From the news Archives: October

GM rice test field torched in Karnal
Indian Express, 30 October 2006.

In a serious setback for field tests of genetically modified (GM) rice, activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) have torched the sole field in Haryana where tests for the modified rice variety were being carried out.

Some 400 BKU activists torched the crop, saying it would contaminate soil and affect the existing variety of rice. After the incident, BKU threatened to burn all such fields in the country where trials are underway.

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    Move to constitute an independent Biotech Authority.
    Times of India, 28 Oct 2006.

    In a move to bolster bio-technology research, growth and investment in India, the Department of Bio-technology (DBT) has sought constitution of an independent bio-technology (BT) regulatory authority.

    The seminal focus of the authority would be to monitor and regulate all science-based processes. “The authority could look at the whole range of bio-tech products, medicines and their quality, environmental safety, health, genetic engineering, field trials of new products, the DNA question and the like. Underlying the monitoring is quality of the bio-tech process. Stringent standards will have to be followed.”

    DBT would like the proposed authority to function on the lines of the Election Commission — independent and armed with tangible powers to guide the bio-tech sector in accordance with the needs of the country.

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    Bird flu season back but govt sleeps
    Times of India, 18 October, 2006.

    With October, the bird flu season is back once again and India stands hopelessly unprepared for another outbreak. Five Bio Safety Level (BSL) III labs to test animal samples for H5N1 virus were announced.
    Not one has come up till now. The High Security Animal Disease Laboratory in Bhopal, which tested thousands of suspected samples for the virus early this year, continues to be the only hope.

    According to international norms, once a country declares an H5N1 outbreak, it has to send the virus samples to another country for validation. Sources said officials from Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta, have repeatedly asked India to send the samples to Australia. But HSADL has refused to share the virus.

    Scientists say though government’s attention towards bird flu has dipped, the virus remains just as dangerous and just as able to cause a worldwide outbreak like the one seen since 1918, when 50 million people died.

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    IIT-Delhi develops new drug designing software
    Times of India, October 2006

    The Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi has developed a wide array of software tools for drug designing and developing individualised medicine.
    The ChemGenome software can distinguish genes from non-genes in 331 bacterial genomes and 20 eukaryotic genomes with almost 90 per cent accuracy.
    The protein structure prediction software can successfully bracket native-like structures in the lowest energy structures for 50 small alpha helical and mixed globular proteins, Jayaram said.

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    New policy may make medicines cheaper
    Indian Express, 3 October 2006.

    A new pharma policy that will substantially bring down several generic drugs’ prices is likely to be soon in place. A 14-member committee set up by Chemicals and Fertiliser Minister Ram Vilas Paswan will submit a report in this regard to the Union Cabinet at the end of this month.

    Paswan said the prices of several hundred brands of generic-generic and branded generic drugs, including Omeprazole and Ciprofloxacin, are set to crash by up to 92 per cent with the pharma industry agreeing to a government proposal on capping trade margins. It has been agreed that the retail margins for these drugs would be kept at 35 per cent while the wholesale margins would be 15 per cent, he said. “This will be effective from October 2.”

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