Indian gets prestigious research grant under Obama initiative

NEW YORK: An Indian neuroscientist in the US has been awarded a prestigious grant under President Barack Obama’s initiative to map the human brain.

The grant will help him to develop a “virtual neuroanatomist”, an artificial-intelligence system that can identify cell types and neural structures in microscopic images of brain slices.

The two researchers at the National Science Foundation, Partha Mitra and Florin Albeanu, have been awarded Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) under President Barack Obama’s multi-year Brain Initiative, a statement released by the laboratory said.

The award provides $300,000 over two years for the development of innovative conceptual and physical tools to advance neuroscience. The awards are intended to fund short-term, proof-of-concept projects with the prospect of high-payoffs.

Mitra is working to develop an integrative picture of brain function, incorporating theory and experimental work, it said.

He is also the founder of the Mouse Brain Architecture Project, an experimental effort to develop a brain-wide connectivity map of the mouse brain, the statement said.

Mitra’s work extends to the interface of physics, engineering, and biology, where he is developing theories that will allow researchers to extract meaningful information about neural circuit function.

“Florin Albeanu and Partha Mitra are working at the edge of the technology limit in neuroscience, and are actively expanding the limits of what we can do to understand the ultimate mysteries of the mammalian brain’s structure and operations,” said CSHL president and CEO Dr Bruce Stillman.

“On behalf of the faculty I congratulate them on winning EAGER awards, through which the National Science Foundation (NSF) enables them to continue to innovate,” Stillman said.

Two Indians plead guilty to massive healthcare fraud in US

WASHINGTON: Two Indian pharmacists working in the US have pleaded guilty to a massive healthcare fraud, causing a loss of up to $7 million to the district of Maryland.

Vipin Kumar Patel, 30, and Jigar Patel, 27, both of whom are licensed pharmacists and working in the US under H1-B visa, now faces a maximum sentence of five years of imprisonment for making a false statement in a healthcare matter, the US justice department said.

According to their plea agreements, the Patels held the positions of pharmacy technician and lead pharmacy technician, starting at $10 per hour and eventually became salaried employees, making approximately $1,400 biweekly.

In addition, the Patels were provided with housing and transportation, making their total salary and benefits between $70,000 and $120,000.

The value of the housing and transportation benefits were not disclosed on the Patels’ income tax returns, federal prosecutors alleged.

The Patels admitted that they billed insurance programmes for prescription refills when the pharmacy customers had not requested the refill.

As soon as a prescription was eligible for refill, the Patels would cause a false claim to be electronically submitted to a health care benefit program.

These refills were often billed and filled without the customer’s knowledge, federal prosecutors said, adding that the medications targeted for automatic refills were typically expensive HIV and cancer medications used by very ill customers.

The claims for payment were not reversed when the customers did not receive the medications, which they had not requested at the first place.

The Patels also knew that medications filled but not delivered to the customer — usually because they had not requested the refill — were placed back on the shelves at the pharmacy to be re-used to fill other prescriptions, the US department of justice said in a statement.

The Patels did not receive the profits from the fraud scheme directly, but were able to keep their jobs at Pharmacare and lawfully remain in the US their H1-B visas.

The loss to the health care benefit programs to date is between $2.5 million and $7 million, the statement said.

Also another Indian American Reddy Vijay Annappareddy, 46, is scheduled to go to trial on November 11, on charges of healthcare fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.

If convicted, Annappareddy faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for healthcare fraud and a mandatory minimum of two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, for aggravated identity theft, plus a $250,000 fine.

Top 8 India-born language groups in Australia

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is the main statistical agency in Australia. The ABS conducts a census of population and housing once every five years and the most recent census was conducted by the ABS in 2011. The 2011 census data published by the ABS contains information relating to the language spoken at home by country of birth. The language spoken at home variable records the main language other than English spoken at home.

According to the ABS, on the 9th of August 2011 (census night), there were circa 295,000 India-born people in Australia. Excluding the India-born people who indicated that they only speak English at home, the top 8 India-born language groups in descending order by population counts are: Hindi (20%), Punjabi (19%), Gujarati (9%), Malayalam (7%), Tamil (6%), Telugu (6%), Marathi (2%), and Kannada (2%) (Figure 1).

Figure 1 (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics)

The percentage of India-born people who indicated that they mainly speak Hindi or Punjabi at home is almost equal. However, considering people born in all countries who were surveyed on the census night, there are far more number of people who indicated that they mainly speak Hindi at home (>111,000 people) compared to people who indicated that they mainly speak Punjabi at home (>71,000 people). Apart from the India and Australia-born people, a vast majority of the people who indicated that they mainly speak Hindi at home are Fiji-born. A large proportion of Fiji’s population is of Indian origin and Hindi is widely spoken in Fiji.

There are more than 50 other India-born language groups in Australia. Some of the other language groups which did not make the top 8 include Urdu, Bengali, Konkani, Tulu, and Oriya.