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VATIS Update Biotechnology . Jan-Mar 2016

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Biotechnology Jan-Mar 2016

ISSN: 0971-5622

VATIS Update Biotechnology is published 4 times a year to keep the readers up to date of most of the relevant and latest technological developments and events in the field of Biotechnology. The Update is tailored to policy-makers, industries and technology transfer intermediaries.

Co-publisher: Biotech Consortium India Ltd
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Contents

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IN THE NEWS

WHO to set up centre of excellence

In a strategic development, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently expressed its keen interest to set up a centre of excellence (CoE) in regulatory science at the FDCA office in Gujarat, India. Interestingly, this will be WHO’s first CoE in the Asia-Pacific region marking it as a huge milestone for the state drug regulatory body in the state. It is understood that a team of top officials from the WHO recently had high level discussions with the top government representatives from the state including additional chief secretary of state and Dr. H. G. Koshia, commissioner of Gujarat FDCA.

According to Dr. Koshia, this is a huge achievement for the state regulators, especially since a global healthcare organization like WHO has selected Gujarat FDCA for establishing its centre from across the country. “This increases the credibility of the state FDCA tremendously as it stands testament to the fact that we have always strive our best to change and upgrade our regulatory requirements as per the global standards. We have seen to it that we always keep up with the changes in the drug regulation by adopting latest e-governance initiative that has helped us to get an edge over enacting better implementation of the laws of the land.”

Dr. Koshia further added that not only will they benefit from such collaboration by getting latest updates on the WHO regulations and training by experts, it will also open up windows of opportunities for the regulators to get hands-on experience from regulatory experts from across the globe on new and changing regulatory requirements.
Source: http://www.healthtechnology.in

Low-cost medical innovations in India

Recently, the government of India launched several low-cost medical innovations including home kits for measuring blood glucose, hemoglobin levels and real-time diagnosis of malaria, dengue. The innovations have been developed by the Centre’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) as well as by start-ups supported by the government. Union Minister for Science and Technology Dr. Harsh Vardhan, said that India’s medical technology was 4th largest in Asia and by 2025 it will be worth USD 20 billion. “Innovation in health care and medical technology is especially of paramount importance and can accelerate the country’s social and economic growth,” said Dr. Vardhan.

‘AINA’, one of the devices can be fixed to a mobile phone and one can know the blood glucose, lipids, creatinine and hemoglobin levels. “One just needs to insert a strip to the device, which costs around Rs 10. The company has received order for 25,000 such strips,” said Renu Swarup, MD of Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), India. Similarly another device showcased enables real time diagnosis of malaria, dengue and typhoid. The Limb Immobilisation (LIMO) ensures that diagnosis of the patient can be done right from the first aid to X-Rays and MRIs by strapping this device to support the injured leg.

“This is first of its kind in the world and costs only Rs 249,” said Prof. Balram Bhargava, Executive Director at the School of International Bio design, a DBT funded initiative. Elaborating on the innovations in medical technology, DBT secretary Vijay Raghvan said that BIRAC has supported nearly 300 start-ups and SME’s and 150 young entrepreneurs for innovation, research and product development. He noted that attempts were being made to ensure that the money invested by the government in either developing or promoting these low-cost medical facilities percolate to the ground level and give relief to the masses.
Source: http://www.articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com

China to revise biotech regulations

The government of China is in the process to revise laws & regulations governing biotechnology. In May 2015, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) released a draft amendment to the Administrative Measures for Safety Assessment of Agricultural Genetically Modified Organisms for public comments, which was later notified to the World Trade Organization SPS Committee. The amendment would remove timelines for approvals and add economic and social factors to the approval process for the first time. MOA is considering creating a procedure for soliciting public opinion on biotechnology applications to enhance public involvement in the agriculture biotech review decision-making.

Biotechnology is designated as a strategic emerging industry in China, and the government invests heavily in biotechnology research. In September 2014, the government released remarks by President Xi Jinping affirming official support for biotechnology research, but calling for a cautious approach to commercialization. He also said that foreign companies should not be allowed to “dominate the agricultural biotechnology product market.” This is the first time remarks by President Xi on biotechnology have been made public. In February 2015, the Chinese Communist Party pledged to strengthen research, safety management and public outreach on biotechnology.

MOA approved two new soybean and one corn variety for import in December 2014. The increasingly slow and unpredictable approval process resulted in large-scale trade disruptions. Corn trade remains weak after the approval of the corn event MIR 162, while DDGS trade witnessed a recovery. Trade in other products, such as alfalfa, have also suffered from biotech related trade disruptions. Despite these challenges, China is expected to remain a significant importer of biotech products, notably soybeans. The United States, as well as many other countries, has continued to press China to adhere to a science-based policy on biotechnology approvals.
Source: http://www.iowafarmertoday.com

India plans IT exemption for pharma R&D

The government of India is gearing up to ensure that the pharma industry gets an exemption in income tax for research and development (R&D), said Union minister for chemicals and fertilizers Ananth Kumar. The country needs to provide an additional focus to R&D to drive innovation. This is the need of the hour and the first step in this direction is to ensure that we give total exemption for R&D in pharmaceuticals, Kumar said at the Indian Pharma and India Medical Expo 2016 in Bengaluru.

“R&D is the backbone of the pharma industry. Now India needs to ensure that innovation is in place to drive its drug discovery efforts. The pharma industry during its dialogue with the government has been insisting for this. We are now working to ensure that the captains of the pharma industry can have a dialogue with the Union minister for finance Arun Jaitely to put forth this request on not just income tax exemption, but also subvention in interest rates and also setting right the anomalies of inverted tax structure which is affecting the sector. This meeting will be well before the Union Budget 2016,” added Kumar.
Source: http://www.pharmabiz.com

China to carefully promote GM technology

The Chinese government will carefully promote technology related to genetically modified (GM) organisms with tighter supervision, ensuring the public’s right to know and choose GM food at their own will, agricultural regulators said. Easing control on GM technology would be a forward step by the agricultural authorities, experts said, as the previous “No.1 document,” an annual agricultural policy paper, refrained from talking about promoting GM products.

“China has had a consistent policy on GM technology and would guarantee the public’s right to know and right to choose with mandatory labeling of GM food,” said Han Jun, deputy head of the office for the central leading group on agricultural work. “China should not lag behind in agricultural biological technology … We must master the [GM] technology,” Han said, adding that all GM products in commercial cultivation have gone through many safety assessments.

Chinese public are suspicious about GM food. A survey in March 2014 showed that 72 percent of respondents thought GM food was unsafe and 22.5 percent said they were unsure about it. Only 4.8 percent of those polled believed GM food was safe. Currently, only papayas and cotton have received clearance for commercial GM production in China.
Source: http://www.globaltimes.cn

India seeks pharma companies’ views

The ministry of health and family welfare intend pharma companies in India to share their views on simplifying the business climate for the industry, a move that comes at a time when drug makers are increasingly coming under the government’s scanner for their decisions relating to quality and pricing issues. The health ministry has asked the industry to provide information on the permissions needed from various agencies and the time it takes to get them. The drug controller said that it wants the industry to come up with suggestions on how the processes can be simplified for “creating a favourable atmosphere for growth”.

“In pursuance of the policy of the Government of India to facilitate growth of the industry and drafting policies to provide ease of business, a holistic view of policies relating to difficulties of the pharma industry is being undertaken,” said GN Singh, Drug Controller General of India (DGCI). “In this regard, the ministry is considering the various difficulties faced by the pharma industry, especially in respect of initiating business in India and improving the regulatory mechanism for the pharmaceutical sector,” Singh explained.
Source: http://www.articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com

Innovation fund to support R&D projects

Pierre Fabre, France, have launched Pierre Fabre Fund for Innovation, a new initiative targeting biotech companies, startups and research laboratories (public or private) specialized in oncology or dermatology, two of the core therapeutic activities of Pierre Fabre R&D. Pierre Fabre will support R&D projects either within 24 months from reaching clinical development or at early stage of clinical development. The support will consist of diverse forms of collaboration: sharing Pierre Fabre’s expertise over the full pharmaceutical value chain, co-financing of the research program, taking minority equity participation or negotiating license agreements.

The combination of diverse forms of support is also conceivable. Pierre Fabre’s support on the long term will be conditioned to the reaching of key milestones in the innovation process. Open to all international partnership opportunity, the main goal for Pierre Fabre Fund for Innovation is to help innovative companies located in France or in Europe, at a time when many European biotech companies, startups and research laboratories often lack the internal capabilities expertise to move on from discovery to proof of concept, or lack financial resources to turn their projects into reality.
Source: http://www.pharmabiz.com

Philippines bans GMO crop trials

The Supreme Court of the Philippines has ordered a permanent ban on field trials of GM eggplant and a temporary halt on approving applications for the “contained use, import, commercialisation and propagation” of GM crops, including the import of GM products. The court ruled in favour of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, as well as several Filipino activists, academics and politicians, in a major victory for Filipino farmers and activists around the world.

The Supreme Court decision sets a global precedent as it is the first legal decision on GM in the Philippines using the Writ of Kalikasan (environment) – a legal environmental remedy found only in the Philippines. The court is also the first in the world to adopt the precautionary principle – which holds that it is best to err on the side of caution in the absence of scientific consensus – regarding GM products in its decision.

The decision of the high court invalidates the Department of Agriculture’s Administrative Order No. 08-2002 (DAO8) and will bar the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Science and Technology from issuing any GE approvals, pending crafting and approval of a new Administrative Order. It will also impact the trade of GE crops and products.
Source: http://www.theecologist.org

New crops varieties sanctioned in Pakistan

The 45th meeting of Punjab Seed Council (PSC) held on 7th January, 2016 at Agriculture House, Lahore, was convened for the approval of new varieties of different crops for general cultivation. In this meeting nine new varieties of different crops including three maize varieties and one variety each of wheat, green pea, ground nut, sorghum, seedless kinnow, mong beans and canola. The Punjab Agriculture Secretary Muhammad Sheharyar Sultan constituted a sub-committee for complete review of cases of 19 BT cotton and 2 Non-BT cotton varieties and 11 varieties of mangoes.

The Secretary of the Seed Council will head this committee which, after thorough analysis submit recommendations to the provincial secretary agriculture. The Chairman of Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) Nawab Shahad Ali Khan urged the farmers to grow latest high yielding approved varieties to make country self-sufficient in agricultural commodities. He aspired that cotton production of the Punjab would considerably enhance through cultivation of BT varieties, which have effective resistance against Bollworms, virus etc.
Source: http://www.pabic.com.pk

MARKET NEWS

Israel, California signed biotechnology deal

Israel’s Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis has signed the first agreement of its kind between his ministry and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the United States, in the field of biotechnology, with an emphasis on stem cell research. The agreement was facilitated by the Israeli-American Council, which encourages cooperation between the United States and Israel. This is the “sharpest response to all the foolish initiatives to make academics boycott Israel, including here in California,” said Akunis.

Akunis continued, “This agreement will deepen the partnership between Israel and California, bringing together our most talented scientists to push the boundaries of stem cell research and advance medical breakthroughs in the treatment of diseases ranging from cancer and diabetes, to Alzheimer’s and HIV-AIDS.” Israeli American Council (IAC) Chairman Adam Milstein said that the organization is “excited by the opportunity to promote one of the most pressing issues facing humanity, and strengthen the bond between the people of Israel and the American people.”
Source: http://www.israelhayom.com

ASLAN raises $43 mn

ASLAN Pharmaceuticals, Singapore, has raised an aggregate amount of USD43 million, closing its Series C financing round. ASLAN received additional investment from new institutional investor MVP Capital Partners, the United States, in addition to the new investors and existing investors. ASLAN plans to use the proceeds to further accelerate clinical development of its pipeline of four novel therapeutic agents that have the potential to treat tumour types highly prevalent in Asia. Its most advanced programme, ASLAN001, is currently undergoing phase 2 trials in cholangiocarcinoma, gastric cancer, and breast cancer.

The new proceeds will also enable ASLAN to develop ASLAN003 in new oncology indications following the recently announced expanded licensing agreement with Almirall. “We are delighted by the strong interest we have received in this oversubscribed fundraising round. The investment and support of our new strategic and international investors is a strong endorsement of ASLAN’s world-class capabilities in developing novel clinical programmes and will accelerate the development of new treatment options for patient groups where there are significant unmet medical needs,” said Dr. Carl Firth, at ASLAN.
Source: http://www.biospectrumasia.com

Korean biosimilars shaking up global market

Celltrion and Samsung Bioepis, Republic of Korea’s top two biosimilar makers are shaking up the global market with recent approvals for lower-cost biologics in Europe and a pending approval for another in the United States. The companies are encroaching on territory long dominated by European and American drugmakers and their progress is seeing their market values soar. Samsung Bioepis said its Benepali biosimilar of Amgen’s (AMGN) rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel has been approved in Europe and Celltrion said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering to approve its Remsima biosimilar of Remicade.

Celltrion’s market value soar to $10.7 billion. Samsung’s Benepali is the first Enbrel biosimilar to be approved in Europe where the drug, marketed by Pfizer, makes up $10 billion in sales of all biologics in the region. Benepali should cost patients about 30% less than Enbrel. Celltrion, for its part, has already been selling its Remicade biosimilar in Europe under the name Infectra since early 2015 and hopes the U.S. FDA will give it the greenlight for U.S. sales.

Remsima is the biosimilar to Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ) Remicade which is used to treat autoimmune diseases. JNJ will face a tremendous loss of revenue once Remsima hit the U.S. market. Celltrion will likely sell the biosimilar for up to 40% less than Remicade. When Celltrion’s biosimilar hit markets in Europe, JNJ saw sales fall to $580 million in 2015 from $783 million in 2014. An analyst at Citigroup said last year that drug developers could lose up to $360 billion in revenue over the next 10 years and that biosimilar makers could take in about $110 billion of that lost by the pharma majors.
Source: http://www.fiercepharmaasia.com

Wellcome Trust grants Mucosis €3.7m

Mucosis, the Netherlands, a developer of next-generation and needle-free human vaccines for infectious diseases, has secured a €3.7m translational fund award from the Wellcome Trust to progress its proprietary intranasal respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine, SynGEM, into Phase I and IIa human clinical trials. The trials will be led by Professor Peter Openshaw, an expert in RSV, and Dr. Christopher Chiu of the Imperial College London.

Openshaw said, “RSV is one of the few major infectious diseases for which there is still no vaccine. Contracting under Mucosis, this funding will enable us to analyse the immune responses generated by SynGEM and increase our understanding of protective immunity in the respiratory system.” RSV is a major cause of severe lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and represents a large unmet medical need.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), RSV is estimated to affect 64 million people globally and cause 160,000 deaths every year, as well as associated increased allergy and asthma rates. While RSV infects all age groups, the most severe cases occur in the elderly, patients with chronic lung disease, individuals with impaired immunity and very young infants. The Wellcome Trust funding will be used for a Phase I dose-finding and safety study, followed by a novel phase II challenge study to assess the efficacy of the SynGEM vaccine against controlled infection with RSV.
Source: http://www.manufacturingchemist.com

Jubilant Biosys collaborates with Sanofi

Jubilant Biosys, India, and Sanofi Deutschland, Germany, have announced a strategic alliance to discover and develop small molecule inhibitors for multiple targets in the metabolic disorders therapeutic area. The research alliance is aimed at developing therapeutic small molecules that will address the unmet needs in diabetes and obesity. As per the terms of the agreement, Jubilant shall provide Sanofi integrated drug discovery and early development services across computational, synthetic chemistry, biology, GLP/ GMP services, to identify lead candidates and demonstrate clinical proof of mechanism in the metabolic disorders therapeutic areas.

The research for the projects, which has been initiated, will be undertaken primarily at state-of-the-art R&D labs of Jubilant Biosys (Bengaluru, India) and Jubilant Chemsys (Noida, India). “We are excited to partner with Sanofi, one of the global healthcare leader, to offer our integrated drug discovery solutions. Over the past few years, we have been strengthening our therapeutic area expertise in the scientific perspective and this collaboration is a validation of our efforts. This alliance demonstrates Jubilant’s commitment to global innovation and we look forward to a long mutually beneficial partnership,” said Dr. Sriram Rajagopal, at Jubilant Biosys.
Source: http://www.biospectrumasia.com

Global respiratory syncytial virus treatment market

In a report published by research and consulting firm GlobalData, the global Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) treatment market will expand to unprecedented levels over the next decade, rising from approximately $640 million in 2014 to over $2.3 billion by 2024, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29.9 percent. According to the report, the robust growth, which will occur across the seven Major Markets (7MM) of the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and Japan, will be driven by multiple new product launches in the currently sparse RSV arena.

Mr. Christopher J Pace, at GlobalData, stated that Synagis (palivizumab) is the only licensed product indicated for the prevention of RSV in infants at a high risk of severe infection, and there are no prophylactic agents approved for adults. Mr. Pace explained, “Despite Synagis being effective in many patients, its short half-life and prohibitively high cost limit its utility. However, the anticipated launches of novel prophylactic monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) led by MedImmune’s MEDI8897 and Regeneron’s REGN2222, have provided hope for more cost-effective alternatives to Synagis.”

In addition, the anticipated licensure of the first adult vaccine to offer protection against RSV, Novavax’s RSV-F Vaccine, will also stimulate rapid growth in a previously untapped segment of the RSV marketplace, with elderly patients, especially those living in nursing homes, driving the uptake of this vaccine. Despite the RSV treatment market’s promising prospects, there will be formidable logistical and financial hurdles to overcome in order to successfully assimilate novel RSV vaccines into existing immunization program infrastructure. However, such barriers will not hinder exciting market growth to 2024.
Source: http://www.biospectrumasia.com

Govin Capital signs MoU with IIT Madras

Govin Capital, Singapore, has signed an MoU with Indian Institute of Technology Madras Incubation Cell (IITMIC) to offer Bio-Entrepreneurial education and accelerate Med-tech & Life-Sciences Startups from the wider IITM community. Govin Capital will also be mentoring startups at IITM’s Bio-incubator and MedTech Incubator and organize events such as boot camps in Venture Financing and Private Equity. Govin Capital focuses on early-stage medtech and technology startups in Singapore and India. It also provides novel training programs in Startups, Bio-Entrepreneurship & Innovation Management.

“We are excited that MOU with IITMIC is being signed at a time when India is shaping its vision for an entrepreneurial economy and is in line with the Prime Minister Modi’s vision of ‘Startup India, Standup India’. Govin Capital will be committed to make this initiative a grand success and add value by providing IITM community access to the Singapore innovation ecosystem in Medtech and Life Sciences,” said Anand Govindaluri, CEO & MD, at Govin Capital.
Source: http://www.biospectrumasia.com

Research collaboration on Type 2 diabetes

All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, has joined hands with the George Institute for Global Health, Australia, to conduct research on whether lifestyle modification programme can delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes in women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). GDM is a major problem in pregnancy. GDM is diabetes developing during pregnancy when the body is not able to make enough insulin. The research involves conducting a randomised trial of a lifestyle modification programme to determine whether it can be applied and affordably brought to scale in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India.

“The development of diabetes in women with GDM can be prevented or delayed. It has been shown in research settings that healthy diet and physical activity aimed at weight reduction can delay or prevent the development of diabetes in women with GDM,” said Prof Nikhil Tandon, at AIIMS. “Previously thought to be a relatively benign condition, it is now known that having GDM puts women at high risk of subsequently developing Type 2 diabetes – a condition that needs lifelong treatment and is associated with a number of serious complications,” Tandon added.
Source: http://www.drugtodayonline.com

India’s first MRI machine to be out by 2018

The Department of IT’s R&D laboratory SAMEER will soon bring out India’s first MRI machine in the market by 2018. SAMEER is an R&D Laboratory set-up in 1960s for research, design and development of products in the field of RF and microwave systems. In a recent presentation to the Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Director-General SAMEER said the R&D laboratory was already in advance stages of product development of the machine which would enable use of imaging in medical diagnosis.

Prasad asked the organisation to revisit the mandate and explore more medical equipment which could be indigenously developed by the lab. Prasad also asked the research institute to work towards potential solutions to cyber security issues. Headquartered in IIT Powai, SAMEER also focuses on interdisciplinary research initiative addressing broader spectrum of electronics areas like optoelectronics, Digital signal processing, Navigational aids, radars, atmospheric remote sensing systems and Linear accelerators.
Source: http://www.articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com

Sanofi launches effort for Zika vaccine

Drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur, France, is launching an effort to research and develop a vaccine to prevent the Zika virus, after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global emergency over its explosive spread across the Americas. There is no treatment or vaccine for the mosquito-borne virus, which has been linked to birth defects and is in the same family of viruses as dengue. Sanofi made the first dengue vaccine shot, licensed last year in Brazil after years of scientific struggle to develop one.

Sanofi’s Dr. Nicholas Jackson, said it will leverage experience with the dengue vaccine, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis. It hopes existing manufacturing capabilities, technology and ongoing studies in 10 countries on the dengue virus will also help speed up the search. Clinical trials for the zika vaccine, however, would be particularly difficult as they might involve testing in women of child-bearing age and pregnant women, groups that scientists have traditionally been loathe to put at risk.
Source: http://www.philstar.com

GENOMICS

Low-cost genome ancestry test

Full Genomes Corporation, the United States, the first company to offer a high-resolution and comprehensive Y chromosome test in January 2013, has announced that it is collaborating with Novogene, China, to offer ‘GenomeGuide’, one of the first whole genome tests for ancestry purposes for under $1,000. GenomeGuide, now available to consumers at $895, includes raw data (BAM file), variant summary reports from SnpEff and VEP that are compatible with third party tools, such as Promethease, autosomal and X-chromosomal variant identification (Variant Call Format) files, and mitochondrial and Y chromosome reports (for males).

As with other Full Genomes products, GenomeGuide is intended for ancestry/research-use only, and should not be relied upon for medical or diagnostic purposes. Novogene, the only Illumina Genome Network partner in China, will deliver high-quality WGS data using the Illumina Hi-Seq X Ten system capable of sequencing up to 18,000 human genomes per year at the lowest cost per genome, and will apply its advanced bioinformatics capabilities and expertise to provide variant analysis.

“The advent of new technology has enabled Full Genomes to offer GenomeGuide, a new whole genome ancestry test which will be the most comprehensive ancestry test on the market today,” said Justin Loe, at Full Genomes. “Full Genomes is committed to providing responsible and detailed genetic reports to the customer and we are incorporating the latest technology to enable the consumer to receive comprehensive information on their ancestry. With their advanced Illumina technology, we are confident that Novogene will deliver the high-quality WGS results our customers expect,” he added.
Source: http://www.pharmabiz.com

Crow’s genome to assist conservation efforts

Scientists at San Diego Zoo Global (SDZ Global), the United States, and the University of Hawaii, the United States, in collaboration with PacBio, the United States, have fully sequenced the genome of the ‘Alalā, or Hawaiian crow. The ‘Alalā was once reduced to a population of about 20 birds, and the sequencing of the species’ genome will be important to track any genetic challenges that may occur due to the reduced genetic diversity now seen in the species.

“In our efforts to bring species back from the brink of extinction, we have worked with a number of species that have gone through a genetic bottleneck, possibly reducing the genetic fitness of the species due to the limitations of the remaining genetic diversity. Knowing in detail the genetic pattern of the ‘Alalā will help us to understand challenges faced by this species as it makes its recovery,” said Oliver Ryder, at SDZ Global.

The sequencing of its genome comes at the beginning of what is hoped to be an important year for the Hawaiian crow. The program’s goal has been to increase the ‘Alalā flock to 75 or more individuals before releasing them into their native forests on the island of Hawaii. The ‘Alalā is a member of the crow family that was brought to the brink of extinction by loss of habitat, and introduced predators and diseases. For species that have been at the brink of extinction, genetic fitness and the information stored in their genome may prove an important tool in the fight to save them.
Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com

Genes associated with autoimmune disease

Recently Scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), the United States, analysed over 17,000 human DNA samples collected from volunteers across Republic of Korea, China, Malaysia and Japan. Out of the 17,000, 4500 had lupus and the rest of the samples were used as controls for the study. From these samples, they identified 10 distinct genes associated with lupus. One of the genes closely associated with lupus was GTF2I.

Dr. Swapan Nath from OMRF explained that this gene is more closely associated with lupus than previously discovered genes from Asians and it also could be a predominant gene responsible for triggering lupus. Nath who also led the study explained that scientists are aware that lupus ha a genetic basis but until now the genes associated with disease were not identified. These genes will now help scientist design treatment methods for the disease.

Lupus also known as systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system identifies it’s own cells and tissues as foreign and starts attacking it. Lupus usually causes inflammation and can affect different body parts such as joints causing severe pain. Signs and symptoms of lupus often include a development of a ‘butterfly rash’ on cheeks and sensitivity to sunlight. Other symptoms include arthritis, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle pain and ulcers. The study has been published in the journal Nature Genetics.
Source: http://www.thehealthsite.com

Scientists discover genetic cause of rare allergy

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the United States, have identified a genetic mutation responsible for a rare form of inherited hives induced by vibration, also known as vibratory urticaria. Running, hand clapping, towel drying or even taking a bumpy bus ride can cause temporary skin rashes in people with this rare disorder. By studying affected families, researchers discovered how vibration promotes the release of inflammatory chemicals from the immune system’s mast cells, causing hives and other allergic symptoms.

The study suggests that people with this form of vibratory urticaria experience an exaggerated version of a normal cellular response to vibration. The study was led by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the United States, and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), the United States, both part of NIH. The current study involved three families in which multiple generations experienced vibratory urticaria. The NIH team evaluated the first family under an ongoing clinical protocol investigating urticarias induced by a physical trigger.

To identify the genetic basis of the disorder, the scientists performed genetic analyses, including DNA sequencing, on 36 affected and unaffected members from the three families. They found a single mutation in the ADGRE2 gene shared by family members with vibratory urticaria but not present in unaffected people. The scientists did not detect the ADGRE2 mutation in variant databases or in the DNA of more than 1,000 unaffected individuals with a similar genetic ancestry as the three families.
Source: https://www.niaid.nih.gov

Unlocking inaccessible genes

An international collaboration of scientists from the Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, France, the National Center for Scientific Research, France, the University of Paris-Sud, France, Southern Medical University, China, and Penn State University, the United States, has discovered how specialized enzymes remodel the extremely condensed genetic material in the nucleus of cells in order to control which genes can be used.

The researchers first mapped the location of several “chromatin-remodeller enzymes” across the entire genome of the embryonic stem cells of the mouse. The mapping showed that remodeller enzymes bind to particular nucleosome “beads” at the sites along the wrapped-up DNA that are located just before the gene sequence begins. These sites are important because they are the location where the process of expressing genes begins, where other proteins required for gene expression team up for the process of turning a gene on.

The researchers then tested how the chromatin-remodeller enzymes impact gene expression by reducing the amount of each of these enzymes in embryonic stem cells. The scientists found that some chromatin-remodeller enzymes promote gene expression, some repress gene expression, and some can do both.
Source: http://www.news.psu.edu

Wheat genome sequencing

The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) has announced the production of a whole genome assembly of bread wheat, the most widely grown cereal in the world, significantly accelerating global research into crop improvement. The project consisted of producing a whole genome assembly of the bread wheat variety Chinese Spring based on Illumina short sequence reads assembled with NRGene’s DeNovoMAGICTM software.

The new data will help speed up the delivery of a high quality reference sequence of the bread wheat genome. The whole genome assembly data will be integrated with physical-map based sequence data to produce a high-quality, ordered sequence for each wheat chromosome that precisely locates genes, regulatory elements, and markers along the chromosomes, providing invaluable tools for wheat breeders.
Source: http://www.wheatgenome.org

PROTEOMICS

Scientists discover cancer driving fusion protein

Scientists at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the United States, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the United States, have uncovered an important cancer-driving fusion protein that promotes a pediatric brain tumor via three distinct mechanisms. Adam Resnick from CHOP along with Dana Farber scientists Keith Ligon and Rameen Beroukhim has published their work in the journal Nature Genetics. They investigated pediatric low-grade gliomas (PLGGs), a disease that represents the majority of child brain tumors. Despite PLGGs being a “low grade” tumor there may be serious consequences to the patient’s future quality of life, which gives reason to search for causal mechanisms and treatment.

In a specific type of PLGGs that occur in the brain’s temporal lobe (angiocentric gliomas), in virtually all tumor samples from 19 patients there was a common gene rearrangement of two genes: MYB and QKI. The abnormal product of MYB-QKI leads to cancer survival in three ways. Firstly the protein produced from this gene fusion results in a smaller protein being formed, which is always active and can promote cancer. Secondly, an enhancer region which may control QKI gene expression moves nearer MYB as they fuse, giving rise to abnormal amounts of MYB-QKI protein, leading to a positive feedback loop and further driving cell proliferation. And lastly, the protective role of QKI as a tumor suppressor is dashed in the new MYB-QKI gene product.

The product of just two genes sticking together therefore results in a myriad of genomic and epigenomic interactions and explains the complexity of such an event in this tumor. The identification of the MYB-QKI fusion gene in patients may enable doctors to more accurately diagnose the resulting PLGG and to direct treatment accordingly. “Now that we better understand the three mechanisms involved, we may be better able to craft our treatment strategies against any of those mechanisms. The study expands our current understanding of cancer, by focusing attention on the multiple mechanisms occurring simultaneously, and bringing into relief how gene fusions may give rise to epigenomic dysregulation,” said Resnick.
Source: http://www.fiercebiotechresearch.com

Autism-linked protein for healthy brain

According to a research done by Salk Institute, the United States, a gene linked to mental disorders helps lays the foundation for a crucial brain structure during prenatal development. The findings reveal new mechanistic insights into the gene, known as MDGA1, which may bring a better understanding of neuro developmental disorders in people, said Carlos Perez-Garcia, a staff researcher in the laboratory of Professor Dennis O’Leary, holder of the Vincent J. Coates Chair in Molecular Neurobiology.

The team decided to look at the protein’s role in early brain development, when the foundation of a proper, six-layer cortex is being laid. When Perez-Garcia disabled the gene in mice a little more than halfway through pregnancy, to his surprise, the neuron precursors in the cerebral cortex migrated to the wrong places in the brain. These cells die off before they can become neurons and, overall, without MDGA1, the cerebral cortex loses about half its neurons.

These new results suggest that mutations in MDGA1 while the cortex is developing (during the first half of pregnancy in humans) could produce snowball effects leading to the development of brain disorders. The severe depletion of neurons in the cortex strongly compromises its ability to communicate with other brain areas. More experiments by the group revealed what happens when MDGA1 is mutated: It prevents neuron precursors from sticking to one another, which is critical for those cells to divide and generate neurons.
Source: http://www.salk.edu

Atomic structure of ubiquitin ligase complex solved

Scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP), the United States, have solved the atomic structure of a unique ubiquitin ligase complex. Ubiquitin is best known for its role in protein degradation, but more recently seen as important for cell signaling, DNA repair, anti-inflammatory, and immune responses. The study, opens the door for developing a novel class of drug targets for cancer as well as inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis. “Our new research revealing the fully active structure of an RBR E3 ligase holds significant therapeutic potential in oncology and immunology,” said Bernhard Lechtenberg, at SBP.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that helps regulate the function of other proteins in the body. E3 ligases carry out a process known as ubiquitination, where ubiquitin is attached to a substrate protein, changing the way it functions. There are three classes of E3 ligases, but members of the RBR type have most recently emerged as a novel and relatively untapped class of targets for drug discovery because of their role in modulating the immune system. “We were surprised to find how the active form of the E3 ligase we analyzed, called HOIP, attaches ubiquitin in a markedly different way, an elongated fashion, compared to the other types of E3 ligases,” said Stefan Riedl, at SBP.

This may be key to its role in activating the NF-kB pathway, a signaling process that is well established as a regulator of cell survival and death, and helps coordinate the immune system. NF-kB is the master regulator of inflammation inside cells, and its activation is believed to promote cancer development by inhibiting cell death and promoting inflammation. This study removes a significant technical barrier that has prevented exploiting RBR E3 ligases as a drug target for cancer and inflammatory disorders. “Our next step is to continue to work very closely with our biology and immunology collaborators to more fully understand the regulation of RBR E3 ligases,” added Riedl.
Source: http://www.news-medical.net

Breast cancer test developed

Angela Courtney, a recent Ph.D. graduate from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), the United States, had developed a new test for invasive breast cancer. Courtney received her Ph.D. in integrative pathobiology from UC Davis in 2015, shortly after being diagnosed with breast cancer herself. Determined to find a test that would allow women to detect breast cancer earlier and without the risks and cost of mammograms, Courtney focused on leveraging the body’s natural filtration system. The result was the identification of a pattern of protein and genomic material present in urine that could be used to indicate the presence of breast cancer.

“Urine is essentially filtered plasma from which the kidneys have extracted harmful biological materials and waste. We take advantage of this natural process and look for the protein and genomic material that is excreted,” said Courtney. Together with Michael Gilson, a UC Davis alumnus, she founded Adrastia Biotech in 2015 and began work to develop a commercial platform for a simple urine test that could distinguish a patient with breast cancer from one without. The test uses protein and RNA genomic targets that are present in urine.

In addition to the comparison to a standard positive or negative pattern, over time the woman’s own individual pattern could deliver information about the progress of the cancer and success of treatment delivering truly personalized medicine. Besides, it may offer particular advantages to women with dense breasts whose mammograms are inconclusive, as well as an alternative to mammography for women at high risk who are considering a double mastectomy. Adrastia is designing their test with the intent that it could be used as part of routine screenings in physicians’ offices, women’s health centers and even remote villages around the world.
Source: https://www.ucdavis.edu

Protein found to affect HA efficacy

According to Arthritis Research, the United Kingdom, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, and is a chronic disease. To combat the breakdown of Hyaluronic acid (HA), a component of synovial fluid, HA is injected into the joints of osteoarthritis patients. The efficacy of HA injections has produced mixed results in studies and researchers believe this is due to the amount of lubricin present in the joint when HA is injected. Lubricin helps anchor HA at the tissue surface allowing cartilage to be an area of low friction, scientists found.

This finding may suggest new formulations of HA that may be even more effective in the clinic,” said Dr. Lawrence Bonassar, at Cornell University, the United States. Scientists at Fidia Farmaceutici S.p.A, Italy, have used the study’s results to bioengineer a new version of HA. Approved by the US Food and Drink Administration (FDA), it will be marketed under the name Hymovis from March 2016.
Source: http://www.labnews.co.uk

MEDICAL BIOTECH

Sensor may detect cancer from breath

A team of researchers from The National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS), Japan, in collaboration with Kyocera Corp., Japan, NEC Corp., Japan, Sumitomo Seika Chemicals Co., Japan, Osaka University, Japan, and a precision equipment maker in Switzerland, has developed a high-precision sensor that can detect the possibility of someone having cancer, diabetes and other ailments just from their breath. The product is expected to be put into practical use as early as 2022. In the future, it may become possible for an individual to easily check their health by connecting a sensor to a smartphone or other device.

There are also hopes that the nation’s growing medical expenditures could be curbed by the early detection of disease. A “film” installed in the sensor, which is a tiny chip a few millimeters square, determines whether there are substances peculiar to cancer patients’ breath and calculates whether a person is suspected to have cancer. By just exhaling into the sensor, which is connected to a smartphone or other device, the result can be displayed on the screen of the device in a graph or other form. According to NIMS, it is highly likely that the sensor will be able to distinguish what kind of cancer a person has if the sensor’s accuracy is improved and data on odor are collected.

Peculiar odors are said to be found in the respiration of patients who are suffering from diabetes, kidney and liver diseases, asthma and those with Helicobacter pylori. The sensor may make it possible to judge what kind of diseases people have, and is being considered for use not only for examinations at medical institutions but also for self-checks by individuals. It is expected to take about six years to develop it for practical use, as it is necessary to collect data on the odors associated with various cancers, improve the sensor’s precision and have it certified as medical equipment by the government.
Source: http://www.the-japan-news.com

Novel clinical candidate for oncology indication

Glenmark Pharmaceuticals SA (GPSA), a wholly owned subsidiary of Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Limited India (GPL), has announced the discovery and initiation of IND enabling studies for a novel clinical development candidate, GBR 1342. GBR 1342 is a CD38xCD3 bispecific antibody based on Glenmark’s proprietary BEAT platform. GBR 1342 is the second clinical development candidate (following GBR 1302 a HER2xCD3 bi-specific antibody) based on the BEAT technology. It is also Glenmark’s second clinical candidate targeting oncology indications.

CD38 is one of the few known markers for plasma cells and is a well-established target for multiple myeloma, a cancer caused by malignant plasma cells. CD38 is potentially also a target for other hematopoietic malignancies. “GBR 1342 is the second bi-specific antibody emerging from our BEAT platform. With the 1302 project we learned how to efficiently engineer and manufacture this novel type of antibody and we are now applying those lessons to several other targets,” said Dr. Michael Buschle, at Glenmark.
Source: http://www.biospectrumindia.com

Smartphones to help treat Type 1 diabetes

Researchers from the Centre for Diabetes Technology in the University of Virginia (UVA), the United States, have developed a system that treats Type 1 diabetes automatically and effortlessly with the help of a smartphone ditching constant finger pricks and manual insulin injections. Combined with a tiny sensor and wearable insulin pump, a smartphone can stand in for a pancreas, automatically monitoring blood-sugar levels and delivering insulin as needed. “We have been working on this specific artificial pancreas as it is called since 2006. We show that it is not only possible, but it can run on a smartphone,” said Boris Kovatchev, at UVA.

The system works with a readily available pen drive-sized blood-glucose sensor that can be worn in a variety of places on the body, such as an arm, leg, or the abdomen. The sensor reads blood-glucose levels every five minutes and wirelessly reports the results to a specially designed app on a nearby android smartphone. The app’s algorithm analyses the data and wirelessly controls a discreet, wearable insulin pump, which can be hooked to a belt or other piece of clothing. The pump has a very fine needle that delivers insulin into the blood stream.

“Together, the “closed-loop” system should act much like a home thermostat, automatically sensing and adjusting the temperature to match preset targets. The ultimate goal is to make managing Type 1 diabetes effortless and automatic, easing the daily lives of the 1.25 million people who suffer from the disease,” said Francis Doyle III, of Harvard’s Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, who is collaborating with Kovatchev on the system. The system is backed by a $12.6 million grant from the US National Institute of Health.
Source: http://www.zeenews.india.com

Nanoparticles in food can delay aging

In a study on flies, researchers led by Dr. Song Haiyun from the Institute for Nutritional Sciences, China, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, China, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and by Dr. Fan Chunhai from the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics, CAS, China, have found that nanoparticles could potentially extend lifespan. The team tested the effects of iron oxide (Fe3O4) nanoparticles (NPs) on intracellular ROS levels and their biological consequences on several cell and animal models. Fe3O4 NPs is a type of biocompatible nanomaterial that has previously been widely used for bioimaging, biodiagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

The researchers found that Fe3O4 NPs could protect cultured cells under various stress conditions, including hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) treatment, through catalase-like activity. They demonstrated that Fe3O4 NPs retained this mimetic activity in vivo, helping to maintain optimal ROS balance, reduce intracellular oxidative stress, suppress cellular damage, delay animal aging and protect against neurodegeneration. These novel effects were further confirmed in Drosophila models of aging, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease. The researchers hope that this study opens up new opportunities for the therapeutic use of Fe3O4 NPs in the treatment of metabolic disorders, neurodegenerative diseases and aging.
Source: http://www.asianscientist.com

Scientists claim to develop Zika virus vaccine

Scientists at Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL), India, have developed the world’s first vaccine against Zika virus. In fact, they claim to have made two of them! As the world and global pharmaceutical and research companies are only beginning to search for a Zika vaccine, this announcement from BBIL, could possibly mean that an end to the problem is in sight. The company used a live Zika virus that was officially imported and was successful in developing two candidate vaccines-a recombinant vaccine and an inactivated vaccine. However, conducting animal and human trials could be an uphill task.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has come forward to help. “We have just been informed about the Zika vaccine candidate that Bharat Biotech has. We will examine it from the scientific point of view and see the feasibility of taking it forward. It is a good example of a Make in India product,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, at ICMR. While the recombinant vaccine might take time, the pre-clinical testing of the inactivated vaccine in animals would be completed in five months.

Normally, the process for a vaccine to get commercialised would take seven years, including clinical trials. But Zikavac vaccine could be made available if the Indian Government declares national emergency and moves aggressively in regulatory approvals. Experts have lauded Bharat Biotech’s foresight in working on a vaccine so far ahead on a neglected disease that has now taken global epidemic proportions.
Source: https://www.biotechin.asia.com

Ayurvedic anti-diabetic drug launched

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India, has launched BGR-34, billed as the country’s first anti-diabetic Ayurvedic drug with anti-hyperglycaemic property (reducing high blood sugar level). BGR is acronym for blood glucose regulator. CSIR said BGR-34, meant for persons with Type 2 diabetes mellitus, had been scientifically validated for its efficacy and safety.

It was developed jointly by National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), India, and Central Institute for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP), India. Priced at Rs. 5 a tablet, it is now available at all major chemist counters of Kerala, CSIR said. “CSIR’s premier research institutions had developed and established the efficacy of BGR-34. The modern diabetes drugs are known for side-effects and toxicity while BGR-34 works by controlling blood sugar and limiting the harmful effects of other drugs,” said A.K.S. Rawat, of CSIR-NBRI.
Source: http://www.thehindu.com

AGRI BIOTECH

Patent for low-cost biofuel technology

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (IIT-R), have achieved remarkable success in generating low-cost biofuel using a perennial weed, Kans grass. This grass, native to the subcontinent, grows up to three feet in height and is used in thatching katcha houses in rural areas. The weed, being widely available and perennial, comes at low cost. “Through our technology, which we have now got patented, bioethanol will be produced as a substitute for petrol. This is a low-cost fuel, in comparison to other varieties of bioethanol now available across the world,” said Sanjoy Ghosh, at IIT-R.

Kans grass, known by the scientific name Saccharum spontaneum, was chosen as the feedstock for production of bioethanol because of its high yields, low cost, ability to grow in marginal lands with almost no water supply and wide availability right through the year. “Kans is a weed that we have exploited for production of bioethanol through a unique process called fractional hydrolysis. This is a technology we recently patented. It comes with minimum toxic product generation and maximum sugar recovery,” said Ghosh.

“There are various grasses from which bioethanol is being produced. Among the most common is Eastern Gama grass (Trypsacum dactyloides). However, scientists could recover around 37% cellulose and 22.1% hemicellulose from it. From Kans grass, we were able to recover over 43.78% cellulose and 24.22% hemicelluloses. For superior quality ethanol, unique fermentation techniques are used. We were able to recover around 93.4 % of total biomass sugar without much toxic product generation, which is a breakthrough in bioethanol production,” said Ghosh.
Source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Researchers find beneficial microbes in the soil

A team of researchers led by Dong Wang at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass), the United States, working with the alfalfa-clover Medicago truncatula, has found how a gene in the host plant encodes a protein that recognizes the cell membrane surrounding the symbiotic bacteria, and then directs other proteins to harvest the nutrients. Wang explained, “Plants often recruit microbes to help them satisfy their nutritional needs, offering the products of photosynthesis as a reward. A process used by most land plants depends on asymbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. These form structures known as arbuscules that help plants capture phosphorus, sulfur, nitrogen and other micronutrients from the soil. This method is akin to scavenging, because the amount of nitrogen available in soil is quite limited.”

The researchers discovered that in both processes bacteria and fungi exchange nutrients with the plant across a cell membrane recognized by a specially encoded protein made by the host plant that defines its borders. To explore this, the team investigated activities of the gene SYNTAXIN 132, which encodes receptors (SYP132) that identify cell membranes and interact with secretory vesicles. They found that the gene usually makes one sort of transcript that always seeks out the plant cell’s surface membrane. But if rhizobia are present in the host, that same gene will make a second type of protein that is able to find the membrane surrounding the bacteria. Scientists now understand that the host membrane both in legumes and beyond around the fungal arbuscule has a lot in common with the membrane around the nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
Source: http://www.umass.edu

GM oilseed crops could replace fish oil

Recently researchers from University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich Medical School, the United Kingdom, studied the effect in mice of consuming feed enriched with oil from glasshouse-grown genetically engineered Camelina sativa, developed at the agricultural science centre Rothamsted Research. The goal of the research was to discover whether mammals (using mice as a model) can absorb and accumulate eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from this novel source of omega-3s. The team examined levels of EPA in various organs in the body such as the liver, as well as its effect on the expression of genes key for regulating the way the body synthesises and processes fats.

The results showed that the benefits were similar to those derived from fish oils. The recommended minimum dietary intake can be achieved by eating one to two portions of oily fish per week. The research team studied mice which had been fed with EPA oil from genetically engineered Camelina sativa, commonly known as false flax, but actually a member of the Brassicaceae family.

Crops were grown in glasshouses at the primarily publically-funded Rothamsted Research. The researchers looked to see whether consuming oil from the engineered plants was as beneficial as EPA rich – fish oil. They did this by testing tissue concentrations of fatty acids in liver, muscle and brain tissue, along with the expression of genes involved in regulating EPA status and its physiological benefits. “The mice were fed with a control diet similar to a Westernised human diet, supplemented with EPA from genetically engineered Camelina sativa or fish oil. We found that the genetically engineered oil is a bio available source of EPA, with comparable benefits for the liver to eating oily fish,” said Prof Minihane.
Source: https://www.uea.ac.uk

Oil production in yeast advanced

A team of researchers led by Ian Wheeldon at the University of California (UC), the United States, has adapted the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system for use in a yeast strain that can produce useful lipids and polymers. The development will lead to new precursors for biofuels, specialty polymers, adhesives and fragrances. The research involves the oleaginous (oil-producing) yeast Yarrowia lipolytica, which is known for converting sugars to lipids and hydrocarbons that are difficult to make synthetically. Until now, Y. lipolytica has been hard to manipulate at the genetic level, but the application of CRISPR-Cas9 will allow scientists to tap into its bio-manufacturing potential.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a groundbreaking technique that enables scientists to make precise targeted changes in living cells. Unlike traditional gene-editing methods, it is cheap, easy to use and effective in almost any organism. “Traditionally, researchers have focused on model organisms that are relatively easy to manipulate at the genetic level, and those working on less tractable species have had to go through long and tedious processes to create new strains. Our work with Y. lipolytica is a good example of how the CRISPR-Cas9 system is facilitating research in organisms that are biologically interesting but historically difficult to work with,” said Ian Wheeldon.

The team adapted CRISPR-Cas9 for Y. lipolytica, showing that the system could be used to knock genes out and introduce new genes, both useful tools in bio-manufacturing. Wheeldon said the current work was the first step to create long chain hydrocarbons used to make specialty polymers, adhesives, coatings and fragrances from yeast rather than synthetically. “Currently, these molecules are produced from non-renewable raw materials derived from petroleum in processes that are inefficient and pose safety risks, so being able to produce them from cheap raw materials in a bio-manufacturing process is very appealing,” said Wheeldon.
Source: http://www.ucrtoday.ucr.edu

Plants release toxic chemicals

A new research by a team of German and French scientists has shown that plants release chemical poisons to destroy neighbouring plants in their bid for more space and sunlight. The poisons released are deadly they change the very genetic structure of the victim plant preventing its growth and ultimately leading to its death. The existence of this chemical warfare, referred to as ‘allelopathy’, is widespread among many plant species, and has been known for a long time to scientists and agriculturists. But what had remained a mystery was how this strategy works. This appears to have been solved by the scientists.

Work by Sascha Venturelli of the University of Tubingen, Germany and colleagues now sheds light on the inner workings of this plant chemical warfare. Plants are able to release chemical compounds from their roots into the soil, where the substances decay or are modified by microbes. Some of these products are toxic when the roots of neighboring plants take them up, the scientists found. Claude Becker, of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Germany, explained, “The phenomenon has been known for years, and many classes of allele chemicals have been identified over the last decades, but for first time we now understand the molecular mechanism of such a ‘territorial behaviour’ of plants”.

The scientists investigated the role a chemicals known as DIBOA and DIMBOA. These are released by several grass species, and their degradation products are well known for their toxicity. They alter the chemical structure of DNA leading to changed gene expression. In the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, the scientists found that inhibition of histone deacetylases by the plant toxins lead to more histone acetylation and an increase in gene expression, ultimately causing plant growth to slow down. The study thus not only presents the first molecular mechanism for allelopathy, but also illustrates how environmental toxins can alter chromatin structure and gene expression.
Source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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