Thursday, August 21, 2014

Death, Sorrow & Self-Pity

In one of my favorite passages in the Mahabharata, the great sage Brihadaswa stops by to visit the hermitage of the Pandavas, within a few months of their being cheated of their kingdom and exiled to the forests. The Pandava princes are full of self-pity and they keep brooding about their lost riches.

Sage Brihadaswa's response is rather interesting. He says, "You say that there is no one in the world who is as unfortunate as you. Now that is not true, though everyone, tried by adversity is inclined to claim pre-eminence in sorrow, because things directly experienced are more than things heard or seen..."

Later, in the Aaranyakanda chapter , a forest spirit demands from Yudhistira, answers to a few questions as the price for reviving his siblings who have died of thirst and poisoning. One of them is:

'What is the greatest wonder in the world?'

Asareearvanini - asked Yudhishtira what is the strangest thing in life. His reply - "People die everyday and those who are alive go on as though they will live for ever!"


Kanda, Mohan (2012): A VOICE OF WISDOM LOST - Obituary to S.K. Rau, Indian Express, 28 Nov 2012

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Drugs based on antibodies have been in use for a long time now. So far, almost all these antibody-based drugs have been derived from animal sources -- usually mammalian cells from hamsters -- and then grown in large stainless steel vats. US-FDA has approved around 30 such drugs, including blockbuster cancer therapies such as Avastin and Rituxan (Roche).

The ongoing Ebola epidemic has brought into focus antibodies derived from plants (aka Plantibodies!). In the absence of any credible therapies, Mapp Pharmaceuticals (San Diego, USA) has been permitted to produce experimental 'Plantibodies' to treat two infected medical workers. Despite lower costs of plant-based production (~1/10th!) not many companies are into this area. The only such FDA approved drug is Elelyso, an enzyme produced from genetically engineered carrots, manufactured by Israel's Protalix Biotherapies, and marketed by Pfizer.

Which are the ~30 animal-derived drugs currently in the market? Why is it that major pharma companies are shying away from plant-based production lines that is supposed to be cheaper?


* Plantibodies (Reuters, 18Aug14) --

* Ebola puts focus on drugs made in Tobacco plants --

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Say Cheese!

This is one of the best selfie's I've come across. Last week a random simian in Indonesia triggered a huge debate on copyright and IPRs.

I am so glad to know that the monkey won! :)

Say Cheeese!

New Yorker (8 Aug): Wikipedia Defends the Monkey Selfie

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Extra Special Economic Zones

When it comes to productivity and export-competitiveness of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), clearly some states in India fare a lot better than the others.

How much better? If today's official press release (PIB) is to believed, more than 10 times!

18 SEZs in Gujarat exported, on an average, Rs. 12,500 Crores (US$ 2 billion) worth of goods & services. Its employees were by far much more productive too, with each employee sending out stuff worth nearly Rs. 3 Crores.

There are states with more than twice the number of export-zones with a fraction of Gujarat's productivity. Andhra Pradesh (pre-division) has 42; Tamil Nadu has 34 SEZs while Maharashtra and Karnataka have 25 each. Yet, for the latter three states average exports-per-SEZ hovers in the range of just Rs. 2000 crores.

What accounts for this huge difference? Is it that industries like diamond-polishing have export margins much more than any other goods or services?


* "Functioning of SEZs" (6 Aug 2014) - PIB Press Release from Ministry of Commerce & Industry - Response to Rajya Sabha unstarred question No. 2919 - URL -