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The COVID-19 pandemic has always spread faster than we can test for, and it’s all the more true in India. Outbreaks have spread faster than the scaling up of testing, tracing, isolation and all other public health efforts.
We’ve known for a while now that for every single person who has tested positive for the infection, there are several who have been infected – either with or without symptoms. Serosurveys therefore become an important tool in helping us figure out how far the infection has spread within a population. A new study on Karnataka shows that even as early as mid-August, close to half the state, about 31 million individuals, may have been infected by COVID-19. They also find that the rural spread of COVID has been almost as high as the urban spread.
Researchers Manoj Mohanan, Anu Acharya and Anup Malani help us understand and interpret their new study. Manoj Mohanan is with the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, Anup Malani is with the University of Chicago, and Anu Acharya is the CEO of Mapmygenome. They are also affiliated with the IDFC Institute, and are 3 of the 4 authors of this serosurvey of the state of Karnataka. This episode is an edited version of a live conversation on BIC Streams.
The study can be found here.
Anu Acharya is a serial entrepreneur, columnist, poet, and a charismatic speaker. As the Founder & CEO of Mapmygenome, she introduced the concept of personal genomics in India with the launch of Genomepatri in 2013. She co-founded and pioneered her first venture Ocimum Biosolutions from 2000 to 2013 through innovative bioinformatics and LIMS solutions, global acquisitions, awards, and fund raises.
Awards and Honours include: Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Zee Business) (Oct 2019), Special Recognition (Leaders Category) by Indian Express (Feb 2019); Pride of Telangana Award (2018); IIT Kharagpur Distinguished Alumnus Award (2017); Jio Economic Times Startup Awards – Women Ahead (2015); Young Leaders Forum of British High Commission (2013); Young Global Leader of World Economic Forum Class of 2011; Biospectrum Entrepreneur of the Year and Astia Life Science Innovators Award for 2008; Red Herring 25 Tech Titans under 35 in 2006; etc.
She serves on governing boards of NIBMG & IIIT Hyderabad; advisory Board at Action for India & KIIT; board of mentors for Ivy Cap Ventures; member of CII National Committee on Biotechnology; Committee Member of HIMSS Asia Pacific India Chapter.
Manoj Mohanan is Associate Professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. He also holds secondary appointments in the Department of Economics and at Duke Global Health Institute. Manoj’s research has examined questions related to quality of care, provider performance, delivery of services, and governance. His current work includes research on accountability, social networks, and COVID in India. Mohanan is a Sr visiting fellow at the IDFC Institute in Mumbai.
Anup Malani is the Lee and Brena Freeman Professor at the University of Chicago Law School, a Professor at the Pritzker School of Medicine, and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Boston. He conducts research in development economics, health economics and law and economics. Malani led a modeling team that developed a forecasting model and method of adaptive control for COVID in India; that model is being used to inform policy in Bihar and in Indonesia. Malani is an investigator on the Mumbai COVID Serological Study and on the Karnataka COVID Serological Study. This work on COVID has won two Emergent Ventures prizes.
He is presently working on vaccine distribution policies for Indonesia and India. Beyond work on COVID, Malani is the principal investigator for the Indian Health Insurance Experiment, an 11,000 household evaluation of India’s first national health insurance program. He has conducted ethnographic research in 21 slums across 7 cities for a book and film on the economics of slums in India. Malani is the co-founder and Faculty Director of the International Innovation Corps, a social service program that sends postgraduates to work on innovative projects with government officials in India and the US. Malani has a J.D. and Ph.D in economics from the University of Chicago.
He was a law clerk to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court and the founding Faculty Director of the Tata Centre for Development at the University of Chicago.