The COVID 19 life

Hmmm…I am writing this blog after a very long time. Life was hectic and COVID put brakes on it. Though for many this is the time they never expected. Lot to catch up. Nature is also reclaiming its lost charisma and so did many creatures. Humans were also not behind. On the scariest side, many challenges lies ahead for all of us both socially and economically (VUCA, volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous). Eventually, mankind will prevail as it has for so many centuries and we would be left with a tale to tell.

The marketing trick: We Indians fall for!

Discount, discount, discount ! and we all line up the stores (online stores too!) like bees. We all believe, we are getting a good bargain. Whether we need the product or not, we will still buy these stuff or tricked to do so. Let us not forget, we all belong to a thrift society. We value money, we save for the rainy days. Indian household saving is almost 26% annually. That is a healthy story till recently. Now, with westernisation, we are falling prey to free/cheap credit and tricks. Most sellers increase price and then offer a discount to increase their sales. Their pitch is highly lucrative. We end up paying the same retail price and mostly tricked to buy more. Shopping has suddenly become our obsession. At the end of the day, we stockpile many things, we may never use or, use a few times only. The discount trick is so popular that it works for every one of us, me too! It is just so tempting that even knowing whats true, we fall for. So, next time you hit the store, ask yourself, do i need this ? is the price reasonable (after discount) or even before discount ? Do i indeed need one for one/two/three, free of these ? and instead of making shopping a pastime, we can do more of a window shopping or simply avoid large malls and instead go for the small stores. Alternatively, we can make a list and buy what we need. I also feel credit card is to blame for a part of the discount story. We don’t understand the value of money till we settle the bill at the end of the month, when our salary is in. Just to realise the monster card has taken all of it. Purchase with cash, the old fashioned way. I know it is difficult to resist, but we must avoid such perils, if we want to live happily and with dignity- rain or shine. As the economist rightly said – Human wants are unlimited but to achieve those wants, resources (money) are limited!

Now that Bayer acquired Monsanto, what’s in store for GM activists ? The party has gone sour !

GM crops are grown in more a dozen countries and in over 188 million ha of land. That’s huge area and that too for nearly three decades. Something has to be there for farmers to cultivate such crops. There are many options, farmers can chose from. But millions of farmers have chosen GM products. Increased farm income resulted from higher productivity and decrease use of resources. While GM in food crops has remained a bone of contention between MNCs and farmer activists, no one seems to oppose GM in medicine. Whether it is the new generation of antibiotics, insulin or neutraceuticals; GM rules the nest. We want more of these in medicine, human health, customised healthcare and save every precious life. That is a paradox to me as one quarter of mankind go to sleep every night, food deprived. Unpredictable climatic regimes has made agriculture largely unprofitable around vast areas of land. To add to woes, increased pressure on land masses by increased human activity, alternate gainful opportunities apart from agriculture, has made people (small and marginal farmers) move away from farming.

Opposition to GM (genetically modified) is not new. Many organisations thrive on the agenda to act against GM. Monsanto always has been their target aka love to hate company. Their (activist org.) bread and butter is opposing GM. Now, that Bayer has finally acquired Monsanto, whats in store for these organisations ? Bayer says it will initiate a broader dialogue with the society before marketing its product, will not shy of GM crops though. Per haves, for the time being, Bayer will not bring GM to new markets like Europe. But it may continue to support GM crops in already introduced markets. Lets leave that to the wisdom of Bayer and co.

Now, that the host is gone and the party is over, activists will have to find something else to thrive!

Whats new in genome editing space ?

The gene editing technology is going to revolutionise agriculture and allied field. As with any path breaking change – opposition is bound to come, as we are challenging our perceptions. We don’t want change. Is chemical sprayed vegetable better ? Why will cancer rate rise ? Why we consume genetically modified antibiotics for our own good but dispute GM crops ? Is fear slowing down our own progress ? Can we end poverty and climate change ?,  not just in paper or symposium. Will digital revolution bring more joblessness ? or will it pave patch of a better transparent economy ? Anyways, such debates are unending. Going back to genome editing space, here are the news.

  1. Smallholder farmers to gain from targeted CRISPR-Cas9 crop breeding. (website: http://www.cimmyt.org/smallholder-farmers-to-gain-from-targeted-crispr-cas9-breeding/)
  2. Low Cd-accumulating indica rice without compromising yield. (http://www.cimmyt.org/smallholder-farmers-to-gain-from-targeted-crispr-cas9-breeding/)
  3. Syngenta acquires non-exclusive license to use CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing for agriculture applications (http://www.ncbiotech.org/article/syngenta-acquires-non-exclusive-license-use-crispr-cas9-gene-editing-agriculture)
  4. CRISPR 2.0 ‘base editing’ arrives and it’s an even more remarkable disease-fighting tool (https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2017/10/30/crispr-2-0-base-editing-arrives-remarkable-disease-fighting-tool/).
  5. RNA targeting with CRISPR–Cas13. (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-14832-9).

Genome Editing: Whats making the news this month ?

  1. How Gene Editing Might Reshape Diabetes Treatment

    Scientists use  CRISPR gene-editing tool to change the colour of flowers for the first time.

    Podcast: Gene editing is life code’s ‘unnatural selection’ tipping point

    Two-thirds of Americans approve of editing human DNA to treat disease

     

Continue reading “Genome Editing: Whats making the news this month ?”

Climate Change ?

We have heard about climate change many a times and we think it is just another rhetoric by few to stall our development. Today, I am wondering as I look  outside the lab window and bounty full rain is pouring in and it seems at last rain God, Indra, has smiled on our perched land. Unpredictability is now synonym with monsoon in our country. Numerous forecasts tend to fail to predict rainfall pattern. Though they truly predict the amount of rainfall we will achieve in the year! Erratic rainfall pattern is happening all along the way. See, this year, we had more than needed rainfall in many states, displacing more than 4.3 crore (43 million) people and rainfall was scanty in other parts. In my region, I was looking at the rainfall parameters a few months ago and was anxious to note that just 280mm rainfall, we had. Being from agriculture field, anxiety was normal as such pattern effects us all. Though for the past few days, we are experiencing good rainfall, and as of today, we have touched 600mm. This untimely rainfall though brings good prospects for a bounty full ravi crop, besides mitigating the scarcity of water for the rest of the year, but the damage to kharif crop has already occurred.  It is no brainer that half of our population depends on agriculture, though the contribution of this sector to national GDP has dropped to 14-15%. In the present scenario, crop struggled when there was no rain and then excess towards harvest brings no relief to farmers causing crop failures. On the optimistic side, I also see a lot of effort by people to do water harvesting program, and the national bodies are trying to merge/ unite rivers to mitigate the suffering farmers have faced through centuries of unpredictable vagaries of monsoon, in the years to come.  In the background, I quietly see the climate change spreading its evil wings, nature taking revenge, for all our reckless actions, be in form of pollution, increase human activities on existing resources, destroying ecologies in search of treasures, we call it subtly economic empowerment. We tend to forget the backlash which will take place for our misdeeds. We need to create sustainable environment and should tend to replenish vegetative cover, reduce pollution – move to cleaner and green energy and protect our environment, else what is happening, will tend to happen even more furiously in the years to come and threaten our own existence. If we see outside our country, how many unpredictable storms and cyclones are coming every year and flattening our livelihoods. It is high time we take note and action.

Emerging Technologies and Trends: Euphoria or doomsday ?

I am amazed to see that whenever a new technology comes in the market place, there is a general sense of euphoria followed by barrage of comments of how dreadful the technology could be. Since, time immortal we have seen that there is a sense of extreme resistance to any new development, be it, the invention of automobile (when people said that this machine would kill or smash many to the ground) to the days of artificial learning, internet of things to advances in biotechnology like genome editing. We as a species like stability and anything which challenges our perception/ mind wiring becomes the object of terror. We run mostly on auto mode and wired in that way. What if ? in a negative sense always invades us. Rather than seeing the possibilities, we tend to fear from what it challenges ? our preformed perception/ notion. Soon, we start to hear doomsday is coming (almost every day it seems!). Instead we should rather embrace the technology and re-skill ourselves so that we can make the world a better place. Think how artificial intelligence can help doctors to decide the best course of action, a wrong decision means the difference between life and death for the patient. There can be no coming back. We need to consider all possible combinations, before we can take the best course of action. The invention of 3D- imaging has helped in the field of medicine as well as engineering. Similarly, we must embrace use of modern technologies in agriculture to increase food crops and not the frank-stein myths. We must remain optimistic rather than just plain pessimist and belief in dooms day, day in and out, if we as a species would want to go forward and stay alive.

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (Must Watch)

Budget of ₹2500 M, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion has made a record of highest pre-release business with ₹5000 M…..

I watched both Baahubali 1 & 2. I guess since the release of Baahubali 1 movie, millions waited for the conclusion (Baahubali 2) for about 19 months including me.  There was a suspense thriller at the end of part 1. So, audience were captivated and wanted to know why Kattappa killed Amerandra Bahubali? I really liked the cinematography. No wonder, there was  huge demand for movie tickets. I tried in vain to book tickets even on day 3, but managed a day later. Definitely a movie to watch (both parts).

 

 

 

Genome Editing: What is in the news this week ?

Just thought to share few news clips related to Genome Editing arena (all adapted, so not my opinion! readers discretion is advised).

(1) UK Parliamentary committee publishes report on genomics and genome editing

On genome editing, the report is interested in how the UK research environment compares to the situation elsewhere, and how this field is regulated nationally and internationally (in the context of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union). The report flags up the importance of distinguishing between germline genome editing (which results in heritable changes) and somatic genome editing (which does not), as well as various issues related to human embryo research (including how it is licensed and whether there is a case for reviewing the longstanding fourteen-day limit). The report notes that ‘our inquiry has been timely because advances in genomics and genome editing mean that both fields are now being used in our health service, because the 100,000 Genomes Project is approaching its original completion date, and because Brexit will significantly alter the opportunities and challenges in these emerging areas’.

Link: http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_837300.asp

(2) Gene Editing Improves Prostate Cancer Survival, Study in Mice Shows

Link: https://prostatecancernewstoday.com/2017/05/02/gene-editing-therapy-shrinks-prostate-cancer-tumors-in-mice/

(3) Cancer Research UK – 9 burning questions about CRISPR genome editing answered. Link: http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2017/04/11/9-burning-questions-about-crispr-genome-editing-answered/

(4)  A Big Business Opportunity!! Are we ready to capture this opportunity: Genome Editing Market to Reach USD 5.54 Billion by 2021: Driven by an Increasing Demand for Synthetic Genes & Rising Government Funding – Research and Markets.

Link: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/genome-editing-market-to-reach-usd-554-billion-by-2021-driven-by-an-increasing-demand-for-synthetic-genes–rising-government-funding—research-and-markets-300443612.html

Genome Editing Market to Reach $8.1 Billion by 2025 – Analysis By Technology, Delivery Method, Application, End-use & Segment – Research and Markets.

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/genome-editing-market-reach-8-090000873.html

(5) FDA extends comment period for genome editing guidance.

Link: http://www.feedstuffs.com/news/fda-extends-comment-period-genome-editing-guidance

Life as a Post Doc (post doctoral fellow/associate)

Before you start your post doctoral journey with your freshly minted PhD degree, do keep in mind about the points raised in this article. This is not to scare potential post docs. This is merely to appraise them of the many other less ventured avenues outside academics, which could be equally if not many time more rewarding. 

Post doctoral positions are generally sought after, by fresh or mid-career doctorates. Many early stage researcher leave for greener pastures, in search for a better life. Realities of post doc careers are quite harsh than perceived. Poor working conditions with benefits offered, puts off many, from staying in research field, in the later years. Many leave their science career completely, due to lack of suitable avenues after completing post-doc.

Introduction:

There have been fierce debates on this subject, and from time to time, several articles have appeared in leading journals and bulletins all over the world. Overall, the condition of post doc has somewhat improved over the last two decade or so, in the developed nations due to increasing awareness. During the same time, many other post doc associations in the university and at national level came into existence. However, the mentality of those occupying high chairs with practicality of funding remained unchanged. Post docs, remains poorly paid till today. The reality is that the salary paid is, many a time, lower than that of a “janitor” in a university!! They work on short contracts with no guarantee on job, face retribution and ever-increasing challenges to survive in research per se from year to year. ‘Perform or perish’- remains their motto, forever, though the word used i.e. ‘performance’ is somewhat dodgy and never well defined. 2. Understanding post doc Post Docs belong to a hard working race and their poor working condition exists, which might throw an average industrial worker into severe industrial action. Yet, they face day-to-day apathy in their working conditions. They work, 24 X 7 hours a day, 365 days a year with hardly an off time taken. Further, they have ill-defined work responsibilities (Also see, Singer, 2004). They are highly educated; they hop around the continents in no time and are willing workers. Most of them are multi-tasking too and a very high standard is expected from their work [See, Website 2]. The notion behind Post Doc is that a young doctorate needs more time and experience to mature into a full-fledged scientist. It may involve working in multiple projects. Post docs positions are considered temporary, however, number of such positions is getting lesser by the day and duration is shrinking [Website 3]. The agony is that, in developed world, many faculty members keep hanging on even in their late 70s or work until death, which means the younger lot has to wait for a long, long time, sometimes into their late 40’s and early 50’s too! This makes a post doc helpless to change for better. Further, the avenues available in research are quite constricted compared to many other professions. It’s also true, that increasing number of people are joining higher education and many of them, desire for a career in research ( Benderly, 2005). This makes the situation even worse in the over-crowded science market. There could be many reasons why a person wants to be a researcher. One of them could be a feel good factor – to do something novel and it could be, many are dazzled by the life style of the professors or directors. These people hop around the world, give big lectures and earn handsome rewards from the patents they file, may be on behalf of their staff scientists, who may not get the credit as should be. Its almost like a mirage, the distant world seems to like a heaven. While, the practicality is entirely different. The life style of a full-fledged professor is different from a graduate student or a post doc…………………….

Adapted from  an old article written by me available online: http://www.postdocjournal.com/archives/515/dreams-and-reality-is-the-grass-always-greener-on-the-other-side-.htm