VATIS Update Biotechnology . Jul-Sep 2015

Register FREE
for additional services
Download PDF
Biotechnology Jul-Sep 2015

ISSN: 0971-5622

VATIS Update Biotechnology is published 4 times a year to keep the readers up to date of most of the relevant and latest technological developments and events in the field of Biotechnology. The Update is tailored to policy-makers, industries and technology transfer intermediaries.

Co-publisher: Biotech Consortium India Ltd
Editorial Board
Latest Issues
New and Renewable
VATIS Update Non-conventional Energy Oct-Dec 2017
VATIS Update Biotechnology Oct-Dec 2017
VATIS Update Waste Management Oct-Dec 2016
VATIS Update Food Processing Oct-Dec 2016
Ozone Layer
VATIS Update Ozone Layer Protection Sep-Oct 2016
Asia-Pacific Tech Monitor Oct-Dec 2014




Clinical drug trials now easy in India

The government of India have made amendments to the compensation guidelines for carrying out clini-cal trials in the country which has cleared major hurdles in the testing of new drugs, especially for those dis-eases whose cure is not yet available in India. “The government brought in amendment to the clinical trials guidelines in December 2014 and it has come into effect from June this year. And, the revised regula-tions are balanced and have addressed various issues, because of which sponsors have been either not participating in or withdrawing from trials,” said Suneela Thatte at Indian Society for Clinical Research (ISCR).

The new regulations also seek to streamline the ‘institutional ethical committee’ to make sure the trials are carried out in the safest way. “The guidelines earlier provided a blanket for any injury suffered by the patient, which the medical management had to provide irrespective of its causality. This was one of the factors that was keeping sponsors away. Now with the amendment, the compensation would be awarded commensurate with the severity of the injury,” Thatte said.

US pharma standards plans to grow India unit

United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), a scientific non-profit organisation that sets standards for medicines and food products manufactured, distributed and consumed worldwide, is planning expansion of its India operation. According to Ronald Piervincenzi, at USP, the Indian unit of the organisation has the second largest laboratory after America, it may soon be the hub for entire Asia. Set up 10 years ago, the Hy-derabad facility now has 150 employees, and it is looking to grow 40-50 per cent next year in terms of staff strength as the pharma sector is diversifying into dietary supplements and specialised food now. The number has grown from just 15 four years ago.

Globally, USP has around 1000 employees with 600 in the US. Other operations of USP are in China, Brazil, Ghana and Ethiopia. USP, whose drug standards are enforceable in the US by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) used in more than 140 countries, has collaborations with scientists, practitioners, and regulators of many nations, including India, to develop standards for better public health. USP is planning to ramp up its operations across the globe by investing $200 million in the next five years towards reviving 4000 drug testing mono-graphs with the latest technology.

“While it has spent $20 million during the past four years for improving its infrastructure and capaci-ties, the $200 million would be used to revive at least half of our monographs of drug testing procedures with latest technologies,” added Piervincenzi. A part of this investment will also be spent in India. There are various activities that USP is looking at increasing in India, including work on medical monograph modernisa-tion, increasing resources and manpower building, expansion of activities and technology.

India and the Netherlands to jointly develop vaccine

India and the Netherlands have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the development of vaccines. The MoU signed under the ‘Make in India’ initiative of Government of India will enable Bharat Immunologicals and Biologicals Corporation Ltd (BIBCOL), a Central Public Sector Unit (PSU) under the Department of Biotechnology, to develop Measles - Rubella vaccine at Translational Vaccinology (IN-TRAVACC) a government-based institute of the Netherlands will extend technical support for the development of vaccine. The MoU has been signed in the presence of the Prime Minister of The Netherlands, Mr. Mark Rutte during his visit to New Delhi.

Under the MoU cooperation in development of other vaccines and biologicals with DBT Research Institutes shall be explored. INTRAVACC, an institute which is part of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport of the Netherlands, is internationally renowned for vaccine development and has a long history in technology transfer. BIBCOL, is a PSU, under the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology, Govern-ment of India. Under the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Government, BIBCOL has embarked on journey to acquire technology and production capabilities for production of Measles-Rubella vaccine with the support of Department of Biotechnology.

India signs biotech pact with Cambridge University

India has signed a pact with the prestigious Cambridge University, the United Kingdom, to create a new programme of early-career fellowships in the field of biotechnology. The fellowships, jointly funded by the Indian government’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the university, were announced during a recent visit to the varsity by minister of state for science & Technology YS Chowdary. “Around 40 per cent of Indian researchers are working overseas,” said Chowdary.

The minister, signed the letter of intent with the university vice-chancellor Leszek Borysiewicz. “We are very eager to support the DBT’s plans for the development of India’s research ecosystems through closer links between universities and industry, Borysiewicz said.The new programme includes sup-port for research and innovation projects in collaboration with Indian partner institutions. One of the main ob-jectives is to establish a five-year fellowship for early-career researchers from the University of Cambridge.

Academics participating in the scheme will be jointly appointed by the DBT and Cambridge. They will be ex-pected to spend two years in Cambridge and three years at a partner institution in India carrying out transla-tional research, with a focus on commercialisation and entrepreneurship. The agreement also includes col-laboration in the establishment of a centre for crop sciences and a wholly-owned not-for-profit subsidiary in India by Cambridge to support wider collaborative research between the varsity and Indian Institutions.

India to draft policy on GM crops

The office of the Prime Minister of India, has asked the government’s new economic think-tank, Niti Aayog, to help draft a policy on genetically modified (GM) crops, a move signalling the Centre’s willingness to settle the polarising issue. Niti Aayog vice chairperson Arvind Panagariya held a round of discussions with GM crop developers, opponents, government scientists and farmers, against the backdrop of opposition from the RSS and its affiliates who say such technologies could destroy India’s agrarian sector.

GM crops are grown from genetically-altered seeds for benefits ranging from resistance to pests, higher yields and even higher nutrients. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come out in support of such crops, that they can lead to a second green revolution, while he supported biotech cotton when he was chief minister of Gujarat for over a decade. The Niti Aayog, which replaced the Soviet-influenced planning commission after the NDA government came to power, has a task force on agriculture headed by Panagariya.

The consultations involved a raft of officials, including the secretaries of the agriculture and biotechnology min-istries, the head of the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, the chief of the Indian Council of Agricul-tural Research, a representative from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, among others. The issue of whether to allow more GM crops, especially food varieties, has been a contentious subject. Anti-GM groups have taken the matter to the Supreme Court, while advocates say such technologies hold the key to the trans-formation of India’s low-productivity agricultural sector.

India and US ink a series of agreements

India and the United States, have signed a series of agreements on health, seeking to enhance coop-eration in areas such as cancer research, infrastructure development, training, capacity building and better assessment and application of new diagnostic technologies. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cancer Research and a Letter of Intent on Anti-microbial Resistance Research has been signed by Secre-tary Health, B P Sharma, Secretary Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, K Vijay Raghavan, and US Ambassador to India Richard Verma.

Sharma and Verma also signed an MoU on collaboration in environmental and occupational health and injury prevention and control. The collaboration will be in the areas for conducting research and training on development of low-cost technologies, diagnostics of existing medications against common cancers and development of exist-ing therapies related to oncology. Another agreement was signed on collaboration in environmental and occupa-tional health and injury prevention and control. The cooperation will cover areas including prevention of illness related to toxic chemicals and hazardous substances, development and use of improved tools, technologies and methods for enhancing environmental and occupational public health, and injury prevention efforts, including sur-veillance.

The second Letter of Intent (LoI) on anti-microbial resistance research was signed between the ICMR, Depart-ment of Biotechnology (MoST) and US’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health and DHHS. “It aims to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in anti-microbial resistance research to include mechanism of antimicrobial resistance, application of systems biology, comparative testing and assisting the validation of new diagnostics and explore possible patterns of AMR in neonatal intensive care units as observed in India and the US,” the official said.

China to establish bio-tech lab in Pakistan

China would establish BioTech Research Laboratory in Pakistan under a joint venture programme to pro-mote agriculture sector in the country. “The lab would offer excellent opportunities to carry out joint study and research and also enhance maximum cooperation between scientists of both countries,” said Chi-nese Ambassador Sun Weidong. Ambassador Sun met Asad Ullah Khan, Commissioner of Multan, on July 10-11 and exchanged views on strengthening friendship and bilateral cooperation. Weidong paid site-visits to Fatima 2x60MW Bagasse Power Plant and encouraged the Chinese companies to participate in the construction of power projects in Pakistan.

The Fatima 2x60MW Bagasse Power Plant constructed by Chinese contractor is applying advanced and environment-friendly technology, which will become a high-efficiency biomass power plant and add electricity to the Pakistani grid when being completed in 2016. Ambassador Sun visited a Chinese Cotton Ginning Company and Multan Cotton Research Station. The Chinese Company aims to build a cotton industrial chain in Multan. The Multan Cotton Research Station is part of the China-Pakistan Joint Bio-Tech Laboratory. Chi-nese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif witnessed the signing of the MoU of this Joint Laboratory in April this year.

Cuba and China sign new pacts in biotechnology

Cuba and China have signed eight new cooperation accords during the 8th Meeting of the Cuba-China Joint Working Group on Biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry, held in Havana. The vice-president of China’s National Commission for Development and Reforms Lin Nian Xiu, who headed the Chinese official delegation with some 15 companies, and Dr. Carlos Gutierrez, President of BioCubaFarma entrepre-neurial Group, presided over the signing of new accords to further expand bilateral cooperation.

The agreements included the distribution of antibodies and vaccines by Cuban and Chinese companies, letters of intention to set up joint ventures at the Special Development Zone of western Mariel harbor to produce and mar-ket pharmaceuticals and cancer vaccines. Also included was an accord to transfer technology to the Cuban Finlay pharmaceutical institute and other to introduce anti-virus vaccines in Cuba and in Latin America, as well as the setting up of a joint lab to develop neurological products and a contract to offer medical services to Chinese pa-tients in Cuba.

The Chinese and Cuban delegations also reviewed the pace and impact of the accords signed two years ago. The Chinese delegation said that the government of the Asian nation will increase the financing of different com-panies and universities involved in scientific research in the biotechnology area, not only linked to the health area but also to agriculture, particularly in the production of pesticides. Over the past two years, more than 20 Chi-nese and Cuban delegations in the scientific world have visited their countries, and have signed over 20 ac-cords, including 13 agreements with joint ventures.

Saudi engineer invents unique biotechnology

An engineer and inventor Ibrahim Alalim based in Saudi Arabia, has come up with a new biotechnology to break down the composition of any animal fat, crude oil or any petrochemical product. “This bio-technology involves a liquid extract from vegetables that could be instrumental in coming up with products that will be useful in cleaning utensils, floors and marble,” said Alalim. Explaining the biotechnology, the inventor said that it involves what he calls “Al-Raheef,” a liquid extract from a vegetable.

Al-Raheef means “very elegant” in Arabic. He did not name the vegetable since he had not yet registered the patent with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Switzerland, where had ear-lier worked for 20 years in the 1980s. Al-Raheef in liquid form is responsible for decomposing any fat into its smallest particles to get rid of it. To demonstrate how the biotechnology works, Alalim poured five grams of Al-Raheef to 95 grams of gasoline and shook it hard. After two minutes the brown-colored gasoline changed to a white creamy substance. It was no longer gasoline, which could also be used in cleaning up oil spills at sea or on land.


New effective drug compound may treat malaria

Scientists University of Dundee’s Drug Discovery Unit, Scotland, have discovered a new anti-malarial compound Known as ‘DDD107498’, which could treat patients with a single $1 dose, including those with strains of the mosquito-borne disease that are resistant to current drugs. Although it is still years from reaching the market, results from tests conducted on human blood in the laboratory and in live mice suggest it is highly potent. In a vote of confidence for the project, drugmaker Merck KgAA, Ger-many, has secured the right to develop and commercialize the compound, assuming it succeeds in further tests.

The plan is to advance the experimental medicine into clinical trials within the next year to assess its safety and see just how well it can fight malaria in the human body. Many drugs fall down at this stage in develop-ment. Finding new medicines for malaria is particularly important because of rising resistance to even the best existing treatments. Researchers recently reported that malaria with total resistance to the drug artemis-inin had taken hold in Myanmar and spread close to the Indian border.

Encouragingly, the new compound works in a different way from other drugs by targeting part of the machinery that makes proteins within the parasite, which means it should be effective against current drug-resistant disease. The scientists behind the project estimate it should cost about $1 per treatment, putting it within reach of the most affected patients, who live in poor countries. While there have been significant reductions in the numbers of people falling ill and dying from malaria, it still kills around 600,000 a year ‒ most of them children in the poorest parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Intas to launch first biosimilar in US

Intas Pharmaceuticals, India, a vertically integrated pharma company, has announced that it expects to launch its first biosimilar in the US within 9-12 months. Intas is the only domestic firm with two biosimilars filed for registration in the US and it looks to deliver affordable and innovative pharmaceutical solutions in India. It is the only company from India to have launched a biosimilar in European market. Its first biosimilar, Accofil (filgratsim) was launched in Europe earlier this year. For the domestic market, Intas has launched a Made in India molecule Razumab at a price 25 per cent cheaper than the imported Lucentis. It is the first company globally to develop and launch a biosimilar version of Ranibizumab.

The molecule is manufactured under strict guidelines for sterile use in the eye and is offered as single dose vial, thus reducing the risk of contamination during use. “Razumab will be sold at about 25 per cent cheaper than the imported Lucentis. This would lead to an annual saving of about Rs 35,000 or more in the cost of treat-ment to the patient,” said Binish Chudgar at Intas. Razumab is the 10th biosimilar launched by Intas in In-dia, by far the largest number of indigenously developed biosimilars by any company. Intas is ranked 11th in the domestic pharma market with 2.66 percent market share. The company has presence in more than 70 countries, including North America, Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

MOU to study Asia-prevalent tumor types

Oncology focused biotechnology company ASLAN Pharmaceuticals (ASLAN), Singapore, and National Can-cer Centre Singapore (NCCS), have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will further enhance the study of novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of gastric cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (liver) and cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct), three common forms of gastrointestinal (GI) cancers that are particularly prevalent in Asia.

Under the terms of the MOU, ASLAN and NCCS will initiate a number of collaborative projects focused on increasing the understanding of novel combinations of known therapeutic agents, including ASLAN’s clinical development programmes (ASLAN001 and ASLAN002), through pre-clinical research involving patient-derived cell lines and xenograft models. In addition, the parties will jointly conduct clinical trials studying novel treatments for Asia-prevalent cancers.

Investing in India probiotic firm

To encourage a broader clinical understanding of gastric cancers in the region, ASLAN and NCCS will host a series of disease symposiums in Asia. The symposiums, which will include a dedicated biannual cholangiocarcinoma symposium in Singapore, will bring together GI cancer scientists and clinicians to share research break-throughs and facilitate knowledge exchange.

Affordable type 2 diabetes drug launched by Glenmark

The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad’s Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepre-neurship (CIIE) has announced that its sustainability and clean technology fund Infuse Ventures will invest Rs. 3.5 crore for an undisclosed stake in a Chennai-based probiotic chemicals company Proklean Technologies Pvt Ltd. Infuse Ventures is backed by the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and Technology Devel-opment Board, IFC, BP, SIDBI, Godrej Industries, ICICI Bank, Bank of India and Union Bank. Proklean Technolo-gies manufactures completely natural products of probiotic origin, which can replace or reduce the use of currently used chemicals in various industrial and commercial applications like leather and textile processing, hospitality and household cleaning, under the brand name ‘Proviera’.

Proklean uses a probiotic technology which makes the products 100% bio-degradable, natural and non-toxic. Founded by Dr. Sivaram Pillai, and two IIM-A alumni B. Chandrasekhar and Vishwadeep Kuila, the company has already developed a suite of products for customers in the textile and leather process-ing industries with marquee names in India including Vardhaman Group, Raymond, Mafatlal, Welspun, JK Mills, among others. Proklean also has customers in the USA, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Turkey, Thailand, China, Philippines, Australia and Bangladesh. Proklean had earlier raised an angel round from Chennai Angels, a few of their IIM-A batchmates and SCD Probiotics, USA.

Stempeutics gets patent for stem cell-based drug

Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, India, has launched ‘affordable’ gliptin for treatment of Type-2 Diabetes mellitus. The company introduced Teneligliptin, a new third-generation oral anti-diabetic agent, under two brands – Ziten and Zita Plus. It has priced the drug at Rs 19.90 a tablet and claims it is 55% cheaper than other drugs in the market. Most gliptins are priced at Rs 45 a tablet. This means, a patient can save up to Rs 9,000 a year, said the company. Currently, many other firms such as USV and Sun Pharma sell gliptins. However, Glenmark said it is the first Indian company to introduce the molecule after clinical trials and approval from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for exclusive sale in India.

Japanese pharma to market liver cancer drug

Stempeutics Research, a firm part-owned by Cipla Ltd, India, has announced that it has won a proc-ess patent from the Japan Patent Office for its stem cell-based drug Stempeucel. The novelty covers the method of preparing master cell banks, working cell banks and the final therapeutic product Stempeucel based on the novel pooling technology. Stempeucel will initially be used for the treatment of critical limb ischemia (CLI). The firm’s proprietary pooling approach allows an efficient manufacturing process with minimum wastage of resources in order to provide the product to patients at an affordable cost. This approach also allows more than one million patient doses from a single set of master cell banks, which is unique in regenerative medicine.

“The new patent strengthens our position in Japan, which has created an accelerated develop-ment path for stem cell therapies. The new regenerative medicine law implemented in Japan allows con-ditional approval of stem cell products, thereby enabling more rapid entry into the Japanese market. We are actively evaluating the potential for accelerated development of Stempeucel product for Critical Limb Ischemia and osteoarthritis indications in Japan with strategic collaborations,” said B.N. Manohar, at Stempeutics. Drug authorities in the European Union granted the so-called orphan drug status to Stempeucel and the company wants to get a conditional licence to sell the drug in India to help it raise money to complete the drug’s late-stage trials.


Researchers study genetics of woolly mammoth

According to a study done by researchers from University of Chicago (U of C), the United States, an exhaustive genetic analysis of ‘Woolly mammoths’, the bygone Ice Age giants and their living cousins, Asian and African elephants, has revealed a slew of genetic adaptations that enabled woolly mam-moths to thrive for eons in such adverse circumstances. The study, compared the genomes of two mam-moths whose remains were found in permafrost in north-eastern Siberia, one 18,500 years old and the other 60,000 years old, with genomes of three Asian elephants and one African elephant. The results have been published in the journal Cell Reports.

“Mammoths possessed genetic changes associated with skin and hair development, fat biology, insu-lin biology and temperature tolerance that differentiated them from the elephants. We think that these changes make sense in mammoths because we know that mammoths evolved long and lived in really cold places,” said Vincent Lynch at U of C. Insulin signaling is important for fat biology because insulin regulates how much sugar in the blood is converted to energy and fat.” The researchers also “resurrected” the mammoth version of a gene called TRPV3. When transplanted into human cells, it produced a protein less responsive to heat which helped mammoths less sensitive to cold.

Woolly mammoths, a bit larger than modern elephants, dwelled in the steppes of northern Asia, Europe and North America. The last mammoth disappeared roughly 4,000 years ago. Whether their extinction resulted from a warming climate or human hunting remains hotly debated.

Scientists find gene to make morphine from poppies

Scientists from University of York, the United Kingdom, have identified a key gene used by poppies to make morphine, paving the way for better methods of producing the medically important drug, potentially without the need for cultivating poppy fields. The latest finding follows recent success in engineering brewer’s yeast to synthesize opiates such as morphine and codeine from a common sugar, boosting the prospect of “home-brew” drug supply. But whether making morphine in bubbling vats of yeast will be commercially viable – either for drug companies or criminal gangs – is far from certain, since poppies are very efficient natural factories.

While extracting opiates from genetically engineered yeast is now a real possibility, he sees more immediate benefits from applying the latest knowledge to developing better poppy plants. The University of York team worked on the project with scientists from GlaxoSmithKline. The drugmaker has long been a major supplier of opiates but agreed in March to sell its Australian-based business to Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, India. For centuries, opiates have been the go-to drugs for pain relief and they remain the most potent treatments for severe pain, generating global prescription sales of around $12 billion annually. Morphine and codeine are used directly as painkillers while a third compound, thebaine, is a starting-point for semi-synthetic opiates, including oxycodone and hydrocodone.

The molecular structure of these drugs is so complex that chemists have never been able to produce them from off-the-shelf components. But understanding the genetics means it is now possible to engineer a mi-crobe like yeast to do the job. The discovery of the so-called STORR gene by Graham and colleagues, re-ported in the journal Science, provides the missing piece in the biosynthesis puzzle. The gene plays a vital role in the back-to-back steps in the plants’ morphine-producing pathway by converting a com-pound known as (S)-reticuline into a variation called (R)-reticuline.

Researchers study genetics of soybean seed content

Researchers at Purdue University, the United States, have pinpointed the gene that controls whether soybean seed coats are hard or permeable, a finding that could be used to develop better varieties for southern and tropical regions, enrich the crop’s genetic diversity and boost the nutritional value of soybeans. Jianxin Ma (Jen-SHIN’ Ma), at Purdue found that a mutation in the gene GmHs1-1 causes the tough seed coats of wild soybeans to become permeable. Farmers selected that trait about 5,000 years ago in a key step to domesticating soybeans from their hard-seeded relative Glycine soja. “The gene could be modified to produce improved varieties for growing regions in which seed permeability can be a handicap,” said Ma.

GmHs1-1 is also associated with the calcium content of soybeans, offering a genetic target for enhancing the nutrition of soy food products. Understanding the mechanism that determines seed permeability could also give researchers better access to the largely untapped genetic diversity of wild soybeans to enrich cultivated varieties, whose lack of genetic richness has curbed improvements in yields. Hard seededness enables the long-term survival of many wild plant species by protecting seeds in severe conditions and inhospitable envi-ronments, allowing them to remain dormant until conditions are right for germination. Encased in a water- and airtight coat, seeds can remain viable for extended periods of time, in some cases, more than 100 years.

But the hard skin that lends wild seeds their resilience is a problem in agricultural production. It prevents seeds from germinating quickly and in a uniform, predictable pattern. Wild soybean seeds take from several weeks to months to germinate whereas cultivated soybean seeds can begin absorbing water in 15 minutes. The team found that a mutation in a single pair of nucleotides in the gene causes seed coat permeability –that is, a change in one pair out of the approximately 1 billion base pairs that make up the soybean genome. The discovery could also help researchers improve the cooking quality of soybeans and other leg-umes, such as the common bean, whose varying levels of hard seededness make consistent quality difficult to achieve.

‘Genetic switch’ determines germ cell’s fate

In a first, researchers from the National Institute for Basic Biology, National Institutes of Natural Sci-ences (NINS), Japan, have found a genetic switch in vertebrates that determine whether germ cells become sperm or eggs. The gene is named foxl3, and has been identified in a small fish called medaka (Oryzias lati-pes). Dr. Toshiya Nishimura and colleagues at NINS, found that the foxl3 gene works in the germ cells of females “to suppress differentiation into sperm.”

In females lacking functional foxl3 genes, the small fish’s body appearance is still totally female, how-ever a large number of sperms are formed in the ovaries, and a small number of eggs are formed at the same time.

Researchers genetically engineer fish oil in plants

Researchers from Rothamsted Research, the United Kingdom, have raised a genetically engineered crop on land that contains certain nutrients found only in fish oil and algae, and it’s hoped that the breakthrough could help the fish-farming industry keep growing. The development is a step toward develop-ing a sustainable source of Omega-3 fatty acids for the large and growing global fish farming industry, which is exhausting all other sources of the needed nutrients. The results have been published in the journal Metabolic Engineering Communications.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States, fish farming is a booming industry. More than half of all of the seafood people eat around the world comes from fish farms, and the agency expects that percentage to rise further. The global industry is worth somewhere around $100 billion annually. In 2013, data showed that the world farms more fish than beef. “That may not be a bad thing. The fish farming industry gets bad press because it is viewed as not being sustainable. When you com-pare the inputs it is far more efficient than almost any terrestrial livestock farming,” said Johnathan Napier at Rothamsted Research.

Farmed fish holds a lot of promise as an affordable protein source for the world, and health authorities praise fish for being nearly unique sources of a group of nutrients called Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 acids have been linked to lower risks of heart disease and cholesterol problems and other health benefits. Some Omega-3 fatty acids, such as ALA (alpha-lipolenic acid) can be found in plants, including nuts and seeds, such as the health store fixture called flax seed. But other Omega-3 acids, such as EPA and DHA, originate in ocean algae. Algae-eating fish and other sea animals build up stores of the nutrients and pass them on to the larger predatory fish that eat them.

Genomics can match plant variety to climate stresses

A new study led by a geneticist from Kansas State University (KSU), the United States, has shown that genomic signatures of adaptation in crop plants can help predict how crop varieties respond to stress from their environments. “It is the first study to document that these genomic signatures of adaptation can help identify plants that will do well under certain stresses, such drought or toxic soils”, said Geoff Morris, at KSU. Researchers conducted the study with sorghum, one of the oldest and most widely grown cereal grain crops in the world. Sorghum is grown in Africa and Asia as well as in some of the world’s harshest crop-growing regions.

Sampling from the crop gene banks, Morris and colleagues at Cornell University, the United States, and the In-ternational Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the United States, took “snapshots” of genetic information in the genomes of about 2,000 sorghum varieties. Because each sorghum variety was from a particular known location in an African or Indian village, the researchers were able to tie the genetic differences of each variety to its survival in a particular environment. With this data, Morris and colleague Jesse Lasky from Columbia University’s Earth Institute were able to map each plant vari-ety’s “genomic signature” of environmental adaptation.

This signature reflects how different plant varieties from around the world have adapted to stressors in their environment, such as drought and toxic metals in the soil. The team then applied a drought stress to plants in the field to test whether genomic analysis could help predict what varieties would continue to thrive under drought. Data showed that the genomic signatures identified what varieties were likely to do well under stress. Researchers cataloged the findings in a database that aims to help sorghum breeders with limited resources in developing countries have better predictions of what sorghum varieties will thrive in the environment and in a growing season’s forecasted weather.

Researchers edit genome with light

A research group at the University of Tokyo, Japan, has developed a new technology to optically control genome editing. Photoactivatable Cas9 (paCas9) system allows optical control of genome editing. N- and C-terminal fragments of Cas9 (N-Cas9 and C-Cas9) showing no significant catalytic activity were fused with pho-toswitching proteins (pMag and nMag). Upon irradiation with blue light, N-Cas9 and C-Cas9 bind to each other in response to light-dependent interaction of pMag and nMag. This allows the activation of the split Cas9 frag-ments, leading to site-specific cleavage of user-defined DNA sequences in the genome (switch-on). When the irradiation is turned off, N-Cas9 and C-Cas9 dissociate and lose catalytic activity (switch-off).

To properly edit the genome, it is necessary to cut user-defined sites in the genome with a DNA nuclease. However, because the activity of conventional DNA nucleases cannot be controlled at all, it is not possible to cut the targeted DNA only in the desired cells and at the desired time. These limitations have constrained the possibilities of genome editing technology. The new technology is expected to overcome the limitations of conventional genome editing technology and should contribute to expanding potential biomedical, pharma-ceutical and agricultural applications including development of new cultivars.

Geneticists reveal the secret of rice

Breeders in China have discovered the secret for creating rice varieties that could improve breakfast, lunch and dinner for millions of people in Asia. Two teams of molecular geneticists, working independently, have identified a gene that controls both shape and texture and can be selected for without sacrificing the yield of the crop. “The implications are enormous. The rice-breeding community has had this prob-lem – they have been able to improve yield or quality, but almost never simultaneously,” said Susan McCouch, at Cornell University, the United States. In Southeast Asia, where up to 76% of the caloric intake comes from rice, savvy shoppers know what to look for in the grain.

Good rice is transparent; opaque spots indicate a disagreeable chalky taste. And for many, the best rice has long, slender grains. “This shape is associated with quality,” said Xiangdong Fu, at the Chi-nese Academy of Sciences. Consumers will pay so much more for quality that breeders in some countries have been prepared to sacrifice yield to create elite varieties. A grain-improving gene in an Indian favourite, Basmati, comes with a 14% decrease in yield. But Chinese farmers will often accept lower quality to keep yields high. The gene can induce radical changes in shape by promoting longitudinal cell division over transverse cell division.

The more copies of a particular version – or allele – of the gene that a variety has, the longer the grain. The gene is dominant, which makes it useful for creating hybrid varieties. A neighbouring gene, which codes for a protein involved in transcribing DNA into RNA, represses the effect but can be disabled. The gene, known as both GL7 andGW7, is highly expressed in two US varieties, as well as in a new Chinese line called TaifengA. But now that the miracle gene has been identified, it can be manipulated with advanced tools.


Ultra-low binding tubes for proteomics

In a study, Micronic, the Netherlands, has published a technical note in which the protein binding properties of commercially available sample storage tubes was tested. Driven by the rapid growth in proteomics and protein research applications the need for storage tubes where interaction between the sample and the tube surface is minimised has grown exponentially.

The need for storage tubes that exhibit ultra-low binding properties is critical to these research fields due to the low concentrations of proteins typically found in samples. In the study, protein binding measurement tests were performed on Micronic polypropylene tubes (sterile and non-sterile), a competitive ‘ultra-low bind-ing’ polypropylene tube and a polystyrene ‘medium binding’ sample plate used as a refer-ence.

The results showed that the Micronic sterile and non-sterile polypropylene tubes both exhibit very low protein binding. By comparison the competitive ‘ultra-low binding’ polypropylene storage tube bound 3.5 times more protein and the ‘medium binding’ polystyrene plate over 56 times more protein com-pared to the Micronic sterile polypropylene tubes. The study concludes that using sterilized Micronic polypro-pylene tubes protein recovery rates are maximised and consequently protein loss is minimised.

Researchers develop new informatics technology

Researchers from School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology (GT), the United States, have developed a new informatics technology that analyzes existing data repositories of protein modifications and 3D protein structures to help scientists identify and target research on “hotspots” most likely to be im-portant for biological function. Known as SAPH-ire (Structural Analysis of PTM Hotspots), the tool could acceler-ate the search for potential new drug targets on protein structures, and lead to a better understanding of how pro-teins communicate with one another inside cells. SAPH-ire has been tested on a well-studied class of proteins involved in cellular communication, where it correctly predicted a previously-unknown regulatory element.

“SAPH-ire predicts positions on proteins that are likely to be important for biological function based on how many times those parts of the proteins have been found in a chemically-modified state when they are taken out of a cell. SAPH-ire is a tool for discovery, and we think it will lead to a new understanding of how proteins are connected in cells,” explained Matthew Torres, at the GT. The tool and its proof-of-concept testing has been published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Proteomics. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and Georgia Tech, the United States.

Through modern mass spectrometry proteomics techniques, scientists have identified more than 300,000 post-translational modifications (PTMs) in different families of proteins across numerous species. These PTMs come in many forms, resulting from the action of different enzymes, and are often indicators of how and where proteins con-tact one another to bring about different cell behaviors. The number of PTMs detected by mass spectrometry has grown so rapidly that researchers experimentally investigating the function of the modifications have been unable to keep up. To prioritize research with the most significant potential impact, scientists might examine PTM hotspots that SAPH-ire identifies as having high function potential, but no known function.

Microbiologists study effectiveness of probiotics

Recently, microbiologists from University of California - Davis (UCD), the United States, evaluated the effec-tiveness of probiotics in dairy products in two mouse-based studies. In both of the preclinical studies, the re-searchers examined the performance in the intestine of Lactobacillus casei, one of the most common probiotics, frequently found in yogurt and other dairy foods. It has been shown to be helpful in preventing a host of digestive problems ranging from diarrhea and lactose intolerance to more severe, chronic disorders including inflamma-tory bowel disease (IBD). “Taken together, our findings indicate that the manner in which a probiotic is delivered, could influence how effective that probiotic is in delivering the desired health benefits,” said Marco, at UCD.

While dairy foods such as yogurt are often used to deliver probiotics commercially and in clinical research trials, it has been unclear exactly why dairy products are preferred over other foods and beverages or nonfood sup-plements, said Marco. She noted that two suspected benefits were the dairy carbohydrates that support the growth of the probiotics and the potential for dairy foods to buffer the probiotics from exposure to acidic condi-tions in the stomach. In the first of the two UCD studies, the investigators tested whether the low temperatures at which dairy foods are stored might better prepare the probiotics to survive and function in the intestine.

Researchers found that 205 L. casei proteins were produced either at higher levels or exclusively when the pro-biotic was allowed to incubate in refrigerated milk, which were produced before the dairy product was even con-sumed, were key to survival of L. casei in the digestive tract. In the second study, the researchers compared L. casei delivered in milk to milk alone and to L. casei delivered in a nonnutritive, buffered medium. They discov-ered that mice fed L. casei in milk exhibited fewer symptoms of IBD than did mice fed milk alone or the same probiotic strain in a nonfood supplement format. They also found that mutant forms of L. casei, which were un-able to produce certain milk-based proteins, were unable to prevent the disease.

Researchers study new invisible protein structure

Researchers at Umeå University, Sweden, has managed to capture and describe a protein struc-ture that, until now, has been impossible to study. The discovery lays the base for developing designed en-zymes as catalysts to new chemical reactions for instance in biotechnological applications. Enzymes are ex-traordinary biocatalysts able to speed up the cellular, chemical reactions several million times. This increase of speed is completely necessary for all biological life, which would otherwise be limited by the slow nature of vital chemical reactions. Now, researchers has discovered a new aspect in enzymes that, in part, explains how enzymes manage their tasks with unmatched efficiency and selectivity.

So-called high-energy states in enzymes are regarded as necessary for catalysing of chemical reactions. A high-energy level is a protein structure only occurring temporarily and for a short period of time; and these factors collaborate until its state becomes invisible to traditional spectroscopic techniques. The Umeå researchers have managed to find a way to maintain a high-energy state in the enzyme, adenylate kinase, by mutating the protein. “Thanks to this enrichment, we have been able to study both structure and dynamics of this state. The study shows that enzymatic high-energy states are necessary for chemical ca-talysis,” said Magnus Wolf-Watz, at Umeå.

The study also indicates a possibility to fine-tune the dynamics of an enzyme and this possibility can be use-ful for researchers in developing new enzymes for catalysis of new chemical reactions. The discovery has been made possible thanks to a broad scientific approach where numerous advanced biophysical tech-niques have been used; Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and x-ray crystallography being the main techniques. “One of the strengths of Umeå University is the open cooperative climate with low or no barriers between research groups. It means that exciting research can be conducted in the borderland of differing expertise,” said Magnus Wolf-Watz.

New mechanism behind protein transport

In a new study, researchers from Umeå University, Sweden, showed how the proteins have sig-nal-sequences connected to themselves as a form of address tag and thus makes it possible for the proteins to be directed to the cell membrane. The results are published in the journal Nature Communications. To function, most of the newly-produced proteins first need to be sorted and then transported within and out-side of the cell. For this purpose, proteins have a signal-sequence bound to it that is recognised by other pro-teins guiding them to their final destination.

One of these protein transporters is the so-called signal recognition particle (SRP). Researchers revealed how the binding of the signal-sequence triggers a number of structural changes within the SRP particle. These changes make it possible for the protein to be transported further to the cell membrane. By studying and comparing the structure of unbound SRP with a signal-sequence bound SRP. The research team has in several previous studies, based on x-ray crystallographic methods, shown the basic structure of SRP. This study is the continuation of previous research and shows more details of structural changes between un-bound and signal-sequence bound SRPs.

The structure of the SRP signal-sequence complex is determined using x-ray crystallographic methods. Us-ing this method, the biological molecules’ three-dimensional structure can be determined at a nearly atomic resolution. The signal-sequences are highly diverse in both length and in amino-acid composition but they all have a core of at least eight consecutive hydrophobic amino acids that acts as the major determinant for recognition by SRP.


New sensor chip to detect prostate cancer

Researchers at University of Birmingham, the United Kingdom, have developed a smart sensor chip that can detect prostate cancer more accurately and efficiently than current tests which rely heavily on antibod-ies. The sensor chip, able to pick up on subtle differences in glycoprotein molecules, will help improve the process of early stage prostate cancer diagnosis. Glycoprotein molecules play an essential role in our im-mune response, because of which they are useful clinical biomarkers for detecting prostate cancer and other diseases. The team created the chip synthetic receptors along a 2D surface to identify specific, targeted gly-coprotein molecules that are differentiated by their modified carbohydrate chains.

“There are two key benefits here. Crucially for the patient, it gives a much more accurate reading and reduces the number of false positive results. Furthermore, our technology is simple to produce and store, so could feasibly be kept on the shelf of doctors’ surgery anywhere in the world. It can also be recycled for multiple uses without losing accuracy,” said Paula M Mendes, at the University of Birmingham. The findings show how the rate of false readings that come with antibody based diagnosis can be reduced by the new technology that focuses on the carbohydrate part of the molecule.

The complex sugar structure in glycoprotein can be subtly different between samples from healthy and dis-eased patients. In order to achieve more accurate readings, the team wanted to identify the presence of dis-ease by detecting a particular glycoprotein which has specific sugars in a specific location in the molecule. “Biomarkers such as glycoproteins are essential in diagnostics as they do not rely on symptoms per-ceived by the patient, which can be ambiguous or may not appear immediately. However, the changes in the biomarkers can be incredibly small and specific and so we need technology that can discriminate between these subtle differences – where antibodies are not able to,” said Mendes.

New methods to eliminate malaria parasite

Scientists from the Toxicology Unit of the Medical Research Council (MRC) at the University of Leicester, the United Kingdom, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the United Kingdom, have discovered a new method to eliminate malaria parasites. “This is a real breakthrough in our understand-ing of how malaria survives in the blood stream and invades red blood cells. We’ve revealed a process that allows this to happen and if it can be targeted by drugs, we could see something that stops malaria in its tracks without causing toxic side effects,” said Andrew Tobin, at the University of Leicester.

Malaria parasites live in its host’s blood steam, making this an important discovery for new methods of treating the disease. A crucial protein, called protein kinase, can be targeted to stop the illness. Identifying the importance of this protein helps scientists to effectively kill the parasite. “It is a great advantage in drug discovery research if you know the identity of the molecular target of a particular drug and the consequences of blocking its function,” said David Baker, at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. This discovery may be the beginning to creating a novel drug for malaria treatments.

Cancer drug advances to clinical trials in Singapore

A made-in-Singapore cancer drug developed by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore, and Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School (Duke-NUS) has announced the start of a Phase I clinical trial of novel cancer drug candidate, ETC-159, that has ad-vanced into clinical trials, charting a milestone in Singapore’s biomedical sciences initiative that will go towards improving the lives of cancer patients in the country, and worldwide.

ETC-159 targets a number of cancers including colorectal, ovarian and pancreatic cancers which contribute to a significant proportion of Singapore’s cancer burden. These cancers are linked to a group of cell signalling pathways known as Wnt signalling, that have been identified to promote cancer growth and spread when elevated or dysregulated. As ETC-159 is an inhibitor of these pathways, it could suppress cancer pro-liferation and prevent cancer progression. The Phase I clinical trial will evaluate the safety and tolerability of ETC-159 in advanced solid tumors of up to 58 patients. The first patient was dosed on June 18, 2015.

“This breakthrough, which closely follows local company MerLion Pharmaceuticals’ recent success in obtaining FDA approval for one of its drugs, marks an inflection point in Singapore’s bio-medical sciences initiative,” said Dr. Benjamin Seet, at A*STAR. D3 has obtained ethics and regulatory approval for this trial from the SingHealth Centralized Institutional Review Board (CIRB) and the Singapore Health Sciences Authority (HSA) respectively. The first two sites for the trial are the National Can-cer Center Singapore (NCCS) and the National University Hospital (NUH), Singapore.

Vaccine to combat pneumonia developed

Biotech start-up Tergene Biotech, India, has developed a promising candidate vaccine to combat pneu-monia. Tergene is currently doing pre-clinical trials of the vaccine, which is targeted to tackle the specific types of bacteria that cause pneumonia in India, South Asia and Africa. At present the global market, esti-mated to be $5 billion is dominated by three multinationals. “We expect to hit the market in the next 2-3 years, with the vaccine. The existing one’s are tailored to help prevent pneumonia caused by sero types (there are 90 identified so far) of bacteria in the western nations”, said Pushpa Vijayaraghavan, of Sathguru Management, which has helped Tergene through its journey of developing the vaccine.

Tergene is deploying novel vaccine technology to cut time and cost and make the vaccine affordable. At the current price of close to $60 (Rs 3,500 per dose. Course is three doses) the vaccine is inaccessible to most of the population in India and other Asian/African where disease burden is highest and is the larg-est cause of death of children. The research efforts of the Hyderabad-based firm got a boost when Aurobindo Pharma, India, picked up majority equity. In the development, getting pre-qualification from the WHO and the Global Alliance for Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) and marketing phase the company will get full support from Aurobindo through a joint venture formed specially for the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.

Scientists find potential new HIV therapy

Scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College, the United States, the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, the United States, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the United States, and Har-vard University, the United States, have discovered a way to block replication of the most common form of HIV at a key moment when the infection is just starting to develop. Transmitted through bodily fluids, the HIV-1 virus infects and destroys key immune cells, known as CD4 T cells, that would ordinarily mount a defense against the virus and initiate the antiviral activity of other immune cells.

Scientists have long known that a substance produced by CD4 T cells called Interleukin-21 (IL-21) plays an important role in the immune system by activating immune cells that specialise in killing viruses like HIV-1 and driving the production of antibodies that attack them. However, it was unclear how IL-21 might affect the early stages of HIV-1 infection that allows the virus to grow and spread unabated soon after a person is ex-posed. The researchers created a culture from human tissues, primarily spleen and lymph node tissue. After exposing the cells to IL-21, they introduced HIV-1 and found that after 72 hours, cultures with IL-21 con-tained more than two-thirds less virus than those that didn’t receive the treatment.

The second model tested IL-21 in mice transplanted with human stem cells to create a physiological envi-ronment as close as possible to that in people. Over the course of two weeks, the mice began producing IL-21. An analysis of the results suggested that IL-21 not only jump starts the immune system but also stops the HIV-1 virus from replicating during a critical, early window of its development, when it is concentrated in one location and has not yet started to spread throughout the body. The investigators found that IL-21 in-structs CD4 T cells to increase the amount of a small RNA molecule. That molecule, microRNA-29 (miR-29), inhibits the replication of HIV-1, limiting the amount of virus produced from infected cells.

Scientist designs artificial cell membrane

Scientists led by an Indian-American Neal Devaraj at University of California, the United States, have de-signed an artificial cell membrane that can sustain continuous growth as a living cell. “The membranes that we created, though completely synthetic, mimic several features of more complex living organisms, such as the ability to adapt their composition in response to environmental cues,” said Devraj.

Now scientists can replicate more accurately the behaviour of the living cell membranes. According to the study conducted by Devraj and his team, the designs of simplified lipid-synthesizing membrane uses a syn-thetic, membrane-embedded catalyst that is capable of self-reproduction.


Turkey approves five biotech traits

On July 16, 2015, the Biosafety Board of Turkey approved five biotech traits on genetically engineered feed imports. The Board approved 3 corn (MIR604 corn, MON 863 corn, T25 corn) and 2 soybean (MON87701 soybean and MON87701xMON89788 soybean) events and their products for feed use only. The announcement also included a decision regarding an amendment on ‘The rules of packaging, carrying, conservation and transferring” for the purpose of preventing contamination.

On May 11, 2015, the Turkish Poultry Meat Producers and Breeders Association (Besd-Bir) submitted dossi-ers to the Biosafety Board to request approval for 38 traits (9 soybean, 15 corn, 4 canola, and 10 cotton) for feed use only. The Biosafety Board reviewed the applications under the simplified procedure, which was an expedited review process. While the five traits listed have been approved, the remaining traits are still un-dergoing risk and socio-economic assessments. The decision marks the first biotech trait approvals since 2011 when the Turkish Biosafety Board approved 16 corn events and 3 soybean events.

The Turkish private sector views the trait approvals as a quick but temporary and partial fix to ongoing prob-lems facing Turkish imports of genetically engineered feed items. The approvals should help facilitate the release of shipments that have been detained due to “contamination” with these unapproved events. In the short run, the decision will have a positive effect mostly on South American soybean and meal imports due to the production and shipping season but eventually all origins will benefit. However, the prob-lems with feed imports will not be fully resolved until all of the events are approved.

Scientists turn to crop gene editing

Scientists from M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, India, are working on their ambitious plans to undertake genetic modification of crops failing to take off as the debate on the suitability of GM crops remaining inconclusive in the country and looking at ‘gene editing’ to tweak the crop without attracting the ire of sceptics. Foundation’s executive director Ajay Parida said that they were paving the way for re-search on gene editing as it entailed lesser regulations unlike the transgenic crops. “Here, the genes of a plant variety is edited. This is a non-transgenic method, done without importing genes from another crop,” said Parida.

Scientists working on it said that by editing the genes of rice varieties, they could raise high-yielding disease resistant and nutritious crops. Through editing, the gene of rice plant could be tinkered to improve the biomass-grain output ratio. For instance, if a crop has a biomass of 70 per cent and grains 30 per cent, gene editing would be carried out to increase the yield to about 35-40 per cent, said Parida. While this won’t have much difference on the plant, it requires extensive tests to study variations in culinary characteristics of the va-riety.

As it does not entail introducing new, foreign traits to a plant as is the case with a transgenic plant, gene edit-ing would not have to undergo the stringent checks and regulations like the GM crops, he said. Unlike trans-genic crops, which require antibiotic marker, gene editing process does not require any such tests. Gene sequencing of 1,500 plant varieties have been completed so far, said Parida.

New genetically modified rice for higher yield

According to a research published in the journal Nature, scientists from Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, unveiled a new genetically modified (GM) rice plant that reduces emissions of meth-ane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2). But the rice is at least 10 or 20 years from being available to farmers. The new rice differs by only a single gene, borrowed from barley. The gene makes the rice produce less methane and yield 43 percent more grain per plant. “For three years of field trials it worked very well,” said Chuanxin Sun at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

It was especially effective during the summer, when it cut methane emissions to 0.3 percent, compared to 10 percent of the control rice plants’ emissions. The new rice reduced emissions less dramatically in au-tumn, because of lower temperatures, but still cut methane emissions in half. Sun’s team inserted a gene from barley into the rice to make it store more carbon – that is, starch and sugar – in its stems and grains, and less in its roots. But the scientists have yet to directly observe that changes in carbon storage are the reason for the lower methane.

With less carbon available to the microbes, they would, in theory, emit less methane. No one knows how else the new genetically modified rice would affect complex soil microbial communities. After larger-scale trials and more precise measurements of exact methane emissions and yield of the GM rice, the next step is to use traditional breeding to make a rice variety that’s “basically the same scientifi-cally” as the genetically modified rice, including the same gene.

Scientists extract anti-cancer tea capsule

Scientists from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Institute of Himalayan Research Bio-technology (CSIR IHBT), India, have developed a technology to extract ‘catechin’ from young tea leaves. Catechin is a type of disease-fighting flavonoid and antioxidant. According to the scientists working on the project, the process of experiment is over and technology is being transferred to industrial-ists so that the product could reach the markets. “Catechin belongs to phenol groups and we have extracted it in powder form. In countries such as Japan and China, catechins are used in nutraceuticals and dietary supplements.

An eco-friendly, solvent-free green process has been standardized for extraction for polyphenolic catechins from different parts of the tea plant. “As apical bud and subtending two to three lead shoots are used for making quality tea, the focus was to use the underutilized tea plant parts such as mature shoots. These chemicals in tea have substantial free radical scavenging activity and may protect cells from DNA damage caused by reactive oxygen species. Though catechins are not curative, they would act as preventive meas-ures as they curb damage caused by free oxygen radicals in our body, which also cause various types of cancer,” said Sud.

Two new molecules to launch in India this year

Dhanuka Agritech Ltd, India, has planned to launch two new molecules in India in the next few months, one of which will be an herbicide for soyabean and the other a fungicide for horticultural crops as well as paddy. Earlier this year, Dhanuka Agritech, which has a tie-up with Nissan Chemicals, Japan, launched the new molecule based product Sempra in Uttar Pradesh. The herbicide that tackles Cyperus rotundas, a weed commonly afflicting sugarcane plantations, was introduced in Maharahtra. “It will subsequently be launched in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh,” said MK Dhanuka, at Dhanuka Agritech.

Elaborating on plans for the coming months, Dhanuka said that Sakura, another new molecule from Nissan, and a herbicide for soyabean, will be brought into the Indian market in a fortnight’s time. “We have also received registration from Hokko Chemicals, Japan, for Conika, a fungicide for paddy and horticul-tural crops. This will be launched in 2016,” said Dhanuka, adding that these molecules were coming into the Indian market for the first time. Dhanuka is also going to introduce Dupont’s highest selling molecule in India under the brand name ‘Cover’.

Researchers improve rice flour to aid food poverty

According to researchers from Yamagata University, Japan, a new, high-quality rice flour could help to-wards aiding global food poverty. “This rice flour serves not only as an alternative to wheat flour for those with wheat intolerance, but could also help to overcome the global food problem in the future”, said Dr. Yayoi Onda at Yamagata University. By studying and modifying proteins in the rice flour family, the researchers were able to produce dough and bread of superior quality than that obtained from ‘normal’ rice flour.

Rice flour does not typically work as efficiently in bread making as wheat flour. In order to overcome this problem, the researchers changed the amount, structures and properties of seed storage proteins. They found that rice flour deficient in a particular protein active during seed development (called PDIL1;1) pro-duced dough with a network-like structure through the formation of disulphide bonds, which are strong bridges between proteins. “This improved the quality and efficiency of the dough and the bread”, said Onda.

The new rice flour overcomes many of the issues associated with previous rice flour. For instance, the dough is more easily stretched and less sticky, it holds bubbles inside during fermentation and baking, it keeps its shape and structure as it inflates, and the bread has a more elastic texture after baking. The researchers have already started breeding experiments so that PDIL1;1-deficient rice plants can be grown widely under different climatic conditions.


OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2015-2024

This report has been prepared jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Na-tions (FAO), which provides projections to 2024 for major agricultural commodities, biofuels and fish.

Notable in the 2015 report is a special feature on Brazil. Real commodity prices are projected to resume their long-term decline on the basis of on-trend productivity growth and lower input prices.

Contact: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Viale delle Terme di Carcalla, 00153 Rome, Italy. Tel: +39-0657-051; E-mail: FAO-HQ@fao.or

Epigenetics: Current Research and Emerging Trends

This book can have a significant impact on human health and disease susceptibility. Over the past few years significant progress has occurred in this rapidly advancing field and much key research has been published.

The editor of this book has gathered together pioneers in the field of epigenetics to produce a volume of thought-provoking discussions on classic aspects of epigenetics and on the newer, emerging areas.

Contact: Book Systems Plus (At GFS Ltd), 4 Hollands Road, Haverhill, Suffolk CB9 8PP, UK. Tel: +44-1223-893-261; E-mail:

The Gentianaceae Volume 2: Biotechnology and Applications

This book, the second of two volumes on the Gentianaceae, is devoted to aspects of biotechnology and their applications. It consists of 18 chapters and covers micropropagation by means of organogenesis or somatic embryogenesis, and single cell manipulation of various species belonging to the horticultural genera Blakstonia, Centaurium, Gentiana, Gentianalla and Swertia.

Contact: Springer Book Archives, 7th Floor, Vijaya Building 17, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi-110001; Tel: +91-11-4575-5888. E-mail:


This website is optimized for IE 8.0 with screen resolution 1024 x 768
For queries regarding this website, contact us
Copyright © 2010 APCTT | Privacy Policy | Disclaimer | Feedback