How DRDO Is Acting As India’s Defence Against Covid

How DRDO Is Acting As India's Defence Against Covid

DRDO, India’s premier organization for defence research, has a rich history of indigenous innovation in the field. However, amidst Covid pandemic, it has upped its innovations to help citizens against the disease. With its most recent innovation being the anti-Covid drug, let’s look at that and some other contributions.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Drug Approval
DGCI recently gave emergency approval to anti-Covid drug developed by DRDO. The drug was developed in collaboration with:

  • Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences of DRDO.
  • Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL), Hyderabad.

The drug 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) is to be taken orally after mixing in water.

[The drug] helps in faster recovery of hospitalised patients and reduces supplemental oxygen dependence. Higher proportion of patients treated with 2-DG showed RT-PCR negative conversion in COVID patients.

PIB release

Other DRDO Innovations To Fight Covid
The other innovations, initiatives and measures undertaken by the organisation to help the citizens fight the virus include:

COVSACK (COVID Sample Collection Kiosk)

  • Patient goes inside kiosk.
  • Sample taken from outside with shielding screen and built-in gloves.
  • Completely automatic disinfection.

DRUVS (Defence Research Ultraviolet Sanitiser)

  • Contactless cabinet as working on sensors.
  • 360 degree exposure to objects inside.
  • Useful for sanitising laptops, phones, papers, etc.

Medical Oxygen Plants (MOP)

  • Based on oxygen generation system used in fighter aircraft Tejas.
  • Capacity: 1,000 litres oxygen/minute.
  • Catering to 190 patients at a time.
  • 2 plants set up in Delhi – 500 more expected around the country.

Covid Hospitals

  • Most notably, DRDO has set up several Covid hospitals across country.
  • These beds have oxygen support, while some are kept with ventilators.

Some of the cities where the hospitals are present (along with number of beds) is as follows:

  • Ahmedabad: 900 beds.
  • Delhi: 500 beds.
  • Patna: 500 beds.
  • Lucknow: 500 beds.

Several more such hospitals around the country expected soon.

Curiopedia
  • BrahMos is the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world. DRDO along with Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya created the ‘BrahMos’ supersonic missiles.
  • Siachen Glacier is the world’s highest battlefield, controlled by the Indian army. It is at a height of 5400 metres above sea level.
  • The motto of DRDO is “Balasya Mulam Vigyanam”. It means “Strength’s Origin is in Knowledge”.

Indian Startup Detects Early Stage Cancer With A Blood Test

Indian Startup Detects Early Stage Cancer With A Blood Test

A specialised molecular diagnostic startup, Tzar Labs along with Mumbai-based Epigeneres Biotechnology, has made a breakthrough in early-detection of cancer. Let’s see how they did this by using just a simple blood test on the given subjects.

Crux of the Matter

What Is Its Accuracy?

The discovery enables the detection of early stage cancer and the stage of the disease from a simple blood test with virtually 100% accuracy.

As per Tzar

Has A Trial Been Done?
Yes. A clinical study on detecting cancer of 1000 subjects has been conducted and a peer-reviewed paper by the startup Tzar has been published in Stem Cell Reviews and Reports (SCRR).

How Did They Do It?
The tech can detect organ-level RNA mutations directly from the blood. They researched on marker genes and found the key indicators of cancerous conditions at the molecular level.

What Is The Test Called?
The test is called the HrC test.

We can also safely rule out the risk of cancer for the following year if your HrC marker falls in the safe zone. We envisage a world where one needs to do the HrC test once a year, and we will catch cancer either at stage 1 or prior.

Ashish Tripathi, CEO of Tzar

How Deadly Is Cancer?
The disease accounts for one in every six deaths worldwide, as per the American Cancer Society. It kills more people every year than HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

What Are The Numbers?
In 2017, an estimated 17 million cases of cancer were diagnosed, and 9.5 million people died of the disease. By 2040, the figures are expected to reach 27.5 million new cases and 16.3 million cancer deaths.

Leading Cancer Case Types In India

Indian States With Highest Cancer Prevalence

Curiopedia
  • Mumbai-based nanotech scientist Vinay Kumar Tripathi and his family are majority shareholders in both companies. Tripathi’s youngest son is the best-selling author Amish Tripathi, best known for the series Shiva Trilogy. 
  • James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation”. Their work was around cancer immunotherapy, which has been used as an alternative for surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
  • The Indian Cancer Research Centre was established in 1952. It then got combined with The Tata Memorial Hospital which is now more popularly known as the Tata Memorial Centre.

How Is India Inc Helping The Nation Fight Covid?

How Is India Inc Helping The Nation Fight Covid?

While India is grappling with the second wave of Covid 19, Indian Corporate is stepping up and contributing to tackle it. In the past year, major aid came on social and humanitarian grounds. Whereas in 2021, funds are utilized to support the infrastructural demand. From big business houses to niche startups, each firm is donating its bit. Let’s look at some of them.

Crux of the Matter

In one of the most unprecedented times, the Corporate India is stepping up to support not only its employees but also other people. Let’s see how from conglomerates to startup, many companies are doing their bit to tackle Covid-19.

Startups To The Rescue

  • Paytm will continue to pay salary for the current fiscal to the families of its 8 employees who succumbed due to Covid.
  • Zomato will provide 100% of the income to the family of the deceased employees for 2 years.
  • Flipkart will give paid Covid Care Leave of 28 calendar days in case an employee is diagnosed with Covid.
  • Urban Company set up Mohit Agrawal relief fund of ₹1 crore in the memory of the company’s Director of Engineering who died due to Covid-19.
  • Byju’s formed a ₹20 crore fund to support Covid expenses of employees.
  • Unacademy raised $1million Covid Fund to avail free vaccinations to employees and educators.

Infrastructural Aid

  • JSW Steel is supplying 1000 MT of oxygen per day and plans to ramp it further.
  • Reliance Industries is supplying 700 MT of oxygen per day and plans to scale it up to 1000 MT/day.
  • Amazon India airlifted 8,000 oxygen concentrators and 500 bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines from Singapore.
  • ITC Ltd airlifted 24 cryogenic ISO containers, 20 tonnes each from Asian countries. It is also setting up a 200 bed medical facility in Kolkata.
  • Adani Group imported 4 cryogenic tanks with 80 MT of liquid oxygen from Saudi Arabia.
  • ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India is supplying 200 MT of liquid oxygen per day to Gujarat. They have also set up a 250-bed Covid hospital in Hazira in collaboration with the Gujarat government.

Financial Aid

Tata’s No Limit Covid Care
Tata Trust’s Chairman, Ratan Tata and Tata Group’s Chairman N Chandrasekaran directed to have no limit in Covid funding. The group and trust have collectively pledged ₹2000 crore to date for Covid Care.

Major initiatives include:

  • Converting 1500 hotel rooms in Indian hotels to hospital beds.
  • Tata Projects setting up labour camps with food and stay facilities for migrant workers.
  • Tata Steel supplying up to 800 MT of medical liquid oxygen a day.
  • Tata Trusts organising medical training programmes for volunteers.
  • Collaborating with Linde to airlift oxygen containers from Singapore, China and Dubai to India.

Curiopedia
  • Shah Rukh Khan is the current brand Ambassador of Byju’s. Former co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin Invested $1 billion in Byju’s in April, 2021. The current evaluation of Byju’s is around $15 billion.
  • Originally Zomato was known by the name of “FoodieBay”. The name of Zomato is a wordplay around the word Tomato.
  • Flipkart was founded by former Amazon employees Sachin and Binny Bansal in October 2007. In 2018, Walmart bought 77% stake in Flipkart for $16 Billion.

The Case Of Covid-19 Vaccine Patents Waiver

The Case Of Covid-19 Vaccine Patents Waiver

Amidst rising Covid-19 cases and a growing dearth of vaccines, discussions around removing intellectual property rights over vaccine have started again. With US making an official statement that it will waive off the patents for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, many nations have shown support to the matter raised prominently last year by India and South Africa. There also have been arguments for and against patent waiver. Let’s understand what is happening.

Crux of the Matter

Back Story
In May 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to share knowledge for rapidly scaling up the vaccine production proposed a Covid–Technology Access Pool. However, the initiative largely failed as vaccine companies refused to participate.

The Proposal
In October 2020, India along with South Africa, at World Trade Organization’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) council meet, proposed to temporarily suspend the protection of Intellectual Property (IP) rights pertaining to the Covid-19 vaccine and drugs.

Proponents To Relinquish IP Rights
The India-South Africa proposal was roughly backed by over 100 nations.

Fundamental Argument:

  • The patent holders have the exclusive right to manufacture, sell, and use the vaccine/drug for the entire term of 20 years from the date of its filing.
  • IP rights could restrict the supply of vaccines and drugs. Thus, only by suspending the TRIPS agreement a ‘fair, equitable and affordable access’ to Covid-19 products can be ensured.

At present, the annual global vaccine production capacity is 3.5 billion doses. While to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population,11 billion doses are required. A significant increase in production is the need of hour to control Covid 19.

As Reported In WSJ:
Pharmaceutical firms in developing nations like Bangladesh, India, South Africa, and Senegal say that they have the capacity to produce vaccines within a few months if Western manufacturers license or share their technology.

Opposition To Waiver

  • Vaccine makers which are already ramping up production believe that squashing IP will not work to overcome supply shortage in the short term.
  • Reason? Contract producers are not well versed with the new technology.
  • Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech said that it would take a year to master the RNA technology and ensure quality control, with others saying that it would take away resources from existing vaccine production.

What About Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin?

  • Covaxin is indigenously developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology.
  • Covaxin is an Indian Intellectual Property and hence the scope of TRIPs is not applicable if India want to license it to other Indian firms.
  • So far, Indian government has granted the license to Haffkine Bio-Pharmaceutical Corp.
  • However, the firm will take at least a year to get the first Covaxin jab out of its factory owing to the mandatory ‘Biosafety level-3’ production facility required.

In News
On 6th May, 2021 the US finally agreed to temporarily suspend the IP rights. However, the statement released said that US will participate in ‘text based negotiations’ and ‘the entire process might take time’. Experts believe that the process will go on for so long that the emergency is over and there’s no longer a need to share IP.

Curiopedia
  • Jonas Salk was the creator of one of the world’s first successful Polio Vaccines. In order to increase distribution globally, he did not patent or make a profit out of the vaccine.
  • Edward Jenner created the smallpox vaccine, the first ever vaccine. He is often regarded as the Father of Immunology.
  • The term vaccine and vaccination from the words ‘Variolae vaccinae’. It mean ‘smallpox of the cow’.

Where Can We Expect India’s First Lithium Refinery?

Where Can We Expect India’s First Lithium Refinery?

For its lithium battery needs, India was relying on imports from China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam over the years. So India’s discovery of local lithium deposits in Karnataka has stirred considerable interest this year. Let’s see the progress on the plans of India for the very first lithium refinery, and how it will help us level up in the EV game.

Crux of the Matter

Lithium Deposits Found
The government announced this year that lithium deposits worth 1,600 tonnes were found in Mandya district, Karnataka.

What Does DAE Say?

Unless a proper technology/method is available to profitably extract lithium from its ore, the real benefit of exploration may not be there.

As per Department of Atomic Energy release

Who Is Working On A Local Refinery?
In May 2020, Manikaran Power Limited had announced the launch of a feasibility study, with the help of Australia’s Neometals Limited. To set up a lithium hydroxide refinery in India, they wanted a capacity of 20,000 tonnes per annum, lithium carbonate equivalent.

How Will It Benefit Us?
Manikaran’s director, Jasmeet Singh Kalsi, had said that the proposed lithium refinery would help develop domestic manufacturing capabilities for lithium-ion batteries. This will strengthen India’s push for electric-vehicle manufacturing.

Where Will The Plant Be Set Up?
Gujarat is the tentative location. The state offers advantages like the availability of chemical reagents, gas, good port and road connectivity, and availability of basic infrastructure for the project’s operation.

What’s Next?
The power trading company has reached out to Government agencies for specific support, like Capital Subsidies, Duty exemptions on imported materials, and Tax Breaks to be at par with other global lithium processors.

Curiopedia
  • Akira Yoshino created a prototype of the Lithium-ion battery in 1985.  Eventually, Sony along with the Asahi Kasei team led by Yoshio Nishi developed the commercial Li-ion battery in 1991.
  • Lithium is the lightest metal. It is one of the most reactive elements due to its unstable state.
  • Lithium salts are commonly used for psychiatric medications. They are used to treat bipolar disorders and major depressive disorders.