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An interview with renowned biomedical sciences author Professor Shailendra K. Saxena, editor of the first book to be published on COVID-19

Shailendra K. Saxena

Professor Shailendra K. Saxena is the Vice Dean and Professor at King George’s Medical University, Lucknow. Professor Saxena is the author of several popular books in the fields of medical microbiology, virology, infectious diseases and nanomedicine.

We spoke to Professor Shailendra K. Saxena about researching, teaching and publishing during the pandemic and how working with Springer Nature has helped disseminate his vital research to a wide audience for maximum impact. 

Can you introduce yourself and your primary focus of research?

I am the Vice Dean and Professor at King George's Medical University, Lucknow. My primary research interests are to understand the molecular mechanisms of host defense during human viral infections and to develop new predictive, preventive, and therapeutic strategies for them using emerging and re- emerging viruses as a model, via stem cell and cell culture technologies.

Your book on COVID-19 is very timely, how were you able to get this book written and published so quickly?

Actually, I am one of the trained risk assessors for the emerging infectious diseases. In continuation to this, as soon as we heard about the outbreak of a novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV at that time) associated-disease from Wuhan City, China, mainly with pneumonia-like symptoms, we immediately started our work to assess its risk. This earliest study from India was planned by our team at KGMU to determine the sequence variation, the structural and antigenic divergence of S glycoprotein of novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in comparison with its predecessors, which aimed to provide help for the management of 2019-nCoV (now SARS-CoV-2) infection. Our team of researchers eventually published this as an original research article, which was sent to the journal on 24 January 2020, it was further accepted and published consequently, long before other scientists started to see COVID-19 pandemic around the world.

In this paper, for the first time we exhibited that the emergence of human 2019-nCoV is closely related to predecessor SARS-CoV, and owing to it's pandemic potential it should be declared as a public health emergency of international concern at the earliest, which was eventually done by WHO.  Foremost our data provided the evidence that 2019-nCoV (now SARS-CoV-2) uses various novel glycosylation sites similar to SARS-CoV and may have the potential to become pandemic owing to its antigenic discrepancy. Further, we demonstrated novel CTL epitopes of SARS-CoV-2, which may impart opportunities for the development of peptide-based vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 in the near future. Additionally, our revelation of similar antigenic sites in both 2019-nCoV and SARS Coronavirus suggested the scope of SARS-associated peptide-based vaccine for the prevention of SARS-CoV-2. The similarity in the spike glycoprotein structures suggested the use of Coronavirus specific attachment inhibitors as the current choice of therapy for 2019-nCoV. This paper was the trigger for this COVID-19 book.

In the meantime the international medical, scientific and public health communities and government agencies started engaging urgently with the challenge, and several reliable websites, scientific publications and other resources have followed. Concomitantly, there has been a lot of misinformation and myths that have spread like wildfire through social media and other channels, which cause confusion and are frankly harmful. The Director-General of the WHO warned that “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic”.

So we decided to engage ourselves responsibly with all aspects of the COVID-19 emergency. We spent days and nights to complete the tasks. Serious reviews, further revisions, persistent modifications went on and on. When the world was lock-down, we were working. All the contributors including me worked like warriors including the Springer Nature team, and the end product was this book, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). I hope everyone associated with the publication process, is as proud of this book as I am. That's how perhaps the world’s first book on the SARS-CoV-2 from Springer Nature, was published so quickly in spite of global adversaries.

Not only has there been over 104,000 downloads in just a few weeks and still counting, the book has become an international Medical Bestseller and also is being used as a ready reference by several countries.

You have three titles coming out with Springer Nature in 2020. Why did you choose to publish in Springer Nature’s Biomedical & Life Sciences eBook Collection?

Yes, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) , NanoBioMedicine and Water-Associated Infectious Diseases are all coming out with Springer Nature this year.

I never envisaged this way, but this is just by chance, that all three are coming in 2020 with Springer Nature. Every project on which I work is dear and equally important to me, and when it comes to the selection of the publisher, Springer Nature is always my first choice, as the full team is highly motivated and they also motivate us to do something novel, out of the box, professionally relevant and well researched. Springer Nature always aims to advance discovery by publishing robust and insightful science, supporting the development of new areas of research and making ideas and knowledge accessible around the world, as they have done during the COVID-19 crisis. I strongly believe Springer Nature is a leading global scientific, educational and professional publisher, providing researchers in academia, scientific institutions and corporate R&D departments with the quality content through innovative information, products and services. As far as I know, Springer Nature has one of the strongest STM and HSS eBook collections and archives, as well as a comprehensive range of journals. These qualities propelled me to publish with Springer Nature.

I would like to thank Springer Nature for not only considering our three books and one book series for publications, but also for publishing the COVID-19 book in the shortest possible time, inspite of international restrictions, lockdown, working from home and several other limiting factors due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)       Water-Associated Infectious Diseases      NanoBioMedicine

How has Springer Nature helped with the dissemination of your research?

As a leading research publisher, Springer Nature is committed to supporting the global response to emerging outbreaks by enabling fast and direct access to the latest available research, evidence, and data. All relevant research related to the coronavirus that was published by Springer Nature, and continues to publish, is available for free. Consequently, they made this book free which provides recent advancements in this pandemic disease COVID-19. With many universities having to close, Springer Nature platforms including link.springer.com, remain fully available and they are ready to support the increasing numbers of researchers, students and faculty working from remote locations. They are assisting librarians to secure remote access for their users. Finally, the proliferation of deliberate misinformation and misguided inaccurate or incomplete information is also a tremendous. To counter this, Springer Nature is ensuring access to fact-based content on this fast-moving public health issues like this book on COVID-19

As a faculty at King George’s Medical University, is access to the online version of books and journals important to your institution, and even more so since the pandemic? 

With the Coronavirus outbreak having an unprecedented impact on education, although we are still working, our teaching and training programs have shifted to the online platforms and therefore, access to the online version of books and journals is very important to our institution. King George’s Medical University (KGMU) has taken proactive steps in providing remote access to the e-library with almost all the popular biomedicine books and journals for teaching. KGMU wants to support faculty and students during this challenging period and hope that online access to the books and journals will help us in this endeavor. We are using these resources to the fullest and disseminate this information to our residents and students.

Professor Saxena's book Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is part of Springer Nature’s Biomedical & Life Sciences eBook Collection. If you’d like more information about the Biomedical & Life Sciences eBook Collection please contact us here

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