Archive for August 29, 2006

One flu over the chicken’s pen!

New methods have been devised by the Chinese, Indian and US researchers, independant of each other wherein three different techniques to efficiently diagnose and/or cure the dreaded avian bird flu that had caused many human as well as animal casualties across the globe.

The three links offer more as to how exactly these work and their effect in fighting bird flu.


Fluchip, a microchip covered with bits of genetic material from many different flu strains, not only reduces the time needed for diagnosis of the A(H5N1) flu to less than a day from a week or more, but also is able to identify the exact flu causing strain.The identification process will be drastically simplified and would be applicable at remote places where there is relatively low bio-safety.
For more follow link:

NYT link

  • link
  • ***
    A Chinese-developed vaccine against the H5N1 strain of bird flu in humans has been found safe in its first round of tests, a government news agency reported Monday.
    The vaccine is primarily targeted at prevention and treatment of bird flu in humans.

    follow link:

  • link
  • ***
    High Security Animal Disease laboratory(HSADL), Bhopal, after six months of intensive research and app. $80 million funding, has developed a vaccine to treat and prevent avian bird flu. With a production cost estimated at 35 paise, it is bound to be the most promising and accessible medication to fight bird flu.

    for more:

  • link
  • News Bytes

    Here’s some more news from the world of biotech, regurgitated from mainstream media, just for you! Alright I’ll cut the crap, here’s what’s new!

    “By bypassing the broken pathway, we can use the cells’ own machinery to destroy themselves.”

    Finally, a breakthrough with reference to cancer cells and apotosis. Yes, the same mechanism that goes awry leading to cancer cell accumulation.
    I bet most of us thought of this very logical and obvious method to destroy cancerous outgrowth.
    The possibility of “customised cancer treatments” for individual patients, an approach that has been garnering increasing interest in recent years, is one of the interesting possibilities of this research.

    For the full article follow link:

  • Cancer cells will self-destruct in 5 seconds!

  • ***
    More cancer news
    …the new vaccine developed by Merck that reduces the incidence of cervical cancer and other diseases in females caused by certain types of genital human papillomavirus, or HPV…

    For the full article follow link:

  • A shot at ending cervical cancer!
  • ***
    Also, in industry related news
    LG Life Sciences India, a three-year old biotech business division of LG, is planning major expansion here by setting up manufacturing plants, research units and introduction of high-end products of global drug majors through marketing tie-ups.

    For more follow link:

  • LG life sciences mulls over expansion
  • It probably has been the most exciting week in BT with these major findings.
    Maybe its time that we have a more comprehensive and defined BT policy in India.

    New at TBI

    Chech out the weekly synopsis of your views and comments. Thank you for writing back.
    Also please comment on the structure of the blog. What do you want included or excluded?
    If you have some interesting info or want some bit to come into focus mail me!

    Follow link

  • Weekly synopsis – 26th August 2006
  • Ethical stem cells, finally!

    In what may be perceived as a major breakthrough which has the potential to revolutionize Stem Cell research, a Massachusetts based company claimed on Thursday, 24th Aug, that it had developed a way to make human embryonic stem cells without harming the original embryo.

    Professor Lanza and his team used embryos taken from fertility clinics which synthesize many embryos in-vitro from a donor egg and sperm, implant a few and the rest are frozen and eventually discarded. They let its fertilized eggs to grow to 8 to 10 cell stage. At quiescence, the embryo is no longer able to divide into twins but the cells can still form any cell or tissue in the body. They grew stem cells from a single quiescent cell without harming the embryo.

    The application of this technique may become a landmark as it supplicates a majority of opposition faced by researchers by pro-life activists who believe that such work is a destruction of life. Pro life supporters consider conception as the beginning of a new life. So any such attempts at altering or breeding stem cells is seen as gross violation of nature and what they see as obliteration of potential human life.

    Also, it remains to be seen how it could affect government policy, mainly the US, which recently announced a cut in stem sell research funding. Vetoed by the great simplifier of our times, President Bush who argued that the American people should not have to pay for something they didn’t support, maybe now this assessment would stand void. Scientists can also conduct their research without an anvil of guilt, if at all, hanging over their heads.

    A gradual paradigm shift from cell therapy as the primary goal of stem cells to a research tool in studying mechanism of disease is foreseen by premier researchers. This would only enhance the possibilities. In Parkinson’s disease, for example, dopamine-producing cells from aborted fetuses, when injected into the brain of the patient do have an effect, suggesting that a better source of cell could have therapeutic value. This is where embryonic stem cells could be used as a developmental model to extract the chemical or implanting cells produced in – vitro.

    Have we found the answer to ethically produce stem cells or is it too early to celebrate? Even with this system it would be difficult to change the majority negative perception of stem cell research as an act against nature.

    “Stem cell biology is just a rubric that applies to many things in biology”, says John D. Gearhart, a John Hopkins University stem cell expert and rightly so. It has immense potential to help us better understand ourselves.

    To see the abstract published by the team in this weeks Nature magazine click on the title link. (the title of this post)

    Weekly synopsis of your views and comments!!

    Weekly round up 26th August 2006. Saturday.

    *** interesting blog thanks for the links.
    I didnot know about the Indian policy guess we got something right!


    Well now you know !

    *** …How did you come up with this idea, its cool but its gonna take a big effort!
    Kush Malhotra
    via email.

    I was talking to a friend (hey Diana!) of mine who felt it was essential to educate people about biotech. If we intend to make a global difference, then people must be aware. The level of awareness about biotechnology as a field amongst the lay people or those who weren’t involved in any biological sciences that I talked to, was shocking. Most expected me to be some sort of genetic manipulator who worked in a lab to screw over the world. The perception has to change. Hence the blog!

    *** Have you watched corporate the bhandarkar movie…

    No I haven’t. I have heard that it is about the cola-wars. I’ll try to catch it, thanks for the heads up!

    *** …Do you think pepsi or coke should be banned?

    Banning a drink would not provide a lasting answer to our already tarnished ecosystem. The solution must be long-term and complete. Yes, if the soft drinks have been found to violate prescribed norms, then they must be prosecuted. But thanks to murky politics this too cannot be substantiated without a doubt. Now the govt. says that the earlier CSE report is incorrect!

    *** the articles they are nice…the cola contro is old news made new , nobody cares, okay i admit some people do , but still. africa and cheap drugs, gets a big smile, stoopid money making tactics should not be used where there is so much need…but the nicest one was the smoking pill one , short & sweet .
    Ketaki Kumta
    via email
    Thank you so much. Finally an articulate assessment! I only play second fiddle to general media so I tried to put forth a biotech oriented point of view in the pepsi story, that hadn’t been explored.

    *** … Man, you should write propoganda…are you up for it. I liked your personal blog…
    Amon Goth
    via email

    huh!!!! whatever gave you that idea!! Your pseudonym ( Ralf Fiennes’ Character from Schindler’s list, the most hated anti-semitic villian, nice touch!) suggests your intent in asking me this question. No I do not write propoganda!!

    And yes, my first hate mail…I am so damn proud!!.

    ***this is a stupid idea. Nobody gives a shit about biotech or colas. Look for something else to write about….moron…what were you thinking? You got way too much time on your hands!
    Crazy Eddie
    via email

    If you think biotech doesn’t matter you must be delusional. If you don’t want to read about it, move on to the next frickin blog!! Zubair is that you???

    I cannot believe that so many people took the time to write their feedbacks.
    Thank you for your two-bit on my blog and taking the time to let me know what you think! I appreciate it, THANKS A MIL!!
    And do keep writing.

    If you do not want your mails to be featured let me know.

    Has media become subservient to market pressures?

    From rescheduling a news item to a religiously conducive day or the weekend to attract maximum audience, this trend in media is persistently eroding the integrity of the fourth estate.

    Sahara Mumbai on Thursday 8.00 pm aired a piece where Mr.RKB himself, interviewed people and dignitaries of the famous Shirdi temple located near Nasik. The issue at hand was the proposed replacement of the current silver throne with a golden for idol of the revered saint, Sai Baba.

    The interview was done on earlier than or on Tuesday, I presume as teasers were being aired since Wednesday mid-morning. It was most likely picked up as a potential story after Mr. Bal Thackeray objected to such undue expenses when we are living in a state, Maharashtra, where farmers commit suicide on a daily basis because of lack of funds.

    The teaser was being aired and to my surprise the full segment was not shown. I figured being a “special” they would have moved it to their regular weekend slot, which in itself would be in contradiction to the ideal of immediate news reporting. But they went a step further and picked a prime-time slot at 8pm on a Thursday, which is widely acknowledged as day attributed to Sai Baba. The teasers leading to this piece were aired almost once every hour on Wednesday and they also did a 10min showcase at 8pm on that day.

    The move was obviously to generate maximum TRP for the channel, as many would watch it due to religious inclination and interest which would be heightened by the awareness of the day.

    This was unsettling as being journalism student I wondered about the ethical propriety of such a move. Is media trying to create news today instead of purely reporting it?

    As a pattern it may be observed that during the last four weekends a news bit has been consequently stretched to provide a sort of “reality TV” alternative for the weekend viewer! It began with the prince saga which was given almost 2 day minute by minute coverage. Then there was the infamous Jaswant Singh mole controversy which was probed mercilessly, more so on weekends. The PM and the Indo-US nuclear deal was vying for eyeballs all across the prominent TV channels.

    Last week it was the Mahim creek water that had become sweet and hordes of people went to the beach to drink murky sea-water. This, in my opinion, is an excellent example of media created mass frenzy, as the amount of airtime given to this item ensured that more people would be encouraged to learn about the phenomenon by themselves, which resulted in small children drinking filthy water. This story was given almost 13 to 14 hours of airtime. The report was objective as it warned the people not to drink the water as it may contain toxins but was it responsible in giving it an incubation period via extensive coverage which lead to mass frenzy! I doubt whether this would be the case if the story were to break on a week day.

    Although business compulsions of news channels cannot be ignored in today’s reality but it is imperative that they do not forget the very basics of reporting. We have a robust media here in India, which is not afraid to challenge the establishment policies and seldom hesitates to ask the important questions. By such gross violation of journalism ethics it would not only render the fourth estate hollow but also harm the psyche of its audience at large.

    I revert to an often used and possibly clichéd quote but whose relevance is by far unquestioned. Mr. Stan Lee said it best when he proclaimed “With great power comes great responsibility”.

    News bytes

    I you missed this bit floating around for a while, the centre has pledged to promote more institutes for research covering basic and applied aspects in the field of agriculture, fisheries, floriculture and animal sciences.

    Genetic Engineering units have been set up at
    *Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
    *Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
    *Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi

    The government making efforts to set up a Centre for Genetic Engineering and Strain Manipulation at Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai and a National Centre for plant genome research in New Delhi to work in the field of plant genomics.

  • ET article
    Also, the US drug authorities have approved a new pill for smokers called ‘Chantix’ which as trials suggest would be successful in helping nearly 50% of the people undergoing treatment.
    The drug could be soon on sale in Britain.
    So there’s hope at last, listening you guys!!

    To see the full report follow the link :

  • Poping a pill could help smokers quit
  • Generic distress

    As India makes a move towards a comprehensive policy to fix limits on unbranded generic drugs from October 2, a German MNC has warned major Nairobi based companies including Phillips Pharmaceuticals with legal action if they continue to buy generic drugs, which are available at a cheaper rate

    Boehringer Ingelheim (BI), in an arm-twisting strategy akin to major Pharma players in the world market in a move to protect their interests, claims it has created nevirapine and nevirapine hemihydrate sold commercially as Viramune and buying these generic drugs in East-Africa, majority manufactures are Indian firms, is a clear violation of patent rights.

    Cipla, one of the major companies exporting anti-retrovirals from India, is treating 1 in 3 HIV infected people in Africa. Ranbaxy is also a major exporter to this region.

    The economic conditions in Africa make it difficult for expensive patented versions of the drug to be affordable to a large section of the affected populace. This is where the generic drugs, priced at a relatively low cost, are important to the very survival of HIV affected individuals. Nevirapine is an important first-line HIV drug used in combination with other anti-retrovirals, and generic versions of the drug provide an affordable option as against the patented drugs.

    A majority of pharma companies initiate drug development solely with the purview of financial gain, welfare and cure being a secondary concern. It is absolutely necessary for a company to protect its IPR interests, but with reasonable negotiations a package could have been made to make sure that vital drugs are available to the poor people.

    The situation in Africa is worsening by the day; millions are infected by the dreaded HIV virus. It is a humane responsibility that we provide the necessary treatments at affordable costs or the purpose of research fails miserably.

    Kudos to the Indian government for its initiative via the Pharmaceutical policy, in bringing down the prices of unbranded generic drugs, which previously had no limits, so that the costs would be reduced to about 60% of the original, facilitating proper health care for millions. Some of the Pharma Cos have agreed to voluntarily impose margins of 35%for retail and 15%for wholesale.

    In this business of making and distributing drugs it is imperative that the people who require these the most are not forgotten.

    For more on generic drugs see link :

  • generic drugs

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    We intensely believe in democratisation of opinions and thoughts so go ahead tell us what do you think!

    Is a government policy bothering you, your teacher isn’t good enough, your college rocks, you hate biotech but still are pursuing it, whatever your reason may be we will ensure your voice is taken into account and heard.

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    post your views and opinions in the comments field or mail me at :

    We look foward to hear from you!!

    Storm in a bottle: The big picture missing!

    The recent controversy surrounding an unacceptable level of pesticides in Pepsi and Coca-Cola is grossly misdirected in the general media. By merely focusing on banning the drinks an important opportunity to deliberate on this issue is lost.

    It is necessary that MNCs must adhere to a standard especially when the product in question is consumed by a mass populace and they must be held accountable. But the core issue here should be how these findings reflect on the state of our water resources and environmental conditions.

    The indiscriminate use of chemical and hazardous pesticides leads to them being leeched into our underground water reserves, soil and the atmosphere. It is not surprising at all that toxins are found in such high amounts in cola drinks which contain about 90% water. Such studies if conducted over a wide spectrum of organic food items and agricultural produce would, without a doubt, generate similar results. A proposed healthier option of milk in schools should also be subjected to equivalent checks but the results may just be damaging to the very fabric of our existence.

    The fact that food articles elementary for our daily sustenance are polluted to an objectionable rate is alarming. The wider implication of such a possibility on the general health of people and also in the context of global trade is a matter of concern. India’s credibility in the world market may come under a scanner and jeopardize trade relations or even worse may attract embargoes on import from the country. It is imperative that the government formulate a comprehensive policy to contain pollution and avert such a crisis, even if it may not be an immediate threat. This can be achieved by introducing stringent environmental laws, agricultural policies and ensuring their implementation. Also, people must be educated and encouraged to actively participate in conserving the environment for a long-term holistic solution.

    An alternative course of action must be considered which would help in curtailing the use of harmful pesticides in agriculture. Bio-fertilizers, vermiculture, sporadic growth of crops with varied nutritional requirements can be supplemented along with the conventional fertilizers.

    Genetically engineered plants with inherent resistance to common pests and diseases can be a resourceful means by which chemical usage can be curbed. This requires government support in terms of initiative, financial aid and devising new policies to pave the way for research in this field. India already has a comprehensive policy on biotechnology and its application in agriculture and regulation but it is still in its nascent stage. Liberalising this sector can provide viable solutions to the widely observed environmental degeneration that is prevalent today. A proper understanding of the technology and its implementation in a prescribed regulated method is of importance while considering this option.

    We must cease to take the earth for granted lest it returns the gesture, as it already has begun, for us to be consumed by our perennial struggle to exist.