Currents Affairs & GK – Jul 08, 2017

General Studies-III
Indigenization of technology and developing new technology
A hardy millet yields its genetic code

Scientists from the University of Agricultural Sciences-Bengaluru have sequenced the genetic code of ragi, or finger millet, for the first time in the world, throwing light on the exact building blocks that make it drought-resistant and nutrition-rich. The plant, was first domesticated from a wild species in Western Uganda and the Ethiopian highlands before being introduced to India around 3,000 BC. The key genetic information revealed by the four-year project will aid further research on ragi, the main crop of dry land farmers.

Ragi occupies 12% of global millet cultivation area and Karnataka, which has the second largest drought-prone crop land after Rajasthan, leads in its cultivation. With a low glycemic index, ragi is a healthier alternative to polished cereals, rich in calcium, fibre and iron besides being gluten-free.

Genome sequencing identifies the order of DNA nucleotides in a genome. 2,866 drought-tolerant genes in ragi besides those responsible for its nutrients have been identified. Knowledge of specific genes would now help reduce the time needed for developing new and improved varieties. It would also be possible to expect more productive outcomes while developing improved and drought-tolerant varieties. Potential gains to drought tolerance of rice and wheat through transfer of drought-tolerant genes found in ragi are possible. The scientific advance would help dry land farmers. Consumers would get nutrient-rich food through research involving a non-transgenic process.

Malaria vaccine test on humans under study

Experts at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and labs affiliated to the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), will have a first-of-its kind “ethics meeting” to discuss the feasibility of conducting the so-called ‘human challenge’ trials in India. The meeting will also discuss testing two vaccine-candidates — one that causes falciparum malaria and the milder-but-more-prevalent vivax — developed at the New Delhi-based International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

Because vaccines involve injecting the body with a mild strain of a parasite, the traditional approach — for drugs and vaccines — has been to test it in animals and only then, if safe and effective, check them in humans. This approach however has meant that several promising candidates, after tons of investment, fail to live up to expectations and consequently wasted money.

Moreover, there are situations where the dosage requirements in people or, the manner in which disease manifests is different from that in animal models. However, not all strains are amenable to a human-first, or Controlled Human Infection Model (CHIM) approach. The strain of parasite, for instance, must only induce as much infection as can be treated by available medicines and only healthy, human volunteers — completely aware of the risks and have given informed consent — ought to be recruited for trials.  Malaria vaccine trial.jpg

Issues relating to intellectual property rights
Scheme for IPR Awareness – Creative India; Innovative India

Taking forward the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy 2016, a ‘Scheme for IPR Awareness – Creative India; Innovative India’ has been launched by Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) under the aegis of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion.

The Scheme aims at raising IPR awareness amongst students, youth, authors, artists, budding inventors and professionals to inspire them to create, innovate and protect their creations and inventions across India including Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 cities as well as rural areas in the next 3 years.

The Scheme for IPR Awareness aims to conduct over 4000 IPR awareness workshops/seminars in academic institutions (schools and colleges) and the industry, including MSMEs and Startups, as also IP training and sensitization programmes for enforcement agencies and the judiciary.

Workshops will cover all vital IP topics including international filing procedures, promotion of Geographical Indications and highlighting the ill effects of piracy and counterfeiting.

The Scheme for IPR Awareness would be implemented through partner organizations to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.