Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Drug Discovery in Noida

Recently, a small company I admire - Curadev Pharma PL - signed a $555 million deal with Roche, one of the oldest and largest bio-pharma companies in the world.

Amazingly, the news seems to have gone completely unnoticed by India's 'mainstream media'.

To be sure, there are a number of good reasons why this development was "newsworthy", especially when everybody seems to harping on the "Make in India" mantra:

Curadev is based out of Noida, a New Delhi suburb, miles away from the nearest biotechnology park or national lab. It has created and sustained world-class R&D facilities in a neighborhood prone to extended, unscheduled power outages;  It has built a team of dedicated professionals in an industry where loyalties are fickle at best and, now, it has entered into a partnership with a pharma major at a time when industry counterparts have settled themselves into making "copycat" drugs & formulations.

So what exactly has Curadev achieved?

An Investigational New Drug (IND) developed by Curadev holds the promise of medical treatment for a wide range of cancers. IND is an FDA technical term for a drug that is 'the subject of an approved marketing application' before it is transported or distributed. In this case the IND is for new drug molecule that could inhibit IDO1 (indoleamine-2, 3-dioxygenase-1) and TDO (tryptophan-2, 3-dioxygenase) -- two enzymes that mediate cancer-induced immune suppression.

Cancer cells grow and proliferate because they are able to fool our immune systems. Many different types of cancer cells produce enzymes like IDO1 and TDO which break down our neurotransmitters before they can alert our immune systems. The new molecule discovered by Curadev would inhibit IDO1 and TDO produced by cancerous cells, allowing our immune system to do its job of marking and destroying unwanted, dangerous cells.

Most Indian companies that reach the IND stage do not have the financial stamina to run the drug discovery marathon. They usually end up selling their discoveries to Big Pharma. Curadev has bucked this trend and entered into a strategic partnership for the next stage.

Lets hope this will lead Curadev to a real blockbuster that is 'Made in India'!

---------------------------------------------------------------
REFERENCES / LINKS

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Emergency Evacs

In the aftermath of a natural disaster, is it fair to permit emergency evacuations based on nationality?

Five year's ago we faced a similar set of questions in Japan. One of the biggest quakes of the century (9.0) had just struck Japan while we were at the University of Tsukuba. The city was about 300km away from the epicentre we had just seen a high-tech, wealthy prefecture reduced to a helpless, confused silence.

At the evacuation centre, students from various countries seemed to naturally gravitate towards their own compatriots. The Bangladeshi's quickly organised themselves into a self-help group, all the Africans huddled together in one hall, the EU folks in another corner, and everybody else tried to figure out places from where they could get food, drinking water, or even a bath.

Then came the news that the Australian government was sending a bus to ferry all the Australians from Tsukuba to Narita airport. At the time we greeted the news with a mix of envy and relief. Envy for those who found an easy way out, and relief that there would be so much less strain on limited supplies.

The recent earthquake in Nepal brought back these memories, and raised them to an altogether different level.

A friend in Kathmandu operates a travel company that promotes social tourism. Since many of his clients had got stranded in remote rural areas, he spent considerable money and time in hiring helicopters to get them out. When the locals realised that the rescuers had come in to pick up only foreigners, and that they did not have space to accommodate even the seriously wounded villagers, they had started pelting stones at the choppers. Luckily, in this case, an air crash did not add to the body count.

Then came this news about Langtang village in northern Nepal. The entire village was flattened, burying about 100 foreign trekkers and 150 Nepali's. Here is a excerpt from the report -

On the third day after the quake a helicopter landed, but hopes of rescue were dashed when the pilots said they were only there to evacuate Japanese nationals.
A few hours later two more choppers came, this time with an order to evacuate only Israelis -- although they did agree to take the two wounded Nepalis after the hikers protested.
After another 36 hours had passed with no sign of helicopters the mood in the village grew increasingly sombre, until (somebody) finally spotted a US chopper, which made multiple trips and flew them (foreigners) all to safety.
I keep wondering how the tourists felt about their cut-and-run response...

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Slippery as an Eel

Japanese Eel (Image source:Wikipedia)

One of the prominent landmarks in Tsukuba Science City is an "Unagi" restaurant on Gakuen-Higashi Odori. The "U" in  うなぎ is displayed in a trailing calligraphic brush-stroke to resemble a long, slippery eel that happens to be the speciality of this restaurant.

I had forgotten all about this eatery and its long wood-smoke chimney's until I came across this wonderful article in the New Yorker: The Poetic Life of the Lowly Eel  (23 April 2015).

What amazed me the most was that until a few years ago, nobody really knew that the common "fresh water eel" began its life thousands of miles away in the great oceans. Every American and European eel is born in the same place in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where, at the end of their lives, they return to reproduce and die: the Sargasso Sea. It took a Danish biologist Johannes Schmidt 20 years of research to discover this by searching for for tinier and tinier eel larvae!

Similarly, the spawning grounds of the Japanese eel were found in 1991, near the Mariana Trench, after six decades of searching. Those for the New Zealand longfin eel have yet to be discovered.


Even today we have no idea why eels travels so far out in the open oceans to lay their eggs, or on the impulse that leads millions of tiny larvae to swim back the entire distance, passing through various stages of life in sea as eggs, leptocephali ("slim head") and glass eels, before heading towards freshwater habitats.

This is the sort of thing that makes us wonder at our own mind-boggling ignorance about life on earth!

---------------------------------------
LINKS

New Yorker (23 April 2015): The Poetic Life of the Lowly Eel -- http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-poetic-life-of-the-lowly-eel


Thursday, April 30, 2015

2015 April - Interesting Articles & Links


* Ram Charan again -- https://in.news.yahoo.com/how-reliable-is-the-world-s-most-influential-business-consultant---r-053927673.html

* On the Nepal Quake
- MJ Akbar in Kathmandu - http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/thesiegewithin/when-aftershocks-trembled-through-nature-and-human-nature/
- Silence after the Quake - http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/28/magazine/how-not-to-report-on-an-earthquake.html?smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0
- India's apathy - http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/nepal-earthquake-india-s-quake-monitoring-network-bureaucratic-bottleneck/article1-1342366.aspx
- Quake Duty - http://blogs.afp.com/correspondent/?post/nepal-earthquake-victims-dignity-and-duty-in-ruined-kathmandu#.VUDCXyGqqkp
- Quakes and Avalanches - video AFP - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zj6AeXtDZGs&index=125&list=PL1CF9F6D47FDDCA48
- The log scale -  http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/topics/how_much_bigger.php
- Calculator - http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/topics/calculator.php


* Wired - Female orgasm explained by science - http://www.wired.com/2015/04/mystery-female-orgasm-explained-science

* Women's safety in India -- gender is more complex than we think -- http://www.scoopwhoop.com/news/barkha-dutt-women-in-the-world-summit/

* A village stands up for a teacher -- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Village-stands-up-for-Sir-gets-his-transfer-order-overturned/articleshow/47076531.cms

* Dad's reply to school's leave of absence -- http://www.examiner.com/article/dad-s-reply-to-school-on-kids-absence-is-best-response-ever

* Inequality is different in Japan -- https://agenda.weforum.org/2015/03/why-inequality-is-different-in-japan/

* All you wanted to know about Biosimilars -- http://www.biospace.com/news_story.aspx?StoryID=374361&full=1


* Ajai Shukla - quota's damage the Indian army -- http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/ajai-shukla-revive-the-army-s-warrior-cult-115042700981_1.html

* Chakka (Jackfruit) is the answer - ww.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/chakka-is-the-answer/

* German nursery rhymes - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9aA9wCQ9co

* Atul Gawade on an an anaesthsiologist in rural Maharashtra - http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(15)60764-4.pdf


* Devdatt Pattanaik - The ascetic and the nymph -- http://www.mid-day.com/articles/when-the-ascetic-overpowered-the-nymph/16165167
Power in Corporate Mythology -- http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/corporate-dossier/power-is-a-tool-for-governance-not-domination/articleshow/47025824.cms


* The Poetic Life of the Lowly Eel -- http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-poetic-life-of-the-lowly-eel
- Eels are, in fact, fish, and the freshwater species fall under the genus Anguilla, which evolved fifty million years ago. There are more than a dozen freshwater species, but the varieties that have been most widely fished and eaten are American (A. rostrata), European (A. anguilla), and Japanese (A. japonica).
- Both are catadromous, meaning that they spawn in the sea but spend their juvenile and adult lives in freshwater.
- Their blood is toxic to humans—research using the toxin derived from it led to the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of anaphylaxis—which is why they’re always served cooked.
- Most curious of all, every American and European eel is born in the same place in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where, at the end of their lives, they return to reproduce and die: the Sargasso Sea.
- The Sargasso was pinpointed as the breeding ground only a century ago, by the Danish biologist Johannes Schmidt, who spent twenty years searching for tinier and tinier eel larvae in the Atlantic Ocean.
- The spawning grounds of the Japanese eel were found in 1991, after six decades of searching, and those of the New Zealand longfin eel have yet to be discovered.
- The leptocephalus (meaning “slim head”)—a long, flat, transparent sea creature—was long thought to be a distinct species, until one was kept in captivity long enough to metamorphose into an eel; it was merely a larva.
- As they enter freshwater streams and begin eating insects and worms, they gain pigment and become elvers

* Pics - 25 years of Hubble Telescope -- http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21649640-25-years-hubble-space-telescope-has-provided-extraordinary-images-deep-space-window


* Gene therapy in China -- http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21649607-group-scientists-china-has-just-crossed-one-biotechnologys-red

* Net-Neutrality -- http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/bhupesh-bhandari-as-neutral-as-it-gets-115042301123_1.html

* Sweet potato is a natural GMO! -- http://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/sweet-potato-is-a-natural-gmo/81251182/

* India's underground oil reserves -- http://www.indiaspend.com/cover-story/in-underground-rock-caverns-tanks-india-builds-oil-reserves-80032

* Nath cult and its philosophy -- http://www.academia.edu/5281286/THE_LESSER_KNOWN_NATH_CULT_AND_ITS_SIGNIFICANT_PHILOSOPHY

* Are you serious? (BS edit on Rahul Gandhi's suited-booted comment) -- http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/are-you-serious-115042101262_1.html

* Furusato Nozei - tax breaks for nostalgia - http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21648703-struggling-parts-countryside-have-found-novel-way-attract-money-hometown-dues
- http://www.furusato-tax.jp/

* The Fall of Saigon (Guardian, 21Apr15) -- http://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/apr/21/40-years-on-from-fall-of-saigon-witnessing-end-of-vietnam-war
- A general's obituary - http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/04/general-vo-nguyen-giap

* A Leafhopper that pretends to be an ant! -- http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/04/20/marys-monday-metazoan-shhhh-im-in-disguise/

* Homeopathic Delusions -- http://www.popsci.com/fda-considers-cracking-down-homeopathy

* The complex design of a Ziploc bag -- http://www.wired.com/2015/04/surprisingly-complex-design-ziploc-bag
- Börge Madsen invented the resealable bag in 1950

* Biofuels - http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21648630-investment-biofuels-dwindling-and-scepticism-growing-thin-harvest
- Only two such advanced fuels... are capable of large-scale production. One is turning waste cooking oil and other fats into diesel—a process for which Europe already has 2 billion litres of capacity. The other involves making ethanol from cellulose by enzymatic hydrolysis.
- Sunlight is a great source of energy. Biology may not be the best way of storing it.

* Grapes - debt to ancient viruses -- http://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2014/11/pinot-noir-grapes-owe-debt-ancient-viruses

* Twitter in Japan -- http://mashable.com/2013/10/22/japan-loves-twitter/

* Solving the mystery of dog domestication -- http://news.sciencemag.org/archaeology/2015/04/feature-solving-mystery-dog-domestication


* The Nanda Devi Mystery -- http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/3QfYqLadggrbnrn41H0mAJ/The-Nanda-Devi-mystery.html

* Brohi, Nazish (Dawn, 20Apr15) - MIRROR, MIRROR -- An analysis of Pakistani symbolism - http://www.dawn.com/news/1176807/mirror-mirror
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takht-i-Bahi

* The most diverse microbiome in humans - http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/tremendously-diverse-microbiome-found-hunter-gatherers-living-amazon

* 57 Interesting maps - http://matadornetwork.com/life/57-worlds-interesting-maps/

* On subsidising public hospitals instead of private healthcare -- http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/t-n-ninan-don-t-subsidise-build-115041700344_1.html

* Japan's Maglev hits 590kmph! -- http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/category/technology/
- Shanghai Maglev Train (SMT) goes at 421kmph -- 19km in 7mts!

* Tycoon - Rahul Bhatia - the Indigo story -- http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/business/rahul-bhatia-high-flier

* Pakistan miffs old friends -- http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21648698-pakistans-all-weather-friendships-are-under-strain-storm-tossed?fsrc=scn/tw/te/pe/ed/banyanpakistan
- Pakistan’s foreign policy might boil it down to four principles: provoke India, but not too much; say what America wants to hear; do what China wants done; and provide what rich Arab donors in the Gulf think they have bought.


* Coffee in Iceland (Adam Gopink) - -http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-coffee-of-civilization-in-iceland
* Also by Gopink - On Hippo's and Kings -- http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/of-hippos-and-kings


* Stiglitz on USA's opposition to China's AIIB -- https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/china-aiib-us-opposition-by-joseph-e--stiglitz-2015-04

* Kazuo Ishiguro on Leonard Cohen -- http://www.wsj.com/articles/kazuo-ishiguro-on-leonard-cohens-i-can-forget-1429022730?mod=trending_now_3
- http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/leonardcohen/icantforget.html

* Largest Harappan Site - Haryana's Rakhigarhi - http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/ljfXtPZHUSi5eG8Di1n9YO/History--What-their-lives-reveal.html
- http://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/rakhigarhi-is-now-the-biggest-harappan-excavation-site-even-bigger-than-mohenjodaro-231896.html

* Net Neutrality India Campaign for internet access -- http://www.netneutrality.in/
* Mahesh Murthy replies to Airtel CEO -- https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-airtel-users-should-reply-ceos-letter-defending-zero-murthy?trk=hp-feed-article-title

* The key is technology, not money -- (Hindu, 15Apr15, D. Raghunandan) -- http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/fdi-in-defence/article7102328.ece
. Delhi Science Forum
. All India People's Science Network

* Rushdie on Gunter Grass - http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-greatness-of-gunter-grass

* Nine things successful people do -- https://hbr.org/2011/02/nine-things-successful-people/

* Singapore shows the way on water (FE, Isher Judge Ahluwalia, 14Apr15) - http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/transforming-our-cities-on-water-singapore-shows-the-way/
- 2000- Bedok water reclamation project -  capacity 2.2 m gallons/day - US membrane technology - cost declined 50% in 25 yrs -- NEWater now meets 30% of demand
- Water demand - grows from 77 mg/d (1960) to 400 mg/d (2014)
- Water conservation tax (WCT) - cash transfer

* Why Tipu Sultan is a false hero -- http://www.dailyo.in/politics/why-tipu-sultan-was-a-false-hero/story/1/1278.html

* Culture cannot be a punishment posting -- http://www.thehindu.com/sunday-anchor/culture-cannot-be-a-punishment-posting-pramod-kumar/article7093270.ece

* Op Red Falcon -- https://read.atavist.com/operation-red-falcon

* Patchwork Person - Multi-ethnic, multi-expat -- http://blogs.wsj.com/expat/2015/04/13/i-often-feel-like-a-patchwork-person-a-multi-ethnic-multi-expat-figures-out-who-he-really-is/

* ISIS - destruction of Nimrud, Syria :(  -- http://rt.com/news/249097-isis-nimrud-destruction-video/

* GMOs - RoundUp and Risk Assessment -- NY -- http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/roundup-and-risk-assessment

* Should you trust big pharma with your DNA? -- http://www.popsci.com/should-you-trust-big-pharma-your-dna

* GMOs - - 'Decision makers need not balance science versus nonsense on GM crops'  - Ulhas Karnth - http://www.newkerala.com/news/2015/fullnews-42402.html
- Prior to the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002, the only GM crop India allowed for cultivation, the country used 9,400 tonnes of insecticides for bollworm pest control a year. In 2011, only 222 tonnes was used, says K.R. Kranthi, Director of the Central Institute of Cotton Research. Sucking pests however have thrived. But the 42-time reduction in use of use of pesticides against bollworms has to be weighed against the 2.5-fold increase in toxins to kill sucking pests.


* Essential Medicines - price hike approved by NPCO - http://www.thehindu.com/business/govt-allows-pharma-companies-to-hike-prices-of-509-essential-drugs/article7081150.ece

* Photography - Bokeh in pictures - https://luminous-landscape.com/bokeh-in-pictures/
- A technical view of Bokeh - https://luminous-landscape.com/bokeh/
- Nikkor 35mm 1.8G - http://www.nikon.co.in/en_IN/product/nikkor-lenses/dx-format/single-focal-length/af-s-dx-nikkor-35mm-f-1-8g

* How to build innovations in organisations -- http://www.fastcompany.com/3044780/hit-the-ground-running/how-to-build-conversations-that-create-innovative-ideas

* Spending money on new Experiences -- http://m.fastcompany.com/3043858/world-changing-ideas/the-science-of-why-you-should-spend-your-money-on-experiences-not-thing

* A Gorkha and 30 Bandits -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishnu_Shrestha
. http://www.telegraphindia.com/1100904/jsp/bengal/story_12895050.jsp
. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Soldier-takes-on-dacoits-on-trainGang-Of-30/articleshow/6488820.cms?

* Pakistan's Yemen Dilemma -- Khurram Hussain -- http://www.dawn.com/news/1174713/yemens-quagmire

* Anti-cancer agents found in #fungus infesting coconut pest - #Cordyceps #Biocontrol #RCC #Kerala - http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/biocontrol-fungus-may-aid-cancer-fight/article7063679.ece

* Google Drawings - http://www.labnol.org/internet/google-drawings-art/28855/

* Economist - Japan's poverty worsens -- http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21647676-poverty-worsens-more-japanese-work-non-permanent-contracts-struggling
- Shelters at Kotobuki, Yokohama

* Science behind the breast cancer gene -- http://www.livemint.com/Politics/bGjRaZOTgcuD40dt1jCzzK/Angelina-Jolies-second-surgery-revives-debate-on-available.html

* Using Wikipedia -- http://scroll.in/article/718139/Using-Wikipedia:-a-scholar-redraws-academic-lines-by-including-it-in-his-syllabus

* Prashant's letter to Arvind-AAP- http://scroll.in/article/718226/'Goodbye-and-good-luck':-full-text-of-open-letter-to-Arvind-Kejriwal-from-Prashant-Bhushan

* The future of architecture - http://www.wired.com/2015/04/20-buildings-show-future-architecture/

* NihonGo - On "O" and "Go" usage - http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2015/04/06/language/must-knows-nos-s-s-go/#.VSNpnPmUezx

* On why we must have net neutrality -- https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-we-must-have-netneutrality-abhigyan-jha

* Patent Law - the need to protect Section 3d -- http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/features/pulse/after-a-decade-why-we-need-to-protect-section-3d-of-the-patent-law/article7065611.ece
- Novartis argued that the â-crystalline form of the salt of imatinib, imanitib mesylate (gleevec) had better flow properties, was less hygroscopic, thermodynamically more stable.
- Novartis also argued that gleevec was 30% more bioavailable which implied significantly enhanced efficacy. The court held that by itself bioavailability cannot imply higher therapeutic efficacy, which has to be shown by separate experiments.

* Stanford-U on biological warfare -- http://news.stanford.edu/news/2001/january17/bioterror-117.html

* First impressions on Africa - http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/article/2015-01-07/184702/
* Karuturi - the Rose King in Africa - http://www.karuturi.com/pdf/karuturicorporatepresentation.pdf
- The one-acre farmer turns Rose King - http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/oneacre-farmer-turns-rose-king/article734798.ece
- Doubts on viability -- http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/campaign-update-ethiopia-viability-karaturi-project-doubt
- 2008 - An Indian farmer's African Safari -- http://www.businessworld.in/en/storypage/-/bw/indian-farmer%E2%80%99s-african-safari/r415993.0/page/0
. Gambela and other states have since leased out land to others, including India's Shapoorji Pallonji & Co. (50,000 ha) to grow biofuel, and Spentex Industries (25,000 ha) to grow cotton.
. Kenya is inviting foreigners for large-scale corporate farming. Land will be free of lease for 25 years.

* Japan - better explained through a religious lens -- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/04/05/issues/viewed-religious-lens-japan-makes-sense/#.VSIvCPmUezx

* Vishvanathan, Shiv (6Apr'15): A new public policy for a new India -- http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/a-new-public-policy-for-a-new-india/article7070831.ece?homepage=true

* Why the flu vaccine barely worked this year -- http://www.biospace.com/news_story.aspx?StoryID=370800&full=1

* Is flu in your genes? -- http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21647266-influenza-genetic-disease-under-influence
- critical - a gene encoding a protein called Interferon Regulatory Factor 7

* Spy camera king from Patel Nagar -- http://www.caravanmagazine.in/lede/delhi-patel-nagar-international-private-eye
- http://www.actionindiahomeproduct.com/

* Cost of Drugs -- http://www.cheatsheet.com/personal-finance/8-prescription-drugs-that-cost-way-too-much-in-america.html/?a=viewall
- the price of Gleevec tripled from $28,000 a year in 2001 to $92,000 a year in 2012
- THe science behind it - http://www.slideshare.net/KiranShaw1/triaminopyrimidines-antimalarial-agentnatcomm2015


* One-dose cure for Malaria - including MDR versions - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bangalore/bengaluru-scientists-find-drug-which-could-cure-malaria-with-one-dose/articleshow/46763997.cms

* A mallu protests the beef ban -- http://www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/beef-eater-locks-horns-bans

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On Hexagons

If you wanted to cover a large flat space with with equal pieces, without leaving any gaps, which shape would you choose?

In 300 CE, Pappus of Alexandria said that it was best to use Hexagons, just like bees do.  Pappu's idea remained a conjecture for 1700 years when in 1999, Thomas Hales proved that proved the Alexandian right through the honeycomb theorem.

I heard this for the first time in this TED video by Eduardo Sáenz de Cabezón:



But how did bees determine that this was the best shape? And how do they pass this knowledge across generations?

-------------------------------------------------
MORE

* Why do honeybees love hexagons?  http://ed.ted.com/lessons/why-do-honeybees-love-hexagons-zack-patterson-and-andy-peterson







Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Apathy Chronicles

Science may have found a cure for mos evils; but it has no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings." -- Helen Keller


Today's Indian Express has a telling cover story on the state of governance in India. It is a classic case of adopting the proverbial ostrich-like attitude: pretending that a problem does not exist, and hoping that, somehow, it will disappear on its own.

I just thought it would be interesting to list some of them to see if there is a pattern that could lead us to possible solutions.

First, the IE story today:

* AIR POLLUTION IN DELHI

The Central Pollution Control Board identifies a potential problem area and commissions an independent agency to examine the air quality in Delhi, through an exhaustive study involving 11,000 schoolchildren from 36 schools, across three years. Yet, despite detecting an alarming rise in pollution levels, everybody is still busy "studying the report".

Links:
- Landmark study lies buried - http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/landmark-study-lies-buried-how-delhis-poisonous-air-is-damaging-its-children-for-life/
- Chatterjee, Pritha (31Mar'15), IE: Seven years ago, everyone saw Delhi’s air take a deadly U-turn but no one did a thing


* THE NEW (RE)EMERGING DISEASES

Over past two decades, hospitals across India have been witnessing a sharp rise in new and re-emerging diseases: Chikungunya, bird flu, swine flu, monkey flu, Ebola, MDR TB and Malaria, etc., This year along we have lost over 2000 lives to H1N1 swine flu.
What have we done about it? The health ministry had figured well in advance that our total dependence on imported diagnostics and medicines would hamper containment efforts. So it decided to develop indigenous technology and succeeded in getting entrepreneurs to produce test-kits for a tenth the cost (Rs. 400 vs. minimum of Rs.4500/test). And then, amazingly, after handing out the necessary regulatory clearances, it does nothing to encourage states to adopt cheaper, more affordable diagnostics and medicines.
Predictably MNCs like Applied Biosciences are quite pleased with the state of affairs. While low-income patients balk at the cost of getting reliable tests and drugs, the MNCs are laughing all the way to bank, happy to serve just those who can afford it.

Links:
- Nagarajan, Rema (18Mar'15), ToI: Two Indian firms develop cheap H1N1 test kits, but find few takers
- Singh, Jyotsna (31Mar'15), DTE: When flu turns fatal - http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/when-flu-turns-fatal


* DELHI BUS RAPID TRANSPORT (BRT) SYSTEM

Inspired by Curitiba (Brazil) and Bogota (Colombia), and goaded by IITD academics, the Delhi government decided to ease the urban transport problem by building a BRT corridor in South Delhi. The first phase of construction (2008) was so haphazard and unplanned that vehicles kept crashing into unmarked barriers that had come up overnight, constriction of road space forced bikers on pedestrian pathways and VIPs appropriated the bus-lanes for themselves.
Now there is talk of just scrapping the whole project. So what if the project cost a few millions?

* PIPED WATER SUPPLY IN NCR DELHI

Why is it so rare to find 24x7 piped water supply in Indian cities? Because the amount of water that would be wasted from taps that are left open would leave us very little to supply the next day!
In suburbs like Noida, the municipality has fixed a "flat-rate" for monthly consumption of water. This amounts to a measly Rs. 25 to Rs.150 per month. Since there is no incentive or costs to careful use of this resource, enormous quantities of water overflow into the drains every day. Picture this: Everyday, Noida Jal processes and distributes about 100 cusecs (244 million litres/day) of water. Water is pumped from the holding stations to overhead waterttanks in each sector, and from here, it is supplied to users twice a day for about three hours.
Water quickly fills up the overhead tanks in all the buildings, and since the supply is not metered, most users have an overflow pipe that spills excess water into the drains. For at least an hour water just goes down the drains. Has there been any effort to calculate and control this huge, daily wastage of clean water? Who cares!

--------------------------------------------------------------------
LINKS:
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delhi_Bus_Rapid_Transit_System
- BRT May be Scrapped - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Delhis-BRT-may-finally-be-scrapped-as-MLAs-put-pressure-on-govt/articleshow/46569844.cms

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

2015 March - Interesting Articles & Links


* On 5G Telephony - http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21646962-5g-mobile-wireless-will-be-faster-fibre-your-phone-steroids

* Nagoro - a Japanese village where life-size dolls outnumber people! - http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/143300/fritz-schumann/valley-of-the-dolls

* DOS - Denial of Service attacks on the internet -- http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/03/economist-explains-25

* Solar on your roof - 101 - http://www.livemint.com/Money/RBdquY1XECHfxeCD5XnfTP/What-you-should-know-before-going-solar.html

* Photography - Karen Knorr - India Song -- http://karenknorr.com/photography/india-song/

* Mes Aynak - an ancient Afghan city being lost to Chinese copper mines ? -- http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/may/31/mes-aynak-afghanistan-buddhist-treasure

* Iceland - the world's greatest genetic lab -- http://www.wired.com/2015/03/iceland-worlds-greatest-genetic-laboratory/

* Meet Cyanogen -- the Android Killer -- http://www.forbes.com/sites/miguelhelft/2015/03/23/meet-cyanogen-the-startup-that-wants-to-steal-android-from-google-2/

* Discarded medical devices flood Indian markets -- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/First-worlds-discarded-medical-devices-flood-Indian-markets/articleshow/46696235.cms

* MRI Scans of Vegetables - http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/mri-scans-produce-are-completely-amazing

* Best Headphones -- http://time.com/74886/best-headphones/

* Salil Tripathi on LKY and Singapore - http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/tJmgofWYWCJmdQYzaNbAtO/Lee-kuan-yews-Singapore.html
* LKY's Singapore - lessons India did not learn -- http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/rahul-jacob-what-china-learned-from-lee-kuan-yew-115032501154_1.html

* On development aid in Nepal -- http://data.parliament.uk/WrittenEvidence/CommitteeEvidence.svc/EvidenceDocument/International%20Development/DFIDs%20work%20in%20Nepal/written/18612.html

* Saudi's and the Swedish minister - http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9481542/swedens-feminist-foreign-minister-has-dared-to-tell-the-truth-about-saudi-arabia-what-happens-now-concerns-us-all/

* Wishes for desi's you hate -- http://www.buzzfeed.com/imaansheikh/wishing-you-biryani-without-boti

* Getting rid of Bunions -- http://naturalcuresnotmedicine.com/how-to-get-rid-of-bunions-with-this-simple-and-powerful-remedy/

* How to Write -- http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/ZPmaHVnmMNiqhAsHCxz8fP/How-to-write.html?utm_source=copy
* Use of Good Words -- http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2015/03/johnson-writing-style?fsrc=scn%2Ftw%2Fte%2Fbl%2Fed%2Fusegoodwords


* (26Mar15, Hindu) - Corruption in governance breeds antibiotic resistancehttp://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/corruption-in-governance-breeds-antibiotic-resistance/article7032499.ece
* (26Mar15 ToI) - China agrees to supply more Japanese Encephalitis shots - http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-03-27/news/60553555_1_japanese-encephalitis-je-vaccine-china

* On foreigners in Japan -- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/03/23/voices/spare-thought-western-men-trapped-japan/

* Italian cheese made by Sikhs -- http://scroll.in/article/710676/Video:-The-Sikhs-who-make-Italy's-famous-Grana-Padano-cheese

* When India ate Beef -- http://www.rediff.com/news/column/when-hindus-ate-beef-india-was-never-conquered/20150324.htm

* Tharoor on Indian Railways -- http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/india-railway-budget-by-shashi-tharoor-2015-03

* Photography - Nikon35mm
- http://petapixel.com/2013/05/16/the-top-8-reasons-why-im-a-big-believer-in-35mm-lens-photography/
- http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/35f14ais.htm
- http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/10-best.htm
- http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/dx-dream-team.htm
- The best 35mm for DX - http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/dx-dream-team.htm


* Japan's policemen with big sticks - http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/03/20/reference/police-who-stand-with-big-sticks

* 10 Indian poets -- http://scroll.in/article/715138/Video:-On-World-Poetry-Day,-listen-to-the-works-of-ten-Indian-poets

* LinkedIn - What kind of pain can i solve? -- https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-switch-careers-without-starting-over-liz-ryan?trk=hp-feed-article-title

* WSJ - India's fight against Big Pharma is a Just War -- http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2015/03/19/inside-india-indias-fight-against-big-pharma-patents-is-a-just-war/
. Last week, GoI withdrew patent protection for an emphysema drug marketed by Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH
. The country’s pharmaceutical sector was expected to grow to at least $48.8 billion in sales by 2020 from $11 billion in 2012
. India’s law sets a higher bar for protection than in some other countries, limiting the ability of companies to get patents for new versions of drugs whose active ingredients were previously known unless they can show significant therapeutic benefit.
. In 2006, India’s patent office refused to give Novartis AG a patent for Gleevec, an extremely effective drug for a rare cancer.
. In 2012, India’s Intellectual Property Appellate Board revoked a Roche Holding AG patent for a hepatitis C drug saying technology involved in the drug’s invention was “obvious” and could be replicated easily.
. In January, India’s patent office rejected a patent application from the U.S. biotech firm Gilead Sciences Inc. for a hepatitis C treatment, saying it lacked novelty and didn’t show significant efficacy over previously known compounds.
. The collective effect of a low bar for patents drives up healthcare costs and insurance premiums for patients.

* Ram, Vidya (19Mar2015): An answer to Fund-Bank domination - http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/vidya-ram/an-answer-to-fundbank-domination/article7007864.ece

* Kanjilal, Prateek (19Mar15): Borrowing from Nature - http://www.financialexpress.com/article/fe-columnist/borrowing-from-nature/55093/

* A reality-check from @RahulJacob -- http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/rahul-jacob-make-believe-in-india-115031801145_1.html @MakeInIndia #Manufacturing


* Horizontal Gene Transfer - http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21646197-human-beings-ancestors-have-routinely-stolen-genes-other-species-genetically
- Many of the matches are to genes of unknown purpose—for it is still the case, more than a decade after the end of the human genome project, that the jobs of many genes remain obscure. But some human transgenes are surprisingly familiar. The ABO antigen system, which defines basic blood groups for transfusion purposes, looks bacterial. The fat-mass and obesity-associated gene, the effect of which is encapsulated in its rather long-winded name, seems to come from marine algae. And a group of genes involved in the synthesis of hyaluronic acid originates from fungi. Hyaluronic acid is a chemical that is an important part of the glue which holds cells together. (It is also a frequent ingredient of skin creams.)

* 13 ways to eat Maggi noodles -- http://www.buzzfeed.com/niralishah/maggi-maggi-maggi

* Shyam - Elephant Trails , Tvm -- https://shyamgopan.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/the-elephants-i-never-saw/

* Churpi -- Yak cheese as dog snack in G8 -- https://news.yahoo.com/traditional-nepal-cheese-hit-overseas-dog-snack-072951741.html

* Top 15 websites for free images download -- http://www.jeffbullas.com/2015/03/17/15-top-websites-to-find-free-images-for-your-content-marketing/

* BBC's Hypocrisy -- http://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/merchants-of-black-imagery/article1-1327094.aspx
. we need to break free from the vicious grip of the merchants of the black imagery who earn their fortunes by marketing globally some of our weakest chinks.


* Mighty Mites -- http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/02/mites/dunn-text

* Paul Kalanithi in WP - Before I Go: A Stanford neurosurgeon’s parting wisdom about life and time --  http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/03/12/before-i-go-a-stanford-neurosurgeons-parting-wisdom-about-life-and-time/
- "Everyone succumbs to finitude.... The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed."

* WSJ - Smart-enough Watches -- http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-a-just-smart-enough-watch-is-better-than-an-apple-watch-1426181071

* What ails Indian Science (2014, R Prasad) -- http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/what-ails-indian-science/article5863637.ece
- in the case of the U.S., the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are outside the government bureaucracy.
- the malaise of promotion based on years of service, and not by achievement

* Origin of expressions -- http://www.grammarly.com/blog/2015/14-expressions-with-crazy-origins-that-you-would-never-have-guessed/

* Bangladesh vs. MNCs - http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-08/-10-copy-of-gilead-s-blockbuster-sovaldi-appears-in-bangladesh

* Cricket - sledging -- http://www.scoopwhoop.com/sports/cricket-sledging/

* Salil Tripathi -- An Argument Without Beef -- http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/Nv56zpiYyDRgiD8fgbnmOL/An-argument-without-beef.html

* WSJ - 11Mar15 - Four Years After Tohoku -- http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2015/03/11/photos-four-years-after-the-tohoku-disaster/#slide/1

* NYT -- http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/why-doctors-give-in-on-vaccines?

* FT - India Healthcare -- http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/0b916fde-c64a-11e4-9bf4-00144feab7de.html?siteedition=intl#axzz3TyylVhOd

* Cabron's prob -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ankylosing_spondylitis

* On Virgil's quote on 9/11 memorial -- http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/opinion/07alexander.html?_r=0

* Science as art - http://www.nature.com/news/science-as-art-wellcome-image-awards-2015-1.17118

* Why are only white people called expats? -- http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/mar/13/white-people-expats-immigrants-migration

* Its never too late to start a venture -- http://digitalsynopsis.com/inspiration/never-too-late-start-venture

* Words -- http://www.buzzfeed.com/danieldalton/bob-ombinate?bftw&bffb&utm_term=4ldqpgy#.rpNqOABvBg

* Is most of our DNA garbage? -- http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/08/magazine/is-most-of-our-dna-garbage.html
- Genomes are like biological books, written in genetic letters known as bases; the human genome contains about 3.2 billion bases.
- the onion’s genome was five times bigger --
- why do the broad-footed salamander (65.5 billion bases), the African lungfish (132 billion) and the Paris japonica flower (149 billion)?
- The human genome contains around 20,000 genes, that is, the stretches of DNA that encode proteins. But these genes account for only about 1.2 percent of the total genome. The other 98.8 percent is known as noncoding DNA.
- 1953, Francis Crick and James Watson published a short paper in the journal Nature setting out the double-helix structure of DNA.
- In 1964, the German biologist Friedrich Vogel did a rough calculation of how many genes a typical human must carry --  6.7 million
- 2001 - The Human Genome Project team declared that our DNA consisted of isolated oases of protein-coding genes surrounded by “vast expanses of unpopulated desert where only noncoding ‘junk’ DNA can be found.”
- John Rinn @Harvard -  studies RNA, but not the RNA that our cells use as a template for making proteins -- studies an RNA molecule (hotair) that, somewhat bizarrely, was produced widely by skin cells below the waist but not above.
- Rinn’s research revealed that hotair acts as a kind of guide for Polycomb, attaching to it and escorting it through the jungle of the cell to the precise spots on our DNA where it needs to silence genes.

* History in perspective - a great piece by @DalrympleWill on the supreme act of corporate violence in world history http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/04/east-india-company-original-corporate-raiders
- - on 28 August 1608, William Hawkins had landed at Surat, the first commander of a company vessel to set foot on Indian soil.
- Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador sent by James I to the Mughal court, is shown appearing before the Emperor Jahangir in 1614
- 1739, when Clive was only 14 years old, the Mughals still ruled a vast empire that stretched from Kabul to Madras. But in that year, the Persian adventurer Nadir Shah descended the Khyber Pass with 150,000 of his cavalry and defeated a Mughal army of 1.5 million men.
- Three months later, Nadir Shah returned to Persia carrying the pick of the treasures the Mughal empire had amassed in its 200 years of conquest: a caravan of riches that included Shah Jahan’s magnificent peacock throne, the Koh-i-Noor, the largest diamond in the world, as well as its “sister”, the Darya Nur, and “700 elephants, 4,000 camels and 12,000 horses carrying wagons all laden with gold, silver and precious stones”, worth an estimated £87.5m in the currency of the time.
- August 1765, when the young Mughal emperor Shah Alam, exiled from Delhi and defeated by East India Company troops, was forced into what we would now call an act of involuntary privatisation.
- Within a few years, 250 company clerks backed by the military force of 20,000 locally recruited Indian soldiers had become the effective rulers of Bengal.
- sing its rapidly growing security force – its army had grown to 260,000 men by 1803 – it swiftly subdued and seized an entire subcontinent.
- The first serious territorial conquests began in Bengal in 1756; 47 years later, the company’s reach extended as far north as the Mughal capital of Delhi, and almost all of India south of that city was by then effectively ruled from a boardroom in the City of London.
- In many ways the EIC was a model of corporate efficiency: 100 years into its history, it had only 35 permanent employees in its head office.
- After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, a victory that owed more to treachery, forged contracts, bankers and bribes than military prowess, he transferred to the EIC treasury no less than £2.5m seized from the defeated rulers of Bengal – in today’s currency, around £23m for Clive and £250m for the company.
- Clive... committed suicide in 1774 by slitting his own throat with a paperknife
- By 1803, when the EIC captured the Mughal capital of Delhi, it had trained up a private security force of around 260,000- twice the size of the British army – and marshalled more firepower than any nation state in Asia.


* Fall of the Ottomans -- http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/mar/01/fall-of-the-ottomans-eugene-rogan-review

* INDIA's DAUGHTER - (5Mar15) - Salil Tripathy -- why it should be seen in India -- http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/34Ls4cgDsZaDbEH8TdLBmN/Why-Indias-Daughter-should-be-seen-in-India.html
- http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-article-rape-rhetoric-and-reality/article6705077.ece


* USA - dollar spending on diseases -- http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/03/03/the-diseases-we-spend-our-health-dollars-on/

* A scientist and an artist -- http://www.frontline.in/arts-and-culture/scientist-as-an-artist/article6954702.ece?homepage=true

* Nikon camera with a 83X zoom! -- http://www.wired.com/2015/03/nikons-new-point-shoot-absurdly-long-zoom-range/

* #Genes that adapt and remember -- an excellent book review -- http://www.wired.com/2015/03/fat-sick-blame-grandparents-bad-habits/ #Epigenetics #Methylation

* Economic Survey 2015 -- file:///C:/Users/Dinakar/Desktop/EconSurvey-2015-vol1.pdf
- Subsidies to the poor (pp23) -- Rs.377,000 Cr (4.2% of 2011 GDP)
- Agri - area, production (pp 78-79) -- Foodgrains - 126mHa; 265 mT-- Oilseeds 28mHa; 33 mT-- Pulses 25 mHa; 19mT
- Agri extension -- 59% of farmers have no access to govt research & extension (NSSO data)
- GM crops - rethinking needed (pp80)

* BCG-CII Report on the Indian IT Sector (2013) - http://cii.in/WebCMS/Upload/BCG%20CII%20report%20on%20Domestic%20IT%20-%20March%202013%28final%29.pdf

* Regulating Genome-Edited Crops (not-yet GMOs) -- http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150225132251.htm

* China Cement production -- http://www.igsnrr.cas.cn/xwzx/jxlwtj/201405/P020140522355603140914.pdf
- From less than 50 mT (1978) to over 2000 mT now.... India is no.2 at 360 mT

* Budget 2015 -- Speech
- India's Annual Budget INR 17,774,770,000,000 to USD = 287,129,901,878 US Dollar  (17 Lakh Crores = $ 287 Billion)
- Rs. 1 Lakh Cr = US$. 16 Billion

* 1995, Newsweek -- A prediction that went haywire -- http://www.newsweek.com/clifford-stoll-why-web-wont-be-nirvana-185306

* Labnol - Removing password protection from PDF files -- http://www.labnol.org/software/remove-pdf-password/20017/

* Indian shrines in SE China -- http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/medieval-southeastern-china-neighbours-india-shrine-remote-village/1/421327.html
- traders from south India made Quanzhou and its surrounding areas their home during the reign of the Song (960-1279 AD) and Yuan (1279-1368 AD) dynasties when Quanzhou was the busiest port in the world.