gender Studies’, the ‘Journal of Social Policy’, and the on-line journal ‘Social Medicine’.

Note: Any & all errors in the brief profiles above are SynTalk’s own.

#TFOD mentionsCraig Venter, among others.