India to make naval ships that can launch attack in enemy zone
May 21, 2017 (N. Delhi)
Defence ministry today cleared a mega naval project worth over Rs 20,000 crore for four Landing Platform Docks (LPD) also known as amphibious assault ships.
LPDs are warfare ship that helps armed forces to transport troops defence equipment, helicopters and amphibious vehicle into a war zone by sea.
Each of these four ships will weigh in the range of 30,000 and 40,000 tonnes. Once built and deployed, they will be the biggest battle ships to be built in India after the under-construction aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.
These warfare ships will enhance India's ability to conduct sea-borne offensives in enemy areas.
The ships have a huge lower decks that can be opened as a bridge to accommodate landing of tanks, defence cargo, as well as troops from sea to land. These ships do not require docking and can easily return as they can stay in sea uninterrupted for months depending upon their capacity.
LPDs can easily deliver the assigned consignment at the designated spots, which helps the Army to launch their offensive.
Currently, India has one LPD, bought in 2007 from the US. Indian had bought Ex-USS Trenton from US and has renamed as INS Jalashwa. The 16,900-tonne warship, Jalashwa, alone can transport around 5,000 soldiers besides defence equipment.
The long-pending project was given green signal by the Defence Acquisition Council, the top decision-making body of the Ministry, at its meeting yesterday, informed sources told PTI today.
Three private sector companies -- Reliance Defence and Engineering Limited (RDEL), Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and ABG Shipyard -- were in race initially for the mega project but ABG was disqualified on account of poor financial health.
The sources said RDEL and Larsen and Toubro will be asked next week to submit fresh commercial bids for the four LPDs.
L&T has tied up with Navantia of Spain whereas Reliance Defence has tied up with French firm DCNS, considered a global leader in construction of LPDs.
A top Navy official last month had said the contract for procurement of the four LPDs will be finalised by the end of this year.
Indian researchers use a novel route to kill TB bacteria
May 20, 2017 (Bangalore)
A team of Indian researchers has been able to achieve 100-fold reduction in TB bacterial load in lungs of mice after 60 days of treatment using bergenin ? a phytochemical isolated from tender leaves of sakhua or shala tree (Shorea robusta). Unlike the regularly used antibiotic drugs that target the TB bacteria, the bergenin compound modulates the immune system to kill the bacteria found inside the macrophages (a type of white blood cells). The results were published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.
"Our studies show that the bergenin compound can be used to clear the bacteria, and when used in combination with other TB drugs can produce good results," says Gobardhan Das from the Special Centre for Molecular Medicine at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), a corresponding author of the paper. "Since the compound does not target the bacteria directly but modulates the immune system to kill the bacteria, it can be used in patients with drug-resistant TB too."
The researchers undertook several studies to understand the mode of action of the compound. The compound was unable to directly kill TB bacteria when treated with the compound. However, in the case of in vitro studies, the compound was able to kill the bacteria found inside infected cells. In mice infected with TB and treated with the compound, there was significant reduction in the bacterial load in the lungs. Unlike in the case of in vitro studies, in mice the compound was found to activate not only the macrophages but also other cell types (T cells) that led to effective killing of the bacteria. A significant reduction in the number of granulomatic lesions was seen in animals treated with the compound. Also, the bacterial load was 100-fold lower in mice treated with the compound compared with controls (animals that were not treated with bergenin). "These findings strongly suggest that the immune response enhanced by the compound is able to increase the capacity to clear the TB bacteria," Prof. Das says.
The levels of nitric oxide and a cytokine (TNF-alpha) were found to be enhanced. "We found the bergenin compound was selectively enhancing the frequency of interferon-gamma and interleukin-17-producing T cells in the TB infected animals," says Dhiraj K. Singh from ICGEB and a co-author of the paper. Interferon-gamma promotes bacteria-killing nitric oxide inside macrophages thus promoting the generation of protective immune responses against TB bacteria.
Previous studies have shown that T helper 1 (Th1) cells play a key role in protecting the host against TB bacteria, while Th2 cells oppose the protection offered by Th1 cells. "There is a dynamic balance between the Th1 and Th2," says Ved P. Dwivedi from ICGEB and the first author of the paper. "While TB bacteria prevents Th1 response and facilitates Th2 response, the bergenin compound promotes the expression of Th1 and Th17 responses."
Beats conventional drugs
The compound has been shown to heal wounds faster than conventional drugs. Dr. Debprasad Chattopadhyay, Director of the ICMR-National Institute of Traditional Medicine (ICMR-NITM) in Belgaum, Karanataka, and the other corresponding author of the paper, had isolated the compound. He had seen tribals using the leaves of shala tree for wound-healing.
"Our study, in a limited way, tries to correct the misinformation regarding Ayurveda. The stage is now set to test many more Ayurvedic and plant-derived natural products for their potency against pathogenic diseases," says Dr. Anand Ranganathan from the Special Centre for Molecular Medicine at JNU and one of the authors of the paper.
Prof. Das with the help of ICMR-NITM plans to carry out further tests in larger animals. If used in combination with other TB drugs the compound can shorten the duration of treatment and prevent the emergence of drug-resistance, the authors write.
TRANSMISSION TO BE OFF LIMITS FIRST - India's Power Play may Run out Chinese Players
May 22, 2017 (N. Delhi)
Security concerns, reciprocity-based policy may keep cos out of power grid
India will soon bar Chinese power companies from projects in the power sector on security concerns after a policy that will define new conditions for foreign firms eyeing the multibillion-dollar market in one of the fastest growing major economies in the world.
A formal office memorandum, expected in a month, will insulate the power transmission sector from companies based in countries that do not allow Indian entities in similar projects, a senior power ministry official told ET. The restriction will be gradually extended to the power generation and distribution sectors as well. Officials said the new reciprocity-based approach would impact Chinese companies that are looking to invest in the Indian electricity transmission sector. China does not approve of overseas investments in its electricity grid for security reasons but India allows 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in the power sector.
The move will help India in many ways, including protection from cyber attacks because the power sector is increasingly software driven with intelligent technology and control systems being used, said Indian Electri cal & Electronics Manufacturers' Association (IEEMA) director general Sunil Misra.Last week, US conglomerate GE's renewable energy CEO Jerome Pecresse told ET that re ciprocity was a fair idea.
Power, coal, renewable energy and mines minister Piyush Goyal had told ET in an interview on May 10 that India won't allow power companies to invest from countries where Indian firms are banned. Misra said the principle of reciprocity operates in all diplomatic relations, economic or otherwise.
IIT-H develops biodegradable nano-particles to treat cancer
May 20, 2017 (Hyderabad)
The Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad (IIT-H) has developed biodegradable non-particles that could be instrumental in treating cancer.
A team led by assistant professor Aravind Kumar Rengan has been working on finding alternative ways to chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancer treatment to minimise side-effects caused by these therapies. He designed a novel nano system which kills the cancer cells by photothermal therapy.
The group is currently working on making more cost-effective nano particles for photothermal therapy, integrating these particles with cancer specific drugs to have an enhanced effect in killing cancer.
The team members involved in the research are Tejaswini Appidi, Syed Basseruddin, Deepak Bharadwaj, Anil Jogdand, Sushma, Anula ? all Ph.D. scholars; junior research fellow Rama Singh, and postdoctoral fellow Surya Prakash Singh.
Photo thermal therapy is a treatment procedure where light (photo) energy is supplied by means of an external laser to nano particles which absorbs this energy and converts it to heat (thermal) energy. This heat generated by irradiation of laser would increase temperature within the tumour and result in the death of cancer cells.
The important aspects of the research is that the treatment procedure has no side-effects, since the nano particles would be accumulated in the tumour region, and also the irradiation is specific to particles, which means the heat is generated only within the tumour and not elsewhere in the body.
Also, the laser used to provide light energy would not harm the healthy cells around the tumour region as these healthy cells would not absorb this light energy as they remain transparent to this irradiation.
The nano particulate system is very unique in its own way. The particles, after generating the heat required to kill the cancer cells, will degrade inside the body and further breakdown into much smaller particles which will be excreted from the body.
"This procedure had very good results in experiments carried out in mice, and is expected to show the same in humans too. This treatment is now under clinical trials and once the trials are completed, this would be available as an alternative treatment procedure to cancer," Dr. Rengan told The Hindu.
Dr. Rengan was recently awarded the prestigious INSA award in the young scientist category for his outstanding research in treatment of cancer by photothermal therapy using biodegradable particles.
India develops cheap, effective treatment against Hep C, a fatal liver infection
May 18, 2017 (N. Delhi)
In a development with far-reaching implications, researchers in India have developed a cost-effective treatment for people with hepatitis C, a blood-borne viral infection that is expensive to treat and kills by damaging the liver.
Researchers at the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow have found the treatment of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection with directly-acting antivirals (DAAs) at the prices prevalent in India affordable and cost-effective.
Hepatitis is broadly categorised as water-borne A&E and blood-borne B&C.
While Hepatitis viruses A&E produce self-limiting symptoms, blood-borne viral infections B&C lead to chronic liver diseases and are a major cause of worry.
The infection, if not handled in time, may progress to liver cancer.
"An estimated 54 million people in India are affected by viral Hepatitis B&C. Of the two strains, only hepatitis C has a cure but it can get very expensive," says Dr SK Sarin, director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS).
The study is published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE and finds the upfront costs of DAA are offset by the avoidance of costs incurred to treat late-stage disease.
Three DAAs (sofosbuvir, ledipasvir and daclatasvir) are available from several generic manufacturers in India. The DAA cost used for the study was US $300 for a 12 week treatment course.
The treatment of HCV infection has evolved at an extremely rapid pace over the past few years.
The development of DAAs has led to the replacement of interferon (that's commonly used) with well-tolerated oral therapies that have cure rates of over 90% in patients.
"Availability of DAAs has changed the treatment landscape of hepatitis C virus infection. It is a hope for all patients with hepatitis C infection, including in India," says Dr Henk Bekedam WHO Representative to India.
Elaborating further, Dr Bekedam says, "HCV treatment is also a prevention measure since people cured will not transmit the disease."
Hepatitis C virus infects more than 70 million people worldwide; in India, the figure is an estimated 8-12 million. It is one of the leading causes for liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver related deaths worldwide.
In India, HCV infection was responsible for 59 000 deaths in 2015.
Until now, access to HCV treatment has been very limited globally and also in India. The high price of DAAs has restricted their use in many countries.
With India producing generic DAAs, the treatment is very affordable . Currently, the Punjab government offers a 12 week treatment course with DAAs for $120.
"HCV treatment should be a priority from a public health and human perspective as well as an economic angle," urges Dr Bekedam.
"Low- and low-middle-income countries will be able to recoup the costs of generic DAAs in the form of reduced health care expenditure within less than one decade. This is a win-win situation," says lead author Rakesh Aggarwal, MD, DM, at SGPGIMS, a WHO Collaborating Center on Viral Hepatitis.
Heads of India's top scientific, administrative bodies have jointly conveyed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that science in India needs a major revamp.
They have proposed an over-arching science and technology body that marries research and industry, and will report directly to the Prime Minister.
"The stature of Indian science is a shadow of what it used to be ? because of decades of misguided interventions. We have lost self-confidence and ambition and the ability to recognise excellence amongst our own. In a false sense of egalitarianism, we often chose the mediocre at every level," said the report, which was vetted by all the secretaries of India's scientific departments and seen by The Hindu.
However scientists and science in India command global "goodwill" as well as those of fellow Indians, and this was a "positive" and "a huge support system" that ought to be harnessed, the report added.
A major challenge in the funding of science by the government was that though scientific departments were headed by scientists, they were frequently not independent to take key decisions, such as filling vacancies and deciding how budgets to various projects within a Ministry ought to be allotted.
"?While Financial Advisers report to Secretaries of Departments, in practice a structure of dual authority has effectively emerged, despite all good intentions?many very important decisions are in suspended animation and a simple solution would be to put a timeline on decision-making," the report emphasised in a section called 'Ease of Doing Science.' Financial Advisers are officers deputed from the Union Finance Ministry.
To realise India's scientific ambitions, the science-heads proposed a new authority reporting to the Prime Minister. SPARK (Sustainable Progress through Application of Research and Knowledge), as it is tentatively called, will be a "nimble, empowered board and a quality staff." The proposal was part of the report jointly prepared by the heads of all of India's scientific departments including Atomic Energy, Space, Earth Sciences, Science and Technology and Biotechnology. While they submitted this to the Prime Minister in January, the details of it haven't yet been made public. The report laid out a broad map on how India ought to prepare itself to be among the top three countries in science and technology by 2030 and ensure that 10% of the top 100 leaders in scientific fields are Indians.
Buyers of Apple iPhone SE could soon find a "Made in India" tag on their devices. Taiwanese contact manufacturer Wistron would be making it at their plant in Bengaluru.
The company recently conducted a trial run at the factory. The few phones made during the trial run will be in stores in two weeks.
Full-scale production will take more time, according to a person familiar with Apple's plans. The global tech major confirmed the production at the sole facility in India.
"We are beginning initial production of a small number of iPhone SEs in Bengaluru. We'll begin shipping to domestic customers this month," Apple said in an email.
Karnataka was quick to claim credit for this. Its Information Technology Minister Priyank Kharge said, "It shows the Bengaluru ecosystem is able to attract the world's best companies. If the Make in India initiative has to work, we need to incentivise manufacturers to gradually increase local sourcing."
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook visited India last May and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They reportedly discussed manufacturing of iPhones in India, for the local market and export. Since then, the government has turned down Apple's demands for tax sops. But, the fast-growing domestic market seems too attractive for the company.
With a dip in iPhone sales in developed markets like the US and China, India is now a major focus for Apple. Since the country's appetite for expensive flagship devices is still small, Apple continues to produce its four-year-old iPhone 5s to compete with Xiaomi, Motorola, Samsung and others in the mid-level market.
Is domestic production going to cut prices? There is no clarity on that yet. Experts said assembling devices locally will help it save 12 per cent in taxes.
One can buy an iPhone SE for Rs 27,200 but on Flipkart and Amazon, it is available for as low as Rs 20,999. Apple is known to maintain price parity across the world. In the US, the iPhone SE starts at $399 (about Rs 25,000).
"Prices might go below Rs 20,000 only in October," said Neil Shah, research director, devices and ecosystems, Counterpoint Research. "At that price it has to compete with Chinese rivals Oppo and Vivo."
For the first time in India, a geopolymer concrete road made of fly ash and other waste materials has been successfully laid at Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee. The road was made of fly ash, the ash produced by the burning of powdered coal, from NTPC Dadri.
The road, which is 50m long and 3m wide and has a concrete strength of 40MPa, was made from fly ash, aluminate and silicate-bearing materials. As opposed to conventional cement concrete roads, this road will not need water curing.
This achievement paves the way for large-scale fly ash utilisation, NTPC Dadri officials said. The road has been developed jointly by NTPC Dadri's research and development wing ? NTPC Energy Technology Research Alliance ? and CSIR.
S K Sinha, group general manager, NTPC Dadri said fly ash discharged from the Dadri power station is being used for various purposes, such as landfilling, manufacture of ash bricks, tarring of roads and the creation of an 'ash mound' eco park. "Medicinal and other plants have also been cultivated on the ash mound. Ash utilization has been around 205% this year," Sinha said.
Visual, non-invasive monitoring of body temperature of patients without using a thermometer may become a reality soon, thanks to the work carried out by a team of scientists led by John Philip, head of the smart materials section at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam, near Chennai.
The concept is based on ferrofluid emulsion contained in a thin film that changes colour with rise in temperature within a narrow range ? 30-40° C. The study was published in the journal Optical Materials.
The emulsion has iron oxide nanoparticles containing oil droplets dispersed in water. "Till now ferrofluid was used as a magnetic stimuli-responsive material. We now found that in the presence of a temperature-sensitive polymer ? poly(N-isopropylacrylamide), also known as PNIPAM) ? the ferrofluid emulsion can be used as a thermally tunable grating to produce different colours," says Dr. Philip.
"Recently, we were looking at the interaction forces between droplets covered with thermo-responsive polymers. To our surprise, we found that the adsorbed polymer swells and collapses upon changing the temperature between 32° and 36° C. This change was clearly manifested as colour change. From this observation came the novel idea of using PNIPAM-stabilised emulsions as a multistimulii grating. This is a first of its kind approach where the grating spacing can be tuned either by changing the temperature or by changing the magnetic field strength," says Dr. Philip.
Up to about 34° C, the polymer is highly hydrated and swollen due to repulsive interaction between individual monomer segments.
But when the temperature crosses 34° C, the polymer becomes dehydrated leading to a collapsed state.
The polymer will once again become hydrated and swollen when the temperature falls below 34° C. "By using certain additives, we can tune the collapse of the polymer to higher temperature to reflect fever conditions," clarifies A.W. Zaibudeen, senior research fellow at IGCAR and the first author of the paper.
Using magnetic fields, the scientists first achieved a particular ordering (spacing between the arrays of emulsion droplets) of emulsion and got a particular colour.
When polymer is added as a stabiliser and the temperature is increased, the grating spacing of the polymer changes and gives rise to a different colour or spacing.
"The colour given off at normal temperature can be fixed by changing the emulsion property and magnetic field strength," Dr. Philip says.
If the normal temperature is fixed at yellow, the change will be to green when the temperature increases.
Colour with higher wavelength is produced at lower temperature and colour of lower wavelength at higher temperature.
Govt to revisit strategy to fight tuberculosis, says health minister
April 8, 2017 (Dharamshala)
The government is revisiting its strategy to combat tuberculosis after setting an ambitious target to eradicate the dreaded disease from India by 2025. It will come up with a national plan with an aim to have a ?dynamic strategy? to tackle the problem, according to Union health minister J.P. Nadda.
"We are revisiting our strategy to fight tuberculosis and we are coming with national plan. It is under active consideration and in the next one month we will review it," he told reporters at the TB-Free India Summit in Dharamsala. The country needs to have a dynamic strategy in order to deal with the problem, he added.
Tuberculosis (TB) takes lives of over 4.8 lakh Indians every year. Over 28 lakh TB cases are reported per year in the country. Nadda said India is also moving towards better fund allocations for the health ministry. "In terms of GDP, the funds should be 3 to 4 per cent. Health policy 2017 commits that we will bring it to 2.5 per cent of the GDP and we are moving forward in that direction," the minister said.
The ministry's budget has gone up by over 27% in the current fiscal as compared to the previous financial year, he added. Stating that fund allocation is not a problem, Nadda said the issue is the inability of the states to fully spend their respective budgets. The ministry has identified 175 districts across nine states which would require additional focus in terms of implementation of various health schemes, he added.
Nadda said India has been able to reverse cases of TB, HIV and malaria in the country due to active health programmes. Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP and former BCCI chief Anurag Thakur said the central government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is committed to eradicate TB from the country by 2025. "When the head of the government makes a commitment to make country TB free by 2025 that clearly sends the message," he said.
Citing success of Jan Dhan and Ujjwala schemes, the three-time BJP MP said the government was also committed to a TB free India. In order to bring awareness regarding the disease, MPs played a twenty over cricket match with Bollywood celebrities at the HPCA stadium in Dharamsala. MPs team was led by Thakur while Bobby Deol captained the Bollywood team.
The two-day summit is jointly hosted by the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) and the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (the Union), as a part of a TB-Free India campaign being implemented by Central TB Division, ministry of health & family welfare. The meet is also supported by Challenge TB (the flagship TB control programme of the United States Agency for International Development), the Global Fund and World Health Organization.
Govt asks ISRO to share technology for manufacturing Lithium-ion batteries for vehicles
April 8, 2017 (N. Delhi)
The government has asked Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to allow interested players including from private sector to obtain the technology for mass production of Lithium-Ion batteries for electric vehicles. ISRO will now come up with a framework to make this process smooth.
Over half a dozen major automobile companies, battery manufacturers and public sector undertakings have already approached ISRO. These are Mahindra Renault, Hyundai, Nissan, Tata Motors, High Energy Batteries, BHEL and Indian Oil are keen to produce the indigenous Lithium-ion batteries.
The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre under ISRO has developed indigenous technology to manufacture such high-power batteries for automobiles and their feasibility tests in vehicles have been successful.
Union road transport minister Nitin Gadkari had sought ISRO's help to develop indigenous technology for Lithium-ion batteries so that their prices are within the reach of Indian customers. ISRO had earlier developed similar batteries for satellite and the launch vehicle applications.
BARC scientists develop cancer drugs from Rampatri
April 4, 2017 (Mumbai)
BARC scientists have developed two anti-cancer medicines from the fruit extract of the Rampatri plant, which may help destroy tumours and revive cells damaged by radiation.
Rampatri plant, which is used as a spice in foods, belongs to the Myristicaceae family and is found in western coastal region of the country.
Scientists at Bhabha atomic Research Centre (BARC) based in Anushaktinagar, Mumbai tested the medicines made from this plant on mice and found that they may help in treating lung cancer and neuroblastoma, a rare cancer found in children.
In neuroblastoma, cancer cells grow in nerve cells of adrenal glands, neck, chest and spinal chord.
The medicines were developed by Dr B Shankar Patro, scientist of Radiation Biology and Health sciences at BARC.
Patro told PTI that the molecules of Rampatri fruit may destroy the cancer cells. Medicines developed from these molecules may also help in reviving cells destroyed due to radiation.
S Chattopadhaya, Head of Bio Science Division of BARC said that the research centre was working for many years to develop cancer medicines from herbal plants.
"We have developed BARC Radio Modifier and BARC Radio Protector. We have also applied for patent and hope we will get it soon," said Chattopadhaya.
"Pre clinical trials have been done for both the medicines and we have sought permission of Drug Controller General of India to test it on humans," he said.
From June this year, Tata Memorial Centre in Mumbai may begin clinical trial of Radio Modifier medicine.
"Radio Modifier helps to protect healthy cells during radiation therapy and if this medicine is given within four hours in case of any nuclear accident, life of the affected person may be saved," said Dr Santosh Kumar Sandur, scientist of Radiation Biology and Health Sciences at BARC.
'Significant incidences' of gold found in Uttarakhand
March 30, 2017 (Bengaluru)
Scientists at the Geological Survey of India (GSI) have discovered, for the first time, "significant incidences" of gold associated with copper mineralisation in parts of Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand.
"The gold values recorded from bedrock and stream sediment samples from the area are 475 ppb (parts per billion) and 1.42 ppm (parts per million), respectively," they have reported in the Current Science journal.
This part of Uttarakhand is in what is known as the "Lesser Himalaya" that is sandwiched, in the north, by the Main Central Thrust -- the major geological fault where the Indian Plate has been pushed under the Eurasian Plate along the Himalaya -- and in the south by North Almora Thrust.
The GSI scientists collected 355 samples from mineralised locales of Lameri-Koteshwar area of Uttarakhand. The gold and base metals were analysed at the GSI's chemical division in Lucknow.
"X-ray studies have indicated the presence of gold along with chalcopyrite, pyrite, sphalerite and galena in various samples," says the report, adding this "is the first record of in-situ gold incidence from the Rudraprayag area". Gold occurs as coarse, liberated particles and fine particles locked in pyrite and copper sulphide.
According to the report, the regions bearing gold are best exposed around Rudraprayag town in the Mandakini river valley. "Panning of stream sediments of Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers in Sumerpur-Ratura, Sari and Jugtoli areas revealed a few visible gold flakes."
The scientists also identified a cluster of five old workings in the form of shallow pockets around the Koteshwar area. "Near the old working site, one retort piece has also been recorded." Analysis of a sample of slag near the old working has yielded gold value of 45 ppb.
According to the GSI, gold is currently produced from three mines -- Hutti, Uti and Hirabuddni in Karnataka -- and, as a by-product, from the base metal sulphide deposits of Khetri in Rajasthan and Mosabani, Singhbhum, and Kundrekocha in Jharkhand.
Apart from the gold mines in the above-mentioned areas, some gold, although very small in quantity, is collected by "panning" from the sand and gravel of several rivers, including the Subarnarekha in Jharkhand and the Ambankadava Puzha and Chabiyar Puzha in Kerala.
Their finding on the occurrence of gold in alluvial deposits -- also called placer gold -- around Rudraprayag is indicative "of some probable potential auriferous (gold bearing) zone" towards the northern part of the region, the scientists say.
Pune-based institute to use novel recombinant BCG antigen.
In June this year, the Pune-based Serum Institute of India Pvt. Limited will begin a Phase II/III vaccine trial for tuberculosis using a novel, recombinant BCG (bacillus Calmette-Guérin) vaccine.
The double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial will be carried out on 2,000 adults who have been successfully treated (and cured) for TB. While 1,000 adults will receive the vaccine, the remaining volunteers will receive a placebo. A single dose of the vaccine will be administered, and the volunteers will be followed up for a year. The trial will be conducted in 15-17 centres across the country.
The new TB vaccine (VPM1002), which will be tested, is based on the BCG vaccine that is in use. However, it is more powerful and efficacious as it contains a gene, better recognised by the immune system.
"Adults who have completed TB treatment will be first screened and enrolled if found eligible 2-4 weeks after completion of TB treatment," says Dr. Prasad S. Kulkarni, Medical Director at Serum Institute.
"Traces of the drugs may be present in the body for two weeks after completion of the treatment. Since the vaccine contains live, weakened bacteria, the drugs can kill them if given earlier than two weeks after completing the treatment."
The vaccine will be first administered in 200 volunteers to test its safety, and safety of the vaccine will be tested. "If there are no safety concerns, the trial will continue in the remaining 1,800 volunteers," he says.
The safety of the vaccine has already been tested in two Phase I trials - 80 adults in Germany (2009) and 24 in South Africa (2010) - and one Phase 2a trial in South Africa in 2012 in 48 newborns who have not been exposed to HIV. "These trials have confirmed the safety of the vaccine and sufficient strengthening of the immune system against TB," says Umesh Shaligram, Director-R&D, Serum Institute.
The results of the Phase 2a trial in newborns in South Africa, published in February this year in Clinical and Vaccine Immunology, has confirmed the safety of the vaccine.
"The VPM1002 is a safe, well-tolerated, and immunogenic vaccine in newborn infants, confirming the results from the previous trials in adults," the paper says.
A Phase 2b trial on 416 newborns who have either been exposed or not to HIV is under way in South Africa. "The results of the Phase 2b trial will be known in August-September this year. So far, there have been no safety concerns," he says.
While the currently used BCG vaccine causes BCG-related disease in HIV-positive babies (due to reduced immunity), the recombinant version is expected to be safe in babies exposed to HIV.
Serum Institute is also planning to start next year a Phase III trial on newborns in India.