Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Research problems: IICT may not benefit from oral insulin development

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 15: The city-based Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, which is instrumental in the development of oral insulin delivery system, may not benefit much financially from the innovative research what with a private pharma company claiming all credit for the new drug.
The world pharma market is going to witness a heavy demand for oral insulin as and when the new drug delivery system is introduced after human trials. India, China and the USA are the potential markets for oral insulin as these three countries are regarded as the "diabetes capitals" of the world. Patients now dependent on insulin injections will shift to oral insulin as the latter system does not involve pain or health risks.
The IICT provided its state-of-the-art laboratory facilities to Transgene Biotek Limited under a partnership programme for research and development of oral insulin drug delivery system. The CSIR lab also extended its scientific manpower to the private pharma company. All the in vivo tests of the new drug system have been carried out at the IICT. Transgene spent less than Rs 1 crore on the project, besides sending half a dozen scientists to the lab for research.
However, under the agreement reached at between IICT and Transgene, the former will get just 10 per cent of the royalty while 90 per cent of the profits will be cornered by the private pharma unit. Since the IICT has been instrumental in the preparation of new system, it should be entitled to at least 50 per cent of the royalty.
The pharmacology division of the IICT is one of the few laboratories in the country to possess expertise in the development and characterisation of novel drug delivery systems for transdermal, liposomal, nano particle systems, oral delivery of vaccines and colon specific delivery systems. Transgene simply utilised one of these facilities.
Human trials on insulin are going to begin shortly. It will take at least three years for the drug to be formally launched in the world market. Transgene managing director Dr K Koteswara Rao said "we hope to be the first in the world to launch the novel drug delivery system for administering oral insulin. This kind of oral delivery of insulin is a boon to the diabetics, thus avoiding painful injections every day".
According to sources, Transgene has rushed through the press conference to announce the new drug delivery system even though the IICT directed it not to do so in a hurry. IICT suggested that the trial should be validated by an independent organisation before making any announcement.
Insulin account for a massive 62.1 per cent share of sales in total European diabetes medications market worth 2000 million US dollars and it is expected to reach 3,800 million US dollars by 2009. The WHO estimates that between 10 and 12 per cent of the urban Indian population and four to six per cent of the rural population are diabetic. Further amongst the Indian population both diabetes and ischaemic heart disease occur atleast a decade younger than in other populations. In this background, IICT will suffer heavily in terms of monetary benefits because of its 10 per cent royalty share while Transgene will make a fortune with 90 per cent royalty from the new drug.

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Lake conservation in Hyderabad yields good underground water

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 4: Twin cities received a bonanza in the form of good recharge of underground water thanks to conservation of 10 important lakes by the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority.
According to a hydrogeological study of the ground water table in localities around 10 select lakes, which were taken up for conservation recently, the water level went up by about 10 metres in most of the places. The study was conducted about a fortnight ago and the results have prompted the urban development body to take up conservation of all the lakes in and around Hyderabad.
The Huda monitored ground water recharge in 10 out of 87 lakes that dot the city geography. The study was carried out by monitoring ground water levels in open hand dug wells and borewells that showed sympathetic response to the lake water level fluctuations.
The study involved monthly monitoring of water levels in 109 representative wells 10 months spread over the 10 lakes. Water quality samples were also analysed for two periods over 10 months. Infiltration studies (one time) were carried out in the lakes to measure the seepage from the dry lake bed as well as from the lake bed with standing water column.
It was found that ground water recharge was high in areas surrounding the lakes due to seepage from the lake bed. Aquifer recharge was reported in all the monitored lakes. The lakes showed varying seepage losses from the lakebed for different months of the year (few mm to as much as 50cm/day).
"The seepage losses from the lakes are controlled largely by the regional hydro-geological conditions, groundwater development in the immediate neighbourhood of the lake, lake water column and lakebed profile. The lakes fed the local grounder system as recharge for most of the months but for certain periods Safilguda, Banda Cheruvu (one month), Mukkidi Cheruvu (two months), Nalla Cheruvu (six months) and Hasmathpet Cheruvu (eight months) receive groundwater inflows into the lake," a Huda report points out.
A notable feature observed in the study was that the hardness of ground water in the surrounding areas decreased due to seepage from the lake. Groundwater level monitoring in the wells around the lakes reveal the intrinsic relationship between the lakes and groundwater system.
Hyderabad used to have more than 500 artificial and natural lakes. Artificial lakes were formed by constructing bunds across seasonal streams. Lakes were interconnected so that during high intensity rainfall, higher lakes overflowed in lakes lower down the watershed.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Cyclone silences dengue virus!

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 30: The cyclonic rains might have left a trail of misery for many, but they also heralded good news for people living in dengue-hit areas.
The cyclone, which crossed the sea coast on Monday evening, has silenced the powerful dengue virus. The sudden drop in temperature followed by washing away of stagnant water due to heavy rains has turned the dengue virus dormant and its vector, mosquito, ineffective.
The rains also proved beneficial to standing crop spread over lakhs of hectares, particularly cotton and other commercial crops in the coastal belt. The rains provided the much-needed moisture to the drying up crops and brought smile back on the faces of farmers.
Health officials in Visakhapatnam heaved a sigh of relief as the dengue incidence came down in the city. "There is a sudden drop in the temperature from 37 degrees C to 24 degrees C. This has led to dengue virus going dormant. At such temperatures, the virus becomes incapable of spreading," Visakhapatnam municipal chief medical officer Dr M S Raju said.
According to him, many communicable diseases turn dormant normally during December. But the inclement weather has advanced the dormancy mode. The weather came in handy for us to control further outbreaks of dengue, he added.
Senior health officials in Hyderabad, however, do not agree with Dr Raju. "The explanation is unscientific," says Dr IV Rao, director of medical education.
However, both Raju and Rao agree that the rains may cause water borne diseases like diarrhoea. No fresh cases of dengue have been reported from
Vizianagaram, Srikakulam and rural areas of Visakhapatnam following the rains.
The rains have come in as a blessing in disguise for cotton farmers in Guntur district. Since cotton crop is in budding stage, the rains have stabilised the inflorescence. The flowering was about to wither away but the rains stabilised them. This may give a yield of four to five quintals per acre.
Farmer activist Dr Yalamanchili Sivaji said the rains had helped plantation of tobacco. Crops like Bengal gram and chilli have also stabilised thanks to the timely rains.

Thursday, July 8, 2004

Desi Fowl like bird developed in Hyderabad

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 8: The city-based Project Directorate on Poultry has developed a chicken variety that closely resembles the jungle (desi) fowl in colour and plumage pattern for backyard farming in villages and tribal habitations.
While chicken varieties are generally white in colour without any plumage pattern, this variety of poultry bird named Vanaraja, is multi-coloured and has attractive feathers. The male bird is a coloured Cornish strain while the female parent bird is a synthetic multi-coloured meat population.
It is difficult to rear common poultry birds in the backyard in villages and hilly terrain as they become easy prey to predators but Vanaraja has the ability and agility to escape predators. The Vanaraja variety is light in weight and has long shanks and is capable of protecting itself.
The PDP has developed the male parent for moderate juvenile body weight, long shanks and good immune competence. On the other hand, the female parent gives high egg production with better egg size and high hatchability. It is also immune to general poultry diseases. The bird easily adapts to local climatic conditions even they turn adverse like extreme cold or hot.
Without extra feeding efforts the Vanaraja male bird attains moderate body weight within eight weeks. The female bird lays between 160 and 180 eggs in a laying cycle. A team of scientists led by Dr SV Rama Rao has developed the bird.
According to PDP officials, the Vanaraja birds can be used to improve the genetic potential of the jungle fowl or desi hens through crossing. "The upgraded progeny from such a cross has been found to perform better than the jungle fowl both in terms of overall body weight and production of eggs," Dr Rao points out.
The chicks need to be acclimatised to the backyard conditions before they could be let free in the open environment. The Vanaraja variety does not need any special diet supplement once let free in the backyard. It will feed on worms and other food material available to it unlike the poultry bird where special care need to be taken.
The Project Directorate has supplied the germplasm of Vanaraja to different parts of the country. The birds are found to be performing well everywhere.
Vanaraja has been a hit in the rural environments and local population has accepted it for backyard farming as the bird attains a body weight of 1.5 kgs in six weeks and reaches up to 1800 grams in seven weeks.
The mortality rate is very low in this variety. The rate is as low as three per cent both at six weeks and seven weeks of age. The bird gives good quantity and quality of meat. There is a wastage of just 30 per cent.
The PDP based at Rajendranagar has also developed a crossbreed called Krishibro, a variety of broiler which does not require high content of nutrients in its feed.
In this case also the mortality rate up to six weeks is just three per cent with a survival rate of 97 per cent as in the case of Vanaraja variety. The broiler chicks in this case are also coloured. Both the varieties have high immunity against common poultry diseases like Ranikhet.

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Forest fires become rare in Andhra Pradesh

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 5: Forest fires, which worry environmentalists elsewhere in the world, have become rare in Andhra Pradesh with the State Forest Department taking satellite imageries of the forests on daily basis.
The forest department gets remote sensing data on the status of green cover including forest fires every day at 2.00 pm, giving a first hand information what is going on in all the reserve forest.
"We analyse the data and take quick action to contain forest fires, in case we notice them. The information is passed on to lower rung officials instantaneously. The incidence of forest fires have come down by 50 per cent and the department could save hundreds of crores of Rupees worth forest material and wildlife from fire accidents," principal chief conservator of forests SK Das said.
Forests fires in the State have over the years been responsible for degradation. Vast areas of forests and grasslands are burnt every year. The loss simply runs into hundreds of crores of Rupees since the State forests harbour economically important species like teak, terminalia, anogeissus, bamboo, dalbergia, lannea and red sanders.
Forest fires are generally noticed between December and May as the leaf fall starts towards the end of December. The dry grass around forms a highly combustible material for forest fires.
The department has categorised factors influencing forest fires into fuel index like combustible bio-mass from forest type, topography (slope and aspect) and proximity (roads and settlements).
"We have established the inter-relationship for these factors and finally integrated it for identification and zonation of fire prone areas from lowest to highest risk. The geomatic maps pinpoint locations for erection of fire watch towers, execution of fire lines and construction of fire walls," Das pointed out.