Monthly Archives: June 2015

Embarkment of the Earth’s Sixth Extinction Phase.

earth extinction

The Biosphere, zone of life on Earth, colonized by us ,the Homo sapiens sapiens, was created by countless interactions between living forms, rocks and weather. We share the planet with an approximate of 8.7 million different life forms, the major chunk of it being occupied by insects and a quarter (2.2m) species dwelling in water. This figure does not include the bacterial population.

It is estimated that nearly 90% of the species are unknown the scientific world and only 1% of the existing population is monitored by IUCN’s Red List. IUCN. International Union for Conservation of Nature, is a global authority that keeps a check on the conservation status of biological species and IUCN Red List evaluates the extinction risk of species and subspecies. Taxonomists are, therefore, constantly thriving to discover the unknown species.

It seems that the workload of the taxonomists have been reduced as the a number of species are on the verge of extinction. In a report published in the Sciences Advance Journal authored by the scientists from Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley Universities, mentioned that the Earth has entered into the sixth extinction phase. The report  said that the vertebrates were vanishing at a rate of 114 times faster than the normal and humans are also likely to be among the species lost. It also said that a similar event was observed over 65 million years ago when dinosaurs disappeared, most probably as a result of an asteroid (fifth extinction phase).

According to Dr. Niles Eldridge, a known Paleontologist, the reasons behind the first five extinction phases are physical but the reason underlying the sixth extinction phase is rather biotic than physical cause. The above mentioned report also pointed out deforestation, increasing levels of pollution, green house effect, over-exploitation of species, transformation of landscape, etc- all of which are the results of human activities and their interference with the natural phenomenons, to be principle causes of concern.

Therefore, it has become imperative to keep a check on our activities because it is for our actions other innocent species are paying off. Is that fair? Certainly NOT!

Advertisements

The EYE Concept

eye

Eyes are one of the finest procreations of the human life. Biologically these are complex and specialized organs of sight. Being complex and specialized they have always been well taken care of. But increasing pollution  and overindulgence in the electronic media have surrounded this organ with intricacies , end result being eyes suffering from numerous infirmities like improper focus, blurring, infections, irritation, etc.

An Italian design firm MHOX has envisaged an ambitious project to fix the above-mentioned hitches. Their proposition involves the replacement of defected eye with the synthetic one, a concept called- Enhance Your Eye (EYE). EYE would entail a 3D bioprinter to fabricate synthetic eyes. 3D bioprinting is used to make biological constructs by proper alignment of cells onto a biocompatible medium layer-by-layer to generate a tissue like 3D structure. This technology have already been used for constructing organs like ears, blood vessels, kidneys, liver but their success rate of functionality is reported to be low.

EYE system would be used only by surgically removing the defected eye and then replacing it with an artificial retina that connects to the brain and would allow users to plug in different eyeballs at will.The lead designer at MHOX intents to develop three different types of eyes. First, HEAL- a synthetic eye similar to the normal eye that would serve to replace the defected eye of the patients. Second- ENHANCE, it would improvise the normal vision and also enabling filters on visions similar to those on photoshops like vintage, black and white, etc. And thirdly-ADVANCE, which would have additional glands to capture what a person is seeing and sharing those images also via wi-fi connection.

The firm predicts that EYE would be on floors by 2027 but its success is uncertain owing to the low success rates of functionality of organs developed by bioprinting.

The grim reality of constipation prevalence in India.

constipationConstipation is a topic on which people have always been hesitant to talk about. It is considered a taboo to talk about the bowel problem in public. But it is one of the major health concerns now-a-days. What exactly the term ‘constipation’ means? In medical sciences it is a disorder that is characterized by difficult or incomplete defecation.

According to a survey the average population across the globe suffering from chronic constipation is around 10%. But the Indian statistics are a bit shocking. About 14% of the Indians suffer from chronic constipation, higher than the world average!  The Gut-Health Survey conducted a study on 3500 people from 6 cities across the nation. As per the survey Coimbatore has the maximum number of people suffering from chronic constipation (21%), followed by Mumbai (19%), Kolkata and Delhi stand out equal taking occupying the third position (13%), Hyderabad at fourth position (6%) and Lucknow having the least number of sufferers (2%).

These statistics compel us to think of the probable reason, rather reasons, underlying this high prevalence rate. As per a study low fiber diet, hypothyroidism , excess use of laxatives, excess consumption of dairy products are some of the many reasons. But the most common reason is our increasing adaptation of modern day urban lifestyle. Our lives, these days, have become so busy that we seldom get ample time to take our meals , exercise and  take proper care of our health. In order to save time and invest that time in our work to add a few bucks in our account we have taken the instant, short-cut mode of life like taking the elevators rather than a staircase ( in case the office or house is on 4-5 floor of the building) and consuming more and more of packed foods, processed products, junk , oily and spicy foods.The problem aggravates with age, eventually leading to other hazardous ailments like haemorroids, anul fissures, and even strokes. But it is only later in life we realize that those few earned bucks are just being used to pay off the medical bills rather than on planning a vacation, buying a house and on other unfulfilled desires.

It is ,thus, the need of the hour to improvise our lifestyles and include regular exercising and yoga in our daily routine to curb the problem. Also, it is important to come forward and discuss “constipation” problems openly with our dear ones and doctors without any hesitation for an early and timely cure. Eventually, it is for a healthy and active life we all strive for-motions se hi emotions hai and ussi se life in-motion hai!

Intellectual Property Rights- An Overview.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) are essentially the simulators of creative activity in the society, which generate wealth and enhance the welfare of the society.The benefits of intellectual property rights can be received by setting up a favorable legal, regulatory, policy frameworks, a national IP strategy , an efficient law enforcement and academics to the importance of IP.

Intellectual Property Rights can be defines as the legal rights conferred upon a person as a result of his intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary and artistic fields. These rights promote creativity, innovation and technology, thus, promoting fair-trading, which contributes to economic and social development.

Intellectual Property (IP) covers the following:
(1) Patents.
(2) Trademarks.
(3) Industrial Design.
(4) Geographical Indications.
(5) Copyright and Related rights.

The IPR regime in India is governed through the following laws:
>The Patents Act, 1970 (amended thrice in 1999, 2002 and 2005)
>The Copyright Act, 1957
>the Trade Marks Act, 1999
>The Designs Act, 2000
>The Geographical Indications of Goods ( Registration and Protection) Act, 1999
>The Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout Design Act, 2000
>Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmer’s Rights Act, 2001
>The Biological Diversity Act, 2002

Patents, Trademarks, Industrial Designs and geographical Indications are regulated by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion of the Ministry of Commerce & Industry through the office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks (CGPDTM). The Ministry of Human Resource and Development look after the Copyrights. The Ministry of Agriculture handles the regulation of Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’Rights.The Ministry of Information Technology looks after the Information Technology Act and the Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout Designs Act.Biological Diversity Act is under the Ministry of environment and Forests.Besides, The Ministry of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology have established organisations like TIFAC and NISCAIR for the development and protection of IP.

IPR enactments in India

PATENTS
A patent is an exclusive right granted by a country to the owner of an invention to stop others from making, using, selling, importing or offering to sale his present invention. It is a property right and hence, can be gifted, inherited, assigned, sold or licensed. The patent right is territorial in nature, thus, inventors/their assignees will have to prosecute patent application in countries of their interest for obtaining patents in those countries.

The Patents Act has a long history which can be traced back to the First Act – The Indian Patents and Designs Act, 1911. Since then the act has undergone substantial changes in the form of amendments in accordance with the political and economic changes India had been undergoing. The following are the list of the Acts that were passed:
>The Indian Patents and Designs Act, 1911
>The Patents Bill, 1953
>The Patents Bill, 1965
>The Patents Act, 1970 (39 of 1970)
>The Repealing and amending Act, 1974 (56 of 1974)
>The delegated Legislation Provisions (Amendment) Act, 1985 (4 of 1986)
>The Patents (Amendment) Act, 1999.

TRADEMARKS
A trademark is a distinctive sign, which identifies certain goods, or services as those produced or provided by a specific person or enterprise.A “mark” as per the Indian Trademarks Act may consist of a word, signature, device, letter, numeral, brand, heading, label, drawings, symbols, three-dimensional signs, shapes and packaging of goods, or colours used as distinguishing feature. The History of Trade Marks Act can be traced back to the First Act being the Trade Marks Act, (Act 5 of 1940) which was then applicable to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Pakistan retained the provisions till 1948. Apart from the above Countries the British Indian States in India like Mysore, Patiala, Hyderabad, etc , however with a reciprocal arrangement with the then Government retained and effected the Legislation. Following is the list of Acts that were passed:
>The Trade Marks Act (Act 5 of 1940)
>The Trade and Merchandise Marks Act, 1958
>The Trade Marks Act, 1999 (47 of 1999)

COPYRIGHTS
Copyright is a legal protection extended to the owner for the work that he/she has created. It comprises of two main sets of rights : economic rights and moral rights. Economic rights include the right of reproduction, broadcasting, public performance, adaptation, translation, public relation, public distribution etc. Moral rights include the author’s right to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of his work that might be prejudicial to his honor and reputation.

The Origin of Copy right Act in India, can be traced during the British reign in the Country. The Copy right law that was applied in the British Courts was applied in India also. The First enactment of Copyright law was in the year 1709 in England. However it was only the 1842 Copy Right Act that was made applicable to India. This was repealed by the Copy Right Act of 1911 and later amended by the 1914 Act. The present Act is the result of various amendments to the Copy Right Act. Following is the lists of acts that were passed:
>The Copy Right Act of 1842
>The Copy right Act of 1911
>Indian Copy Right Act, 1957 (the 1957 Act)
>The Copy Right (amendment) Act, 1999.

INDUSTRIAL DESIGNS
An industrial design right is an intellectual property right that protects the visual design of objects that are not purely utilitarian. An industrial design consists of the creation of a shape, configuration or composition of pattern or color, or combination of pattern and color in three dimensional form containing aesthetic value. An industrial design can be a two- or three-dimensional pattern used to produce a product, industrial commodity or handicraft.

India’s Design Act, 2000 was enacted to consolidate and amend the law relating to protection of design and to comply with the TRIPS agreement. The new act, (earlier Patent and Design Act, 1911 was repealed by this act) now defines “design” to mean only the features of shape, configuration, pattern, ornament, or composition of lines or colours applied to any article, whether in two or three dimensional, or in both forms, by any industrial process or means, whether manual or mechanical or chemical, separate or combined, which in the finished article appeal to and are judged solely by the eye; but does not include any mode or principle of construction.

SEMICONDUCTOR INTEGRATED CIRCUITS LAYOUT DESIGNS ACT
Layout designs (topographies) of integrated circuits are a field in the protection of intellectual property. IC layout designs are usually the result of an enormous investment, both in terms of the time of highly qualified experts, and financially. The possibility of copying by photographing each layer of an integrated circuit and preparing masks for its production on the basis of the photographs obtained is the main reason for the introduction of legislation for the protection of layout-designs.

The Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout Design Act 2000 provides for protection of Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout Design and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Government of India has established Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout Design Registry (SICLDR) as the office for filings of application for Semiconductor IC Layout Design Registration.

PROTECTION OF PLANT VARIETIES AND FARMERS’ RIGHTS ACT
The Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act, 2001 (PPVFR Act) was enacted by the Parliament of India to provide for the establishment of an effective system for protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders, and to encourage the development and cultivation of new varieties of plants. This act received the assent of the President of India on the October 30, 2001. According to law, “breeder” means a person or group of persons or a farmer or group of farmers or any institution which has “bred, evolved or developed any variety.and “farmers” means any person who – “Cultivates crops by cultivating the land himself; or “Cultivates crops by directly supervising the cultivation or land through any other person; or conserves and preserves, severally or jointly, with any other person any wild species or traditional varieties”; or “Adds value to such wild species or traditional varieties through selection and identification of their useful properties.”

THE BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY ACT
The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 is a legislation enacted by the Parliament of India for preservation of biological diversity in India, and provides mechanism for equitable sharing of benefits arising out of use of traditional biological resources and knowledge. The Act was enacted to meet the obligations under Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to which India is a party. The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA)is a statutory autonomous body, headquartered in Chennai, under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India established in 2003 to implement the provisions under the Act. State Biodiversity Boards (SBB) has been created in 28 States along with 31,574 Biological management committees (for each local body) across India.

Biotechnology- An Introduction

The term biotechnology was coined by Karl Ereky, a Hungarian engineer, 1919. The origin of biotechnology can be traced that to pre historic times when micro organism were already used for process like fermentation, foundation of yogurt and cheese from milk, vinegar from molasses. Biotechnology brought a boost in the 1970 discovery of restriction enzymes which lead to the development of the variety of gene technology and in thus considered to be the greatest scientific revolution of this century.

Biotechnology is a portmanteau of biology and technology, thus, can be defined as the use of technology to manipulate the living systems (plants, animals and micro-organism) to obtain useful products from them. It has applications in four major industrial areas, including health care (medical), crop production and agriculture, non food (industrial) uses of crops and other products (e.g. biodegradable plastics, vegetable oil, bio-fuels), and environmental uses.

Biotechnology can be broadly divided into 5 branches as follows:

1)Green Biotechnology:A biotechnology applied to agricultural processes. The most common example being plant tissue culture techniques.
2)White Biotechnology:A biotechnology applied to industrial processes.For example- designing of an organism to produce new and useful chemicals like large scale production of important enzymes by manipulating the genetic make-up of micro-organisms. It is also called as Industrial Biotechnology
3)Red Biotechnology: A biotechnology applied to medical processes.For example designing of organisms to produce antibiotics, and the engineering of genetic cures through genetic manipulation.
4)Bioinformatics:It is an interdisciplinary field which addresses biological problems using computational techniques, and makes the rapid organization as well as analysis of biological data possible. The field may also be referred to as computational biology, and can be defined as, “conceptualizing biology in terms of molecules and then applying informatics techniques to understand and organize the information associated with these molecules, on a large scale. Bioinformatics plays a key role in various areas, such as functional genomics, structural genomics, and proteomics, and forms a key component in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector.
5)Blue Biotechnology:It describes the marine and aquatic applications of biotechnology, but its use is relatively rare.

Indian Biotechnology Industry

Major milestone in Indian Biotechnology sector can be summarized as follows:

>1978: India’s first biotech firm, Biocon, was setup
>1981: Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology was setup in Hyderabad
>1984: Institute for Microbial Technology, Chandigarh was setup
>1986: Department of Biotechnology (DBT) was formed
>1987: National Institute of Immunology was setup by DBT
>1989: Bangalore Genei commenced operations
>1991: National Centre for Biological Sciences pursues R&D in molecular biology
>1994: Syngene, India’s first Contract Research Organisation(CRO), starts its R&D services
>1997: Centre for Biological Technology (CBT) was established to focus on bioinformatics and genomics
>1998: Monsanto Research established an R&D centre for plant genomics
>1998: DBT approves Mahyco-Monsanto to grow Bt cotton
>2001: The drug authority implements Good Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines for clinical trials
>2002: Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) approves Bt cotton for commercial planting
>2007: National Biotechnology Development Strategy launched
>2009: National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill 2008 to be introduced in parliament
>2011: Government approved setting up of Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC)

Key Segments in the Indian Biotechnology Sector

1)Bio-pharmaceuticals:Bio-pharmaceutical products are therapeutic or preventative medicines that are derived from materials naturally present in living organisms, using recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology.
2)Bio-services: Bio-services mainly include clinical research and CRO along with custom manufacturing.
3)Bio-agri:Bio-agriculture is segmented into hybrid seeds, transgenic crops, bio-pesticides and biofertilizers.
4)Bio-industrial:Bio-industrial predominantly comprises enzyme manufacturing and marketing companies.
5)Bio-informatics:Bio-informatics deals with the creation and maintenance of extensive electronic databases on various biological systems; it is the smallest part of the current domestic biotechnology industry.