The Dr.Yellapragada Subba Row memorial lecture entitled “Covid Pandemic: The Journey so far” was delivered by Dr. Priya Abraham, Director, National Institute of Virology – ICMR, Pune on 16th August 2022 at the Zakir Hussain Memorial UPE Lecture Hall Complex, University of Hyderabad.

The School of Medical Sciences, University of Hyderabad had taken up the mantle of organizing this annual memorial lecture for the last 7 years and has had eminent speakers over the last years for the same. The lectures could not be held during the preceding Covid Pandemic years.

Extolling the virtues of Dr. Yellapragada Subba Row and getting a personal insight from his surviving next family member, Prof. Geeta K. Vemuganti, Dean School of Medical Sciences gave an overview of the seminal contribution of Dr.YSR to the field of health care, medicine and society. Coming through a lot of strife and difficulties and always in the background, she said it is unfortunate that Dr.YSR falls into the category of an “unsung hero” despite the landmark contributions.

Presiding over the lecture, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. B.J. Rao said that the University of Hyderabad has at least singularly recognised Dr. YSR through dedicating a conference hall in his name at the School of Life Sciences and more importantly, rekindling his memory through organising this yearly memorial lecture to recognise contributions of eminent scientists & doyens in the field. He was profuse in thanking Dr. Abraham for her time while she has been at the forefront and continues to be during the Covid 19 pandemic.

The Speaker, Dr. Priya Abraham, is currently the director of the ICMR- National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune, which not only identified the first Covid 19 case in India, but also has made huge contributions to the genomic studies of SARS- CoV2 in India during this critical juncture of the pandemic. Under her leadership, the NIV contributed to the first two SARS-CoV2 genome sequences from India, which was shared with the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID).

Elaborating on the journey of Covid – 19 in India and the contribution of NIV, Dr. Abraham said that since January 2020 when they reported the first positive case of Covid – 19 in India from her labs and confirmed it and then cultured the virus in early March 2020, they have been on a roller coaster ride since then.

She summarised the contribution of her group as apart from reporting the first positive case and culturing the virus, they were able to develop and distribute RT-PCR kits across the country and even internationally. Training, capacity building, validation of kits & reagents, its distribution, repatriation of Indian nationals stranded abroad, development & testing of antibody assays, providing live and attenuated whole virus for vaccine development and serum studies, conducting pre-clinical and clinical trials including sero-surveillance and most of all continued genomic surveillance for variants have been the hallmark of their work. She lauded her team and said all this could be possible only with the self-less and wholehearted commitment and determination of her group extending across all personnel and their contributions.

The audience were ecstatic and felt that this could not have come at the opportune time as India is still in the throes of the pandemic and it was great to know the way the country responded with such vigour and rigour.

Photos credit: Jirra Karthik