Skip to main content
Dr. Selvamurthy

As I look back in my 40 years of dedicated service in the Defence Research and Development organization (DRDO), the thrust of my research has been to enhance the health and operational efficiency of troops by providing appropriate life support technologies. Some of the important impactful R&D contributions include two state selection systems, computerised pilot selection system, computerised aptitude testing for trade allocation and creation of a digital database for follow-up. These are in the domain of personnel selection for armed forces to meet the present and emerging needs of personality traits, aptitudes, and motivation. Military nutrition has been rationalised to enhance the combat efficiency in different operational environments, specific clothing requirements including essential cold weather clothing, NBC protective ensembles, Anti-G suit for pilots, submarine escape suit for navy, combat free fall clothing for paratroopers and cooling suit for tank cruise operations in desert have really enhanced the protection and operational efficiency. The clothing and protective ensemble for women combat personnel suiting the anthropometry considerations have also been developed and delivered. 

Very innovative life support technologies like onboard oxygen generation (OBOG) system for fighter pilots for long endurance flight. The ergonomic aspects for man mission interface for weapon platform development have also been delivered. Unmanned battlefields including unmanned aerial vehicle, unmanned ground vehicle, unmanned underwater vehicles will be used in future warfare. In this man computer interface with AI application play a very important role, the research is in progress to understand complexities involved in this and to address this situation, computer-human interface, image processing, decision support etc are being used. Augmenting soldiers’ performance using traditional systems such as Yoga, herbal medicine and homeopathy have been introduced based on our research. Rapid induction technology support for high altitude military operations have been developed. A novel therapeutic measure using a combination of Nitric oxide and oxygen for the treatment of high-altitude pulmonary edema has been introduced. Prevention control and management of cold injuries in high altitude have reduced morbidity due to frostbite.

A special focus on development of CBRN Defence Technologies has been given during the last two decades which led to the induction of devices for early detection, personal protection, collective protection, decontamination, and medical management. Considering the psycho-social profile of the soldiers, we have been able to formulate, in DRDO, new strategies for military motivation.  These are some of the notable R&D contributions where I was fortunate to be part of either in leadership role or participatory role.

The evolving collaboration between academia, industry, and government agencies is crucial for the advancement of all areas of Science and Technology, especially Life Sciences and Defence Research. This tripartite alliance has the potential to leverage the strengths of each sector. This collaborative model which is often referred to as the “triple helix” model of innovation has the capability to harness the unique strengths of each sector to push the boundaries of scientific research and technological development. The synergy created by this alliance is additive as well as multiplicative and can foster an environment to address complex challenges through innovative solutions faster and effectively.

Universities and Research Institutions are the cradle of knowledge, research and innovation. The curiosity-driven exploration has led to many breakthrough discoveries in life sciences and defence. The contribution of academic sector is crucial in providing deep insights into biological systems, new materials, and computational models etc. Their research often lays the groundwork for applied technologies and solutions.

The Industry contributes through its ability to scale innovations, turning scientific discoveries into practical applications and products. As the focus is on development, production, and marketing, the industry has been playing a pivotal role in ensuring that the outcome of research reaches the market. The technological prowess and resources of the private sector are critical in transitioning from prototypes to deployed technologies.

On the other hand, the Government agencies contributes through the provision of essential regulatory guidance, funding, and strategic direction for research initiatives that align with national priorities. The Government support is crucial especially in the area of life sciences and defence research as addressing challenges such as public health crises and national security threats are often beyond the scope of individual organizations. The Government policies if framed in a right way, can facilitate collaboration by providing frameworks for intellectual property rights, data sharing, and ethical standards.

Together, this tripartite alliance can lead to significant advancements in technologies that enhance soldier survivability and operational efficiency. Innovations in protective gear, medical treatments, and surveillance systems are just a few examples of how this collaboration can yield tangible benefits on the battlefield and beyond. By combining academic research with industry’s capability to develop durable and effective equipment, and government’s ability to implement these solutions, the safety and effectiveness of defence personnel are significantly improved.

The shared goals and challenges can foster Global partnerships bringing together countries and organizations around the world. Global partnerships amplify the impact of research and development efforts through the pooling of resources, knowledge, and expertise to tackle challenges and much more which no single sector can address alone. The future of life sciences and defence research indeed lies in the continued strengthening of these alliances, emphasizing the importance of cooperation, shared vision, and mutual benefit.

The 21st century belongs to Life Sciences and a lot of exciting discoveries and innovation will come in this century in Biotechnology, Health Technologies, Pharmaceutical domain, precision medicine, Pharmacogenomics, multivalent Vaccines, Telemedicine, Point of Care diagnostic and other related inventions. The tripartite partnership is yet to mature in our country as these 3 stakeholders need to be further strengthened if we have to realise the potential of the triple helix model.

In aspirational India, Aatmanirbhar Bharat is the goal in the defence sector as well. The defence R&D ecosystem needs to harness the potentials available in the civilian sector and the capabilities and capacities need to be augmented in Defence R&D beyond Defence Ministry which includes DRDO, PSUs and ordnance factories. Private sector, industries and academia need to make significant contributions in strengthening the Defence R&D ecosystem through public private partnership (PPP). Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, smart materials and other related disruptive technologies need to be developed by Academia and translated into applications through Defence Industry so that India can assume leadership roles in these niche areas.

The critical role of climate change has multifaceted impacts in shaping defence strategies through its effect on operational environments and the geopolitical landscape. Apart from environmental issues, climate change also catalyses geopolitical instability, conflict, and humanitarian crises which have profound implications on national as well as global security. Climate Change can act as a threat multiplier through exacerbating existing tensions.

Hence, there is a need to integrate climate resilience into defence planning at every level. A comprehensive assessment of the effect of climate change on the regions of strategic interests including military readiness and response strategies is required. There is a need to equip and train military forces for a wide range of environmental conditions. It includes specialized equipment and clothing, training with respect to adjusting in tactics and logistics while facing extreme weather conditions. Even the military infrastructure including supply chain has to be made resilient against the impacts of climate change through reinforcing structures against extreme weather events etc. Other broader geopolitical implications of climate change include increased migration flows, disputes over the territories and competition over diminishing resources such as fresh water and arable land.

As the likelihood of natural disasters happening is increasing, it is important that military forces are well prepared in advance to protect national interests alongside providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Close coordination with civilian agencies, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations will further necessitate and facilitate unforeseen situations.

It should not be forgotten that the Defence sector itself consumes resources and is a significant contributor to carbon emissions. Hence, alongside securing against climate change, the focus towards investing in renewable energy sources and adopting green technologies hold great importance in reducing the carbon footprint of military operations. The investment should be made by the Governments for anticipating future challenges. A cultural shift within the military should be prioritized to attain sustainability and resilience. In this way, defence forces can contribute to a more stable and resilient global order.

Let us look at the scenario of high-altitude warfare and operations. There is an increasing incidence of extreme weather conditions like avalanches, cloud burst, locust infestation on pasture lands and increasing rainfall and which are unusual weather conditions which will increase due to climate change. Similarly, the desert temperatures may rise leading to heat casualties particularly in battle tank cruise, other infantry and armed forces. Adequate training schedules as well as reorganizing their work scheduled for the variation in temperatures, providing adequate fluid electrolyte, ergogenic drinks and whole-body cooling suit using phase change materials and whole body cooling by peltier effect, vortex tube mechanism and thermoelectric mechanisms. These are few technologies we need to adapt for desert operations. The future wars may be fought for water as that will become scarce over a period considering the demand & supply from natural resources. Weather may be used as a weapon like artificial rains, induced desert storms etc. The armed forces and the defence research organizations need to work in tandem with academia and industries for evolving mitigation, resilience and adaptation to climate change. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) shall redefine the strategic and operational landscape of the military forces. AI is able to process vast datasets that can aid in intelligence analysis to enhance human performance and to face complex bio-defence challenges. However, ethical, strategic, and operational considerations must be meticulously and responsibly navigated to harness AI’s potential effectively.

AI in the future shall be used in decision-making processes for comprehensive, real-time analyses of complex data streams. Strategic planning and tactical decision-making using AI shall enable more informed and timely responses to dynamic operational environments. AI-driven tools can identify threats, track enemy movements, and predict potential outcomes of different strategic choices using satellite imagery and signals intelligence.

Especially in the area of human performance, AI shall potentially revolutionize how soldiers train, fight, and even their recovery from any kind of injuries. With the use of wearable AI devices, the medical personnel will be able to monitor the health of the soldiers in real-time. AI powered exoskeletons can enhance physical abilities and provide physical protection thereby reducing the risk of injury.

In the area of bio-defence, AI can detect and diagnose biological threats thereby facilitating rapid development of medical countermeasures. AI shall be able to model the spreading of potential infectious diseases to improve the containment measure and how we respond to the situation.

With the advancement of AI, the deployment of autonomous systems and unmanned vehicles shall play a significant role in defence sector. They shall be able to perform a range of tasks including surveillance and reconnaissance, logistics support and direct combat roles, hence reducing the risk to human life. However, considering the unethical uses of AI taking place, robust ethical guidelines and control mechanisms will need to be established for ensuring that the use of these systems aligns with international/ national law and norms. Fostering a culture of ethical AI research and development within the defence sector is critical to ensure that innovations enhance security without compromising ethical standards or global stability.

As the warfare technologies are rapidly evolving, the defence forces are compelled to confront unprecedented challenges, and adapting to these changes require a comprehensive and multifaceted approach on every aspect of military operations, right from strategic planning to soldier training. This evolution involves a substantial shift in the nature of warfare itself. The introduction of Cyber warfare, autonomous systems, and network-centric operations are some of the examples.

The primary challenges involve the blending of emerging technologies with existing military technologies. A deep understanding of the capabilities and limitations of new technologies is important for their effective use during battles. Having the most advanced technology is advantageous only when it is ensured that the technologies will enhance the overall effectiveness and responsiveness of military forces.

The advancements also effect strategic and tactical superiority further leading to an arms race in technological innovation. Investment in research and development by armed forces is crucial and anticipating future technological trends is also important. To foster a continuous flow of innovation and strategic insights, effective partnerships between industry, academia as well as allied nations is necessary.

As warfare evolve, transformation of the battlefield brings a paradigm shift in military training, doctrine, and culture. Traditional training programs may not serve unforeseen complexities and dynamic, flexible training regimes involving digital literacy and adaptability must be considered. Evolving doctrine development incorporating the strategic and tactical implications of new technologies and ensuring that military operations leverage these advancements effectively becomes crucial.

By embracing change and fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation, defence forces can navigate the challenges of modern warfare and secure a strategic advantage in an increasingly complex and dynamic global security environment. In Indian context, the threat perception for comprehensive national security which involves external aggression, internal security, economic security and environmental security, the emerging defence technologies like AI application, quantum , CBRN challenges, weaponization of space and cyber threats pose new threats to the army operations. With the minimal allocated budget for defence in terms of GDP as compared to the other developed nations bring the resource constraints to meet these emerging challenges. We need to plan strategies to address these in a pragmatic manner to strengthen our comprehensive national security.

Enhancing global defence forces’ preparedness against chemical and biological threats is crucial and the need of the hour as they are dynamic in nature. At this pivotal juncture, a comprehensive overhaul of preparedness and response strategies against chemical and biological threats is important. The lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, underscores the critical need for rapid response capabilities, advanced surveillance & detection systems and robust international cooperation. 

The establishment of international rapid response teams that are equipped with the necessary expertise, equipment, and medical countermeasures with minimal notice is required to manage and contain outbreaks. The availability and maintenance of vaccines, antivirals, antibiotics, and other essential medical supplies located globally strategically, can significantly reduce response times and save lives.

Availability of advanced surveillance and detection technologies for early identification of chemical and biological threats is crucial. The deployment of next-generation genomic sequencing, synthetic biology, environmental detection sensors, and AI-driven analytics to monitor and analyse pathogen data in real time are some of many technologies to be developed. Enhancing global bio-surveillance networks shall prove useful in providing a comprehensive picture of emerging threats through providing early warning and rapid response mechanisms.

With the advancement of science, biological/ chemical weapons can pose greater threats, the Investment in research and development for staying ahead has become crucial. The medical countermeasures supported by fundamental research on pathogen transmission, virulence, and resistance through collaborative research initiatives with academic institutions and biotechnology industries shall play a leading role through developing new diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.

Even the process of discovery, development, and regulatory approval of vaccines and therapeutics should be streamlined. It shall enable rapid deployment during an outbreak. mRNA technology is an important area to be investigated as it offers quicker development of effective vaccines.

The bio-surveillance capabilities need to improve globally to detect threats timely. Advancements in AI and machine learning shall play an important role in the analysis of data, identifying patterns and anomalies indicating the emergence of a chemical or biological threat.

Organizations such as the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) need to be empowered for global surveillance and prevention of development of chemical weapons. Similarly Biological and Toxin Weapon Convention (BTWC) should be universally ratified and the United Nations should establish a similar body like OPCW which to a very large extent can stop many such events.

As a distinguished Scientists and former Director General (Life Sciences) at Defence Research and Development Organization, Govt. of India followed by heading Amity’s Research and Innovation as President of Amity Science, Technology and Innovation Foundation (ASTIF), my career has been dedicated to advancing the frontiers of science and technology, with a particular focus on fostering a deep connection between scientific research and societal welfare. My contributions have spanned various domains, including delivering key lectures, guiding researchers and scientists, member of multiple advisory councils significantly influencing science education and awareness. 

With a commitment to contribute immensely to make India Self-reliant in the area of Science and Technology and for the betterment of humanity globally, I have been promoting and propagating the scientific advancements and also making them accessible to the wider public. Through public engagements and lectures and special addresses, I have tried to bridge the gap between complex scientific research and its practical, everyday implications. My aim has always been to inspire a broader audience, especially young minds, to explore the wonders of science and consider careers in STEM fields.

In many of my positions in advisory roles, I have had the privilege of mentoring a diverse group of individuals – from budding scientists and faculty members to established researchers and even policy making. My focus has been on encouraging innovative thinking, ethical research practices, and a commitment to scientific excellence. These interactions have not only shaped the trajectory of scientific inquiry but have also ensured that research activities remain grounded in societal needs.

Perhaps one of my most significant contributions in this domain has been my involvement in the formulation of the Government of India’s Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) Policy. As the chair of the national advisory committee and national steering committee, I focused on the integration of science with social development, advocating for a model where scientific research and its benefits are seamlessly woven into the fabric of societal progress. This policy underscores the imperative for scientists and research institutions to engage actively with the community, promoting public understanding of science and its myriad contributions to humanity. One of the important aspects of SSR is Science Education (formal, non-formal, informal) including Science Communication to take the scientific outcomes to the grassroot level as well as to foster scientific temper among the general public. A paradigm shift in identifying thrust areas for scientific research from Lab to land to the new concept of Land to Lab and back to Land. National Education Policy 2020 also emphasizes quality science education and a strong societal connect of Academia with Society through outreach programmes.     

Looking ahead, I am committed to continuing my efforts to promote science education and awareness. The landscape of science and technology is ever evolving, and it is imperative that we keep pace with these changes, ensuring that the benefits of scientific research are universally accessible and contribute to the global good. My future endeavours will focus on enhancing international collaborations, fostering a culture of innovation and inclusivity, and ensuring that science remains a key pillar of societal advancement.

In conclusion, my journey in the realm of science and technology has been immensely rewarding contributing to the society at large. As we stand on the cusp of new scientific revolutions, I remain dedicated to ensuring that the torch of knowledge continues to burn bright, illuminating paths of discovery, innovation, and societal progress. As my endeavour of SSR, I keep giving popular Science Lectures in schools, colleges, even in rural areas and also through writing popular articles in Print Media as well as participating in TV interviews as well through social media. SSR will be a game changer if implemented in letter and spirit. The link be used to access SSR policy of Govt. of India

Though the advancements in technologies hold promising potential for the benefit of society, significant ethical, security, operational challenges and threats are posed along with it. The emerging technologies including synthetic biology, cybersecurity vulnerabilities in a hyper-connected world and human-machine teaming pose some of the most pressing challenges facing the global community today. Addressing these challenges necessitates a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach, intertwining technological innovation with robust ethical frameworks, strategic policy development, and sustained international cooperation.

Though with the advancement of the technology including groundbreaking opportunities for progress in healthcare, energy, and security through the realms of biotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), and quantum computing, the ability of their use for harmful purposes is of great concern. It is important that the governance frameworks through international consensus on research norms, export controls, and the sharing of scientific knowledge be laid and implemented. The support from scientific community, policy makers, ethicists, and the public will play a deciding role to leverage the technological advances for the greater good while minimizing the risks of misuse.

Synthetic biology has the capacity to redesign organisms for specific purposes and promises revolutionary advances in medicine, agriculture, and environmental protection, however the deliberate misuse of these technologies may create harmful biological agents underscoring the need for stringent biosafety and biosecurity measures. Rigorous risk assessment methodologies need to be implemented and new biocontainment strategies be developed.

The complexity and scale of cybersecurity challenges has increased with the proliferation of digital technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT). Protecting critical infrastructure, sensitive data, and personal information from cyber threats is essential and it requires multi-layered security strategy that encompasses technological solutions, human factors, and regulatory frameworks. Advanced encryption methods and AI-driven threat detection systems development is a necessity. Awareness programs on cybersecurity awareness should be conducted. In fact, the resilience of global cyber infrastructure should be enhanced.

With the integrating AI, development of autonomous systems into everyday life and the workplace, including military and healthcare settings, the opportunities are infinite, but undermining human autonomy or decision-making also require focus on ethical AI development, transparency, and explainability. Ethics based training programs guiding human-AI interaction skills alongside research into the social and psychological aspects of human-machine collaboration, are essential for effective integration into society. Developing responsible research and innovation frameworks, enhancing public-private partnerships, and fostering a global dialogue are critical steps in ensuring that science and technology contribute only positively to humanity’s future.

Besides the above areas of focus, we need to develop innovative technologies to address food security, health security, energy and environmental security. Precision agriculture, vertical farming, aeroponics, hydroponics, application of microbial technology for agricultural productivity, need-based agricultural engineering tools and innovative agri-business approach will strengthen our food security. Similarly, point of care diagnostics, digital & mobile health, telemedicine, integrative medicine combining both allopathic and traditional systems of medicine for holistic healthcare, focus on cost-effective biomedical technologies will be priority areas in health security. Renewable energy sources, electric mobility, storage devices, fuel cell, nuclear power and cold fusion may address the challenges of energy security. Sustainability will be the forerunner in all developmental scientific endeavours.      

A paradigm shift through Look East policy brought a focus of Military operations on North Eastern Himalayas. Several new initiatives are being taken to develop suitable technologies for augmenting the operational efficiency. One such effort is the establishment of a joint Indo-Kyrgyz Mountain Biomedical research centre in Bishkek. Kargil war brought the need for technologies and strategies for rapid induction of troops to high altitude. Increasing terrorism and the capability existing for CBRN threat in the neighbourhood, a focus was given to develop CBRN Defence technologies. A mission mode programme on Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology application in Defence and several new innovative technologies and products are developed.  

It is indeed a transformative era of research and innovation especially in the field of Life Sciences. The integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI), biotechnology, and other emerging technologies into the life sciences and allied areas has accelerated the pace of discoveries and opened new frontiers naming them genetic engineering, neurotechnology, synthetic biology, and personalized medicine. The implications extend way beyond the laboratory and offer unprecedented opportunities to address some of humanity’s most pressing health challenges, improve quality of life, and extend human capabilities. However, these technologies also introduce a spectrum of ethical, social, and regulatory considerations that must be navigated with care to ensure that their benefits are realized ethically and equitably.

The advent of technologies such as CRISPR-Cas9 and other gene-editing technologies have revolutionized human’s ability to manipulate the genetic material. They have potential for treating genetic disorders and enhancing disease resistance. Neurotechnology including brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) and neural implants promises restoring of lost sensory or motor functions and enhancing cognitive abilities. Synthetic biology’s ability to design and synthesize biological parts, devices, and systems presents opportunities for groundbreaking applications in medicine, agriculture, and environmental conservation.

Effective use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in life sciences shall bring a revolutionary shift through  offering new insights into biological complexity, accelerating the pace of medical discoveries, and transforming healthcare delivery.AI algorithms are able to analyze vast datasets to identify potential drug candidates much faster than traditional methods. AI can predict the efficacy and safety profiles of compounds thereby significantly shortening the drug development timeline and reduced costs. It shall facilitate availability of new treatments for patients in the near future, offering hope for diseases that are currently difficult to treat. In the area of diagnostics and precision medicine, AI-driven tools are enhancing diagnostic accuracy to enable the early detection of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disorders, and neurodegenerative conditions. AI shall be able to provide tailored treatment plans to the individual patient depending on their genetic makeup and lifestyle to improve outcomes and minimizing adverse effects. In the area of patient care and management, AI powered virtual health assistants shall be able to provide personalized advice and support. The predictive analytics shall be able to forecast individual health risks and suggest preventive measures. AI powered machines at hospital premises shall contribute to the improvement of patient monitoring, optimized treatment protocols, and enhanced operational efficiency.

At Amity University, advanced research on AI applications is being conducted which has found extensive use in the area of defence. In the area of surveillance especially for use by paramilitary and police forces as well as other law enforcement agencies, the team of researchers at Amity Institute of Space Science and Technology under the TDB (Technology Development Board) of DRDO have developed AI based recognition of the person using psychological parameters (gait and skeleton). It has occluded/ masked face recognition, group recognition and image/ video recognition detect a person with up to 95% accuracy. Through multidisciplinary approach combining AI with Biotechnology, the researcher at Amity Institute of Biotechnology have built a bioinformatics pipeline which combines reverse vaccinology tools, network biology system and text mining algorithms to analyses proteomes of pathogens and ranks proteins based upon their propensity to be an optimal vaccine candidate. Using, Long Short Term Memory Networks (LSTM) algorithm,  90% accuracy has been achieved. Amity Centre for Artificial intelligence in Noida, Uttar Pradesh which has the most advanced & world’s best Supercomputing facilities. The highly qualified faculty members are working with focus in the latest areas of AI like Deep learning, Machine Learning, NLP, Data Science, GAN etc.

The emerging professionals in the healthcare sector should navigate the evolving landscape by developing a confluence of skills and perspectives that extend beyond traditional medical training. Advanced technologies integration into healthcare ranging from AI, genomics, telemedicine, personalized medicine have shown promise to transform patient care, diagnostics, and treatment modalities. The emerging healthcare professionals must adopt a multidisciplinary approach that encompasses technology, ethics, and patient-centric care to effectively contribute to a thriving dynamic environment.

They should stay abreast of technological advancements in healthcare. Familiarity with the technologies will help them improve outcomes, streamline operations, and enhance patient experiences. Continuous education and hands-on experience with technologies like electronic health records (EHRs), AI-driven diagnostic tools, and digital health platforms are crucial. They should understand the ethical frameworks that guide medical practice in the digital age.

The rapid pace of technological change requires healthcare professionals to be adaptable, with a commitment to lifelong learning. This includes pursuing continuing education opportunities, participating in professional development workshops, and staying engaged with the latest research and innovations in the field.

InnoHEALTH magazine digital team

Author InnoHEALTH magazine digital team

More posts by InnoHEALTH magazine digital team

Leave a Reply