Insights Daily Current Affairs, 03 August 2016
Paper-3: Awareness in biotechnology
First human genetic editing trial in China
Chinese scientists will perform the world’s first genetic editing trial on humans this month, in an attempt to find a cure for lung cancer.
A group of oncologist at the West China Hospital of Sichuan University, Chengdu, will inject patients with cells that have been modified using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique
What is CRISPR?
● CRISPR, short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, was named “2015 Breakthrough of the Year” by the U.S. journal Science .
● It allows scientists to selectively edit genome parts and replace them with new DNA stretches.
● Cas9 is an enzyme that can edit DNA, allowing the alteration of genetic patterns by genome modification.
● CRISPR is a collection of DNA sequences that direct Cas9 where to cut and paste.
What doctors will do?
● Doctors will extract T cells, a type of immune cell, from the patient’s blood and then knock out the gene that encodes the PD-1 protein, which normally limits the cell’s capacity to launch an immune response.
● The edited cells will be multiplied in the lab before being reintroduced to the patients.
● ‘Cancer-fighting army’
○ This process will hopefully kick-start the T cells to launch an attack on the tumour cells.
○ It is like building a cancer-fighting army outside the patient body
Paper-2: Development industry
Foreign funds pour in; 3,000 NGOs get over Rs. 22,000 cr.
A total of 3,068 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) received foreign funding above Rs. 22,000 crore in 2014-15, according to government data presented in response to a question in Parliament.
- As much as Rs. 7,300 crore — or 33 per cent of the total — went to NGOs based in Delhi and Tamil Nadu alone.
- In fact, 80 per cent of this funding went to NGOs based in seven States — Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and West Bengal.
- As of July 2016, 33,091 NGOs were registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which regulates foreign funding to these bodies.
- As many as 14,222 NGOs were barred from receiving foreign funds in the past four years for violating norms
- The Ministry of Home Affairs is mandated to administer the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, for regulating the receipt and utilisation of foreign contribution by the associations.
- A ‘person’, as defined in Section 2(1)(m) with the exclusion of those mentioned in Section 3 of FCRA, 2010, having a definite cultural, economic, educational, religious or social programme can receive foreign contribution after it obtains the prior permission of the Central Government, or gets itself registered with the Central Government.
Paper-3: Awareness in computers and IT
IBM’s technology may help detect cancer early
Scientists at IBM have developed a new lab-on-a-chip technology that can, for the first time, separate biological particles at the nanoscale and could help detect diseases such as cancer before symptoms appear.
- Researchers showed size-based separation of bioparticles down to 20 nanometres (nm) in diameter, a scale that gives access to important particles such as DNA, viruses and exosomes.
- Once separated, these particles can be analysed to potentially unveil signs of disease even before patients experience any physical symptoms and when the outcome from treatment is most positive.
- Until now, the smallest bioparticle that could be separated by size with on-chip technologies was about 50 times or larger, for example, separation of circulating tumour cells from other biological components.
- Exosomes are increasingly being viewed as biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of malignant tumours. They are released in easily accessible bodily fluids such as saliva, urine or blood. They represent a precious biomedical tool as they can be used in the context of less invasive liquid biopsies to unveil the origin and nature of a cancer.
- Researchers targeted exosomes with their lab-on-chip technology as existing scientific techniques face challenges for separating and purifying exosomes in liquid biopsies.
- Exosomes range in size from 20-140nm and contain information about the health of the originating cell that they are shed from.
- A determination of the size, surface proteins and nucleic acid cargo carried by exosomes can give essential information about the presence and state of developing cancer and other diseases.
- Researchers showed they could separate and detect particles as small as 20 nm from smaller particles, that exosomes of size 100 nm and larger could be separated from smaller ones, and separation can take place in spite of diffusion, a hallmark of particle dynamics at these small scales.
Paper-3: Awareness in biotechnology
Sorting bioparticles at the nanoscale
Lab-on-a-chip technologies have become an incredibly helpful tool for physicians as they can be significantly faster, portable, easy to use and require less sample volume to help detect diseases.
The goal is to shrink down to a single silicon chip all of the processes necessary to analyze a disease that would normally be carried out in a full-scale biochemistry lab.
What is nano-DLD?
- Nanoscale deterministic lateral displacement
- Using a technology called nanoscale deterministic lateral displacement, or nano-DLD allows a liquid sample to be passed, in continuous flow, through a silicon chip containing an asymmetric pillar array
- This array allows the system to sort a microscopic waterfall of nanoparticles, separating particles by size down to tens of nanometers resolution.
Paper – 2: Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Special status for Andhra Pradesh: MPs raise slogans
- The Lok Sabha was adjourned twice when members from the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) and Telugu Desam Party raised slogans demanding special status for A.P.
- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley assured them that the government was looking at their demand. “Some members have concerns over particular issues. The Government stands by its commitment. We are trying to find a solution to these issues,” Mr. Jaitley said.
- Andhra Pradesh is asking for Special Category Status not Special Status, there’s a big difference between Special Status and Special Category Status.
- Special Status is guaranteed by the Constitution of India through an Act passed by the two-third majority in both houses of the Parliament (example – J&K)
- Special Category Status(SCS) is granted by the National Development Council, an administrative body of the government.
- Special category status is usually based on the recommendations of the National Development Council (NDC).
What are the parameters?
- Low resource base, hilly & difficult terrain
- Low population density or sizeable share of tribal population
- Backwardness, border states/ sharing the international border
- Economic & infrastructural backwardness
- Non-viable nature of state finances
Which States are receiving it right now?
Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura, Uttarakhand and Mizoram. (Total 11)
What are the benefits which states get?
- The Planning Commission allocates funds to states through central assistance for state plans. Central assistance can be broadly split into three components
- Normal Central Assistance (NCA)
- Additional Central Assistance (ACA)
- Special Central Assistance (SCA)
- NCA, the main assistance for state plans, is split to favor special category states: the 11 states get 30% of the total assistance while the other states share the remaining 70%.
- The nature of the assistance also varies for special category states; NCA is split into 90% grants and 10% loans for special category states, while the ratio between grants and loans is 30:70 for other states.
- For allocation among special category states, there are no explicit criteria for distribution and funds are allocated on the basis of the state’s plan size and previous plan expenditures.
- Allocation between non special category states is determined by the Gadgil Mukherjee formula which gives weight to population (60%), per capita income (25%), fiscal performance (7.5%) and special problems (7.5%).
- Special category states also receive specific assistance addressing features like hill areas, tribal sub-plans and border areas.
- Beyond additional plan resources, special category states can enjoy concessions in excise and customs duties, income tax rates and corporate tax rates as determined by the government.
Paper-3: IPR related issues
AYUSH drugs to get trial guidelines
- To bring research on Ayurvedic drugs and formulations closer to practices in Western medicine, the Indian Council of Medical Research has released a set of guidelines concerning standards that must be adhered to in testing medicines from AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) schools.
- The draft guidelines say that research on traditional and folk medicines and patented and proprietary varieties of traditional medicines involving human participants must be done using the same ethical principles under which drug trials are conducted.
IPR and patents
- If a mix of medicinal systems are involved, then there ought to be experts from each of those fields supervising trials and if a product deriving from traditional knowledge were to be commercialised, the “legitimate rights/share of the tribe or community from which the knowledge was gathered should be taken care of appropriately while applying for Intellectual Property Rights and patents for the product”
- The guidelines deal with emerging fields of research such as synthetic biology and ethical rules governing medical diagnostics, and specify that all participants be made aware of the risks and not be offered undue inducements to participate in the trial of a new drug.
- India has several sets of guidelines governing the conduct of clinical trials and stem cell research that are updated from time to time. However, there has been little clarity on how Ayurvedic formulations and other traditional medicines ought to be tested. This is a positive step and is important for traditional Indian formulations to be able to access international markets.
- A range of companies are employing new approaches such as genetic analysis or trying to determine the molecular basis of the effectiveness of traditional formulations.
- Among others, one of India’s top pharmaceutical companies, Sun Pharma, has entered into a deal with the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology to develop a herbal drug for dengue earlier this year.
- The ICMR guidelines are not a precursor to a law though adherence to them is required by India’s drug regulator to grant permission for trials.
- India has frequently seen controversies over the improper conduct of clinical trials and there is a proposed amendment to the Drug and Cosmetics Act that seeks to impose stricter penalties for those found violating clinical trial guidelines.
Paper-3: Changes in industrial policy
Steel industry seeks extension of MIP
Even as the steel industry is urging the Centre to continue the minimum import price (MIP) protection scheme to guard against increased imports, user-industries have started protesting against any extension of the scheme.
MIP scheme for Steel Industry
- The MIP scheme was introduced in February, 2016 for six months.
- Post-MIP, the industry has been able to marginally improve its viability after a prolonged period of subdued prices and eroded profit margins
- While MIP cannot possibly be an all-encompassing framework for a complete turnaround of the Indian steel industry, it has provided a cushion against surging imports
- The Indian steel industry does not see MIP as a perpetual protectionist step, but as a necessary temporary measure that will allow time for recovery.
- The Indian steel industry’s outstanding loan is estimated at Rs.3,00,000 crore, of which 35 per cent may be stressed.
- MIP was imposed on February 5, 2016 on 173 steel items covering both flat and long products.
- The accelerating imports at predatory prices from three steel-surplus Asian countries has been a major concern for the domestic industry since September 2014.
- Steel imports, which had peaked in July 2015 registering a 114.6 per cent increase year-on-year, started to decline around November 2015 (when a provisional safeguard duty was imposed). Post-MIP it has dropped in range of 24.6 per cent and 43.1 per cent in the first quarter of the current fiscal.
- India is expected to impose an anti-dumping duty of up to $ 557 per tonne on imports of certain steel products from six countries.
- The Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD), under the Commerce Ministry, has found that hot-rolled flat products of alloy or non-alloy steel have been exported to India from China, Japan, Korea, Russia, Brazil and Indonesia at “below-normal value”.