First Asian genome study maps the birth place of Asia
Over 90 top geneticists from Asia have jointly concluded from their
first-of-its-kind landmark study of Asian genetic populations that
South East Asia was the 'center of the Asian universe' millions of
years ago, and there was a single major inflow of migration from South
East Asia to Northern and Eastern parts of Asia.
This landmark study, done by the Pan-Asian SNP Consortium under the
Human Genome Organization (HUGO) disproves the earlier global studies
which had predicted that there were multiple inflows of human migration
from Northern and Southern routes from other parts of the world into
Asia in ancient times. This breakthrough discovery has emerged from the
first-ever study of the genomes of 73 South East Asian and East Asian
populations done by HUGO scientists. So far, such genome-wide studies
of human genetic diversity have been done only on European populations.
“This study was a milestone not only in the science that
emerged, but the consortium that was formed when ten Asian countries
came together in the spirit of solidarity to understand how we were
related as a people, and we finished with a truly Asian scientific
community. We overcame shortage of funds and diverse operational
constraints through partnerships, good will, and cultural
sensitivity,” said Prof. Edison Liu, president of HUGO and
executive director at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS). He is
one of the lead authors of the study and coordinated it.
“We have breached political and ideological boundaries to
show that the people of Asia are linked by a unifying genetic thread.
It was exciting to work together with scientists of such high caliber
with contrary views and of diverse background –kudos to Prof
Ed Liu,” said Prof. Samir K Brahmachari, one of
India’s leading geneticists and director-general of the
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi. The
findings were published online in a report in Science on December 10,
Karnataka unveils Millenium Biotech Policy II
The Karnataka Government on December 9, 2009, unveiled its Millennium
Biotech Policy II, which replaces the earlier policy statement issued
in 2001. The new policy lists the progress made since then and also
outlines steps to further spur the development of the biotechnology
industry and harness its benefits for the common citizen in the years
As a focus area, the policy makes special commitments in the area of
biofuels. Karnataka has joined the international movement to go green.
The state has set a goal to meet 20 percent of its fuel needs from
biofuels by 2020.
The state together with the Government of India has proposed to set up
a Bio IT park in the Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied
Biotechnology (IBAB) campus on a PPP model with an investment of Rs 20
crore. The Bio IT facility will be a hub for both IT and life sciences
organizations, research institutions and academia.
In a step towards improving the quality of human resources for the
biotechnology sector, the government will promote 10 biotech finishing
schools selected by the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises
(ABLE) and the Vision Group on Biotechnology with the government
financial support of Rs 1 crore per finishing school.
According to Ashok Kumar Manoli, principal secretary, Information
Technology and Biotechnology, Karnataka, “The concessions to
the biotechnology companies including the tariffs in the state is
likely to amount to a minimum of Rs 400 crore.”
Among the new concessions offered by the new policy, which was
formulated by the Vision Group on Biotechnology, is the waiver for
biotech research and development units from approvals by the State
Pollution Control Department. The policy also offers agri-biotech
companies greater freedom to conduct field trials. They will be
facilitated in acquiring tillable agricultural land to the tune of
15-20 acres. This will solely be for companies performing agri-biotech
related research, and will be in the form of a 35 year lease.
Among the fiscal incentives on offer are interest-free loans from the
government for paying value added tax, and subsidies for registration
of patents, power and water. Moreover, biotech units will also be
eligible for subsidies to meet expenses incurred for standardization
Apart from these exemptions, biotech units will also be eligible for
other benefits that are provided for industries on terms set in the
state industrial policy.
The policy sets to establish five specialized biotech parks in Mysore,
Mangalore, Dharwad and Bidar, apart from the Bangalore Helix Park that
is under construction. The government would invest Rs 100- 150 crore in
each of the facilities.
The government would also establish a Bio Venture Fund with a corpus of
Rs 50 crore in partnership with a professional venture capital firm.
Only certain hi-tech areas with a strong social relevance such as
transgenics, stem cell biology and biomanufacturing would be eligible
for funding. The government will have 26 percent stake in the proposed
fund and the balance 74 percent will come from financial institutions
or VC firms. Also on the agenda is the creation of a fund to
commercialize research findings. The Karnataka State Government will
set apart a corpus fund of Rs 15-20 crore which will be used to issue
grants in Rs 10-29 lakh range in each case.
National biofuels policy 2009 announced
The Ministry for New and Renewable Energy, Government of India,
announced the national biofuels policy on December 23, 2009.
The policy document focuses on multi-sphere development both at the
national and state levels by promoting the biofuel plantation and
processing. Business houses and corporates shall find the policy
favorable in most of the aspects and the industry as such shall face a
positive transformation by having a clear policy in hand to operate.
The document addresses all the issues across the entire value chain
from feedstock research to marketing of the end fuel. Broadly, the
indicative targets of 20 percent blending, community development
through energy plantations, incentivizing the operations across the
value chain, regulating the marketing and distribution of biofuels,
will offer a level playing field for all the stakeholders involved.
India among top 5 funders of neglected diseases
India and Brazil are now in the top 5 government funders of neglected
disease R&D and are taking the lead on diseases like leprosy
and dengue fever. An annual survey of investment into neglected disease
R&D shows that $2.96 billion (about Rs 13,832 crore) was spent
on making new products for neglected diseases in 2008.
A key finding of the G-FINDER survey was that, for some diseases,
traditional donor funding is being replaced by investment from
pharmaceutical companies and by Innovative Developing Countries (IDCs)
such as Brazil, India and South Africa. Where there is no profitable
market, as with many of the diseases that affect sub-Saharan Africa,
R&D remains heavily reliant on traditional donors.
This trend reflects the growing research strength and pharmaceutical
markets of India and Brazil, in particular, as well as high local
incidence of diseases such as leprosy and dengue. The downside of this
trend is that diseases of Africa continue to rely on donors, who still
provide over 85 percent of funds for buruli ulcer, trachoma, and
Biocon, HCG join hands to fight cervical cancer
Biocon and HCG group of hospitals have announced their partnership to
conduct a study to evaluate the potential benefits of BIOMAb EGFR in
cervical cancer patients. This unique molecule would take healthcare
for cervical cancer patients to a new threshold. BIOMAb EGFR is
Biocon's humanized monoclonal antibody which is approved for the
treatment of head and neck cancers in India.
The study will be conducted for six years in various centers of HCG
across the country, involving many eminent oncologists and will be in
compliance to ICH-GCP guidelines. The participating centers are
Bangalore, Mysore, Vijayavada, Ranchi, Cuttack and Nashik.
Dr Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, managing director of Biocon said that the
partnership is in the light of the unmet need for an effective
treatment option for the large number of cervical cancer patients in
our country. "I see this collaborative model of Biocon's unique
humanized MAb and HCG's state-of-the-art facilities as a big step
towards developing India as a global destination for translational
research and cutting-edge clinical trials," she said.
Praj, Novozymes sign pact for advanced biofuels
Praj Industries, a diversified biofuel and brewery technology solutions
provider, has collaborated with Novozymes, a global enzyme provider to
the biofuel industry. Together, Praj and Novozymes will optimize the
enzymatic hydrolysis processes and the use of enzymes in the production
of advanced biofuels. The collaboration agreement was signed in
Copenhagen, Denmark, by Pramod Chaudhari, chairman of Praj Industries
and Steen Riisgaard, president and CEO of Novozymes.
Chaudhari said that Praj is engaged in pilot trials of advanced
biofuels at Praj-Matrix Innovation Center in India. Praj's progress in
cellulose-to-ethanol processing combined with the experience of
Novozymes will enable a significant reduction in the cost of enzymes
for the production of cellulosic ethanol.
Ocimum ranks fourth on Deloitte's list
Ocimum Biosolutions, an integrated genomics company in India, has
announced that it ranked 42nd on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 Asia
Pacific 2009, a ranking of the 500 fastest growing technology companies
in Asia Pacific. The rankings were based on the percentage revenue
growth over three years. In addition to ranking on Deloitte's
Technology Fast 500, Ocimum ranked fourth on the Technology Fast 50
India Program, which is a ranking of the 50 fastest growing technology
firms in India.
Anuradha Acharya, CEO, Ocimum Biosolutions, said, "We have always let
customers' needs drive our priorities. As the pharma and biotech
industry evolves, the need for a global genomics infrastructure is
desired." Earlier this year the INC magazine listed Ocimum as one the
fastest growing companies in North America.
Bioseed, KeyGene sign deal for hybrid seeds
Bioseed Research India, a hybrid seed development company, has signed a
strategic partnership agreement to collaborate with KeyGene. The aim of
this long term partnership is to accelerate the development of new and
innovative crop varieties for India and South-East Asia. KeyGene is a
research company based in the Netherlands and global leader in
molecular breeding technology.
Arjen van Tunen, CEO, KeyGene, said that the company is proud of this
first strategic agreement in India which fits well in our long-term
strategy to partner with breeding companies in Europe, the US
and Asia. This partnership will be the basis to set up strategic
co-development programs in trait development which will add tremendous
economic value for farmers in Bioseed’s new hybrid seed