Monday, 4 February 2013

When the Nizam of Hyderabad sent his Ayurveda Safari Dawakhana to Kumbhmela in 1942


Biotechnology Ignition Grant: Researchers at University of Hyderabad take up project on type-2 diabetes, multidrug resistant diseases

University of Hyderabad scientists bag BIG awards

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), an interface agency of the Department of Biotechnology, has recently introduced a program to enable early stage companies, academics and entrepreneurs to take their innovations from an idea to a proof-of-concept stage in the healthcare/biotechnology sector.

Two of the recipients of the Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG) are Dr. Ashwini Nangia of Crystalin Research and Dr. Radha Rangarajan of Vitas Pharma. Both innovators are based at the Technology Business Incubator on University of Hyderabad campus. They are also incubatees at Life Science Incubator in IKP Knowledge Park, which provides mentorship, networking, branding, funding support, and laboratory infrastructure to start ups. IKP is the BIG Partner for both new projects.

Dr. Ashwini Nangia of Crystalin Research will test novel drug molecules designed on the GPCR receptor (G-protein coupled receptor) for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes. The novelty of their approach lies in its simplicity. By modifying the functional group on an anti-psychotic drug it is expected that the change in binding to the receptor will lead to release of insulin.

The project will span the synthesis of drug molecules, their cell culture assays, and pre clinical animal trials to test the glucose level lowering efficacy of our “first in class drug”, says Dr. Nangia. He is a Professor of Chemistry at University of Hyderabad.

Dr. Radha Rangarajan is focused on identifying and developing novel therapies for multidrug resistant (MDR) infections at Vitas Pharma. MDR infections are a major public health concern in India and elsewhere, as they are associated with high levels of morbidity, mortality and treatment costs. The BIG Grant is intended for research on a novel class of compounds that target DNA replication in bacteria and prevent their growth through a unique mechanism, thus overcoming drug resistance.

The team will identify lead compounds with in vitro activity against highly resistant clinical strains and establish proof-of-concept in animal models. A successful drug emerging from this research would add to the armament of medicines for the effective management of infectious diseases.

Dr. Rangarajan has extensive research and development experience (Rockefeller University, Harvard School of Public Health and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories). She is on the Guest Faculty at NIPER, Hyderabad.

Rs 15,000 crore loss per year in fish and marine industry due to lack of post-harvest waste prevention methods


Post-harvest wastage causing annual losses worth over Rs 15K crore to marine & fish industry: ASSOCHAM
By Syed Akbar

The post harvest fish wastage leads to annual losses worth over Rs 15,000 crore in India’s marine and inland fisheries sector, according to an analysis by apex industry body ASSOCHAM.
“The poor post-harvest fish handling infrastructure in major maritime states in India leads to wastage of about 25 per cent of the total fisheries resources,” according to a sector-specific an analysis by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).
Besides, fish stocks in India’s territorial deep-sea waters also remain untapped owing to the dearth of suitable fishing vessels and also because traditional fishing communities are over-exploiting the coastal waters which is leading to fast depletion of maritime resources and shrinking the catch from the coastal zones.
The post-harvest losses are generally caused due to poor handling, processing of fish leading to quality deterioration arising out of biochemical and microbiological spoilage, inadequate packaging, marketing malpractices and lack of proper storage facilities.
“These losses result in potential income loss to fishermen community and all the stakeholders, traders, processors, involved in fishing related ancillary operations as the spoiled, physically damaged fish fetches 20-25 per cent lower price compared to the best quality catch,” said Mr D.S. Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM while releasing the chamber’s analysis.
“Production of value-added fishery products should be encouraged to realize better returns for producers, besides there is also a need to develop top-notch harbor and storage facilities for development of marine products in the country,” said Mr Rawat. “Sustainable practices like eco-friendly fisheries management must be adopted in capture, cultivation, utilization and marketing of marine products and there is also a need to bring in regulations to keep a check on over-exploitation of fisheries resources.”
ASSOCHAM has suggested the government to modernize existing harbours and establish more cold storage facilities and factory vessels to aid the fish and marine industry which is worth over Rs 61,000 crore.
Besides, improved methods of fish handling and preservation facilities on-board fishing vessels must be provided through joint ventures for production and marketing of value-added fish products.
“Maximum care should be taken while catching, storing and handling of fish to avoid any damage to the catch as it would go a long way in improving the quality of India’s marine products,” said Mr Rawat. “The entire fishing community including the policy makers and other stakeholders need to find alternative sources to encourage more-sustainable practices in aquaculture otherwise it could lead to degradation of land and marine habitat.”

Chest infections: University of Edinburgh study reveals boys in India get preference over girls for medical treatment


More boys than girls taken to hospital with chest infections, study shows

By Syed Akbar

Hyderabad: Boys in India and South Asia who suffer from chest infections are more likely than girls to receive hospital care, according to a new global study.

Around 12 million children under the age of five are hospitalised with chest infections such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis worldwide each year, the study suggests.

Researchers discovered that boys were more likely to be hospitalised because of chest infections than girls, both because male children are slightly more susceptible to such illnesses and because families are more likely to ensure that boys receive health care.

While this gender disparity was visible across the developing world, it was most pronounced in South Asia. In some areas of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, up to four times as many boys under five receive hospital care for chest infections compared with girls. The data for India came from previous studies conducted from different areas across the country.

The study found that a substantial number of children under five who became critically ill from chest infections were not treated in hospitals. Around 38 per cent of severe cases did not reach hospitals.

Researchers also found that an estimated 265,000 children under five suffering from chest infections die in hospitals worldwide each year.

Almost all of these deaths - 99 per cent - take place in the developing world. About eight out of ten children who die from chest infections do so outside of hospital care.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, who carried out the study based on 2010 data, say that the findings indicate the severity of the problem in developing nations.

Dr Harish Nair, of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Population Health Sciences, who led the study, said: "Pneumonia has an enormous impact upon the lives of young children across the world. This study shows that much more could be done to reduce infection and save lives, such as by improving access to hospitals in the developing world, or by ensuring that both boys and girls receive similar health care."

The study - the first of its kind - is published in The Lancet and supported by the World Health Organization. Its results were produced by a large international consortium of 76 researchers from 39 institutions, in 24 countries.

Researchers from around the world produced the estimates by using hospital-based studies of chest infection rates and data on health-care seeking in developing countries.

The study builds on previous research, also published in the Lancet in 2010 and 2011, which found that around 34 million children develop human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-related pneumonia and 20 million children under five develop seasonal flu-related pneumonia each year.

Sequencing the genome of pigeon pea: Icrisat novel programme on chana dal helps fight hunger and poverty


First ‘orphan legume’ genome sequence to be translated to crop breeding to boost food, nutrition and income security of dryland poor
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: A comprehensive, three-year, US$2-million pigeonpea molecular breeding project was launched yesterday aimed at improving the food, nutrition and income security of millions of poor people in the drylands.

The project "Pigeonpea Improvement using Molecular Breeding" supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) India Mission, aims to assist pigeonpea breeders to develop improved cultivars more efficiently using genomic tools. It will be implemented by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) headquartered in Hyderabad, India, along with the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi; the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Raichur, Karnataka; Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), Hyderabad; and other partners in India and Africa.

In the fight against poverty and hunger amid the threat of climate change, highly nutritious, drought-tolerant crops are the best bets for smallholder farmers in marginal environments to survive and improve their livelihoods. Pigeonpea, grown on about 5 million hectares in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and South-Central America, is a very important food legume for millions of poor in the semi-arid regions of the world. Known as the “poor people’s meat” because of its high protein content, it provides a well-balanced diet when accompanied with cereals.

"I am very pleased to announce here today this new partnership between the governments of India and the United States, and ICRISAT – a partnership that will take new studies in pigeonpea genomics to the next stage of scientific research. This collaboration will improve the agricultural productivity of pigeonpea, a main source of protein for more than a billion people in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean," said Ms Elizabeth Warfield, Deputy Mission Director, USAID, New Delhi during the project launch.

Dr William Dar, Director General, ICRISAT, acknowledged USAID’s commitment to the project. “USAID has always been an advocate of the agricultural research-for-development continuum. Thus, this project has a research component in Phase I and an application component in Phase II. This project is another testament to USAID’s commitment to improve the lot of resource-poor farmers particularly in the pigeonpea growing countries of the world."

“Under the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Grain Legumes led by ICRISAT along with other CGIAR Consortium members and program as well as national partners, genomics research will play a crucial role in speeding up the development of improved varieties for smallholder farmer crops such as pigeonpea,” Dr Dar added.

Dr Swapan Datta, Deputy Director General (Crop Science), ICAR acknowledged ICRISAT’s efforts in decoding the genome sequence of pigeonpea in 2011, and now that of chickpea in 2013. He said, "A scientific breakthrough like genome sequencing excites and motivates the scientific community to find grand solutions for grand challenges. We are very excited to see the launch of this USAID project.”

“The primary objective of the project is to translate genome information into the farmers’ fields. The project team is quite confident and looks forward to working with different partners and stakeholders in enhancing pigeonpea crop productivity that will eventually help ensure food security in India and generate more incomes for farmers in Africa", said Dr Rajeev Varshney, Project Coordinator and Director, Center of Excellence in Genomics,ICRISAT.

The project launch meeting held on 30 January at the ICRISAT headquarters in Patancheru near Hyderabad brought together about 70 delegates from India, Ghana, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi and private sectors.

Pigeonpea is an important crop for India’s food security, consumed in the form of dal in regular diets of majority of the country’s vegetarian population. India is the largest producer of pigeonpea in the world, largest consumer of pigeonpea and largest importer of pigeonpea. This opens great opportunities to further develop the industry in the country.

Meanwhile, sub-Saharan African countries like Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda grow pigeonpea to export to India, making pigeonpea production critical in increasing incomes and improving the livelihoods of resource-poor farmers. As the crop is generally grown in marginal environments, crop productivity is heavily challenged by several biotic and abiotic stresses.

Although traditional breeding has generated some hybrids to enhance yield, there is an urgent need to deploy molecular breeding approaches for improving varieties and hybrids. Because of limited genetic diversity and non-availability of genomic tools, molecular breeding has not been used in pigeonpea breeding programs. With the decoding of the pigeonpea genome sequence by an ICRISAT-led global research team in November 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India (GoI) together with ICAR and ICRISAT started to develop a road map for pigeonpea improvement using molecular breeding. That road map has led to the implementation of this USAID India Mission sanctioned project.

Word Of The Day - Improve Your Knowledge

Word of the Day

Article of the Day

This Day in History

Today's Birthday

In the News

Quote of the Day

Spelling Bee
difficulty level:
score: -
please wait...
 
spell the word:

Match Up
Match each word in the left column with its synonym on the right. When finished, click Answer to see the results. Good luck!

 

Hangman

This Day In History

Mother's Care

Mother's Care
Minnu The Cat & Her Kittens Brownie, Goldie & Blackie

Someone with Nature

Someone with Nature
Syed Akbar in an island in river Godavari with Papikonda hills in the background

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Under the shade of Baobab tree

Under the shade of Baobab tree
At Agha Khan Akademi in Kenya

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Convention on Biodiversity

Convention on Biodiversity
Syed Akbar at the 11th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity