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14th September 2022

10 Years of CRISPR

Context

The gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, which turned 10 years old this year, has led to innovations in medicine, evolution and agriculture

About

What is CRISPR technology?

  • CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.
  • It is a reference to the clustered and repetitive sequences of DNA found in bacteria, whose natural mechanism to fight some viral diseases is replicated in this gene-editing tool.

Genetic Engineering:

  • It usually involves the introduction of a new gene, or suppression of an existing gene to eliminate or introduce specific properties in an organism.
  • It has been happening for several decades now, particularly in the field of agriculture, where genetically modified variants, with specific desirable traits, are regularly developed.
  • CRISPR is simple and still far more accurate and it does not involve the introduction of any new gene from the outside.
  • Its mechanism is often compared to the ‘cut-copy-paste’, or ‘find-replace’ functionalities in common computer programmes.
  • A bad stretch in the DNA sequence, which is the cause of disease or disorder, is located, cut, and removed and then replaced with a ‘correct’ sequence.
  • The tools used to achieve this are not mechanical, but biochemical specific protein and RNA molecules.
  • The technology replicates a natural defence mechanism in some bacteria that uses a similar method to protect itself from virus attacks.

Do You Know?

  • The developers of the CRISPR technology, Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2020.


Why is it called a revolution?

  • Improved quality of life: CRISPR has begun to deliver on the near unlimited potential to improve the quality of human life.
  • Correcting genes: The technology enables a simple but remarkably efficient way to ‘edit’ the genetic codes of living organisms, thus opening up the possibility of ‘correcting’ genetic information to cure diseases, prevent physical deformities, or to even produce cosmetic enhancements.
    • The first task is to identify the particular sequence of genes that is the cause of the trouble. Once that is done, an RNA molecule is programmed to locate this sequence on the DNA strand.
    • After this, a special protein called Cas9, which is often described as ‘genetic scissors’, is used to break the DNA strand at specific points, and remove the bad sequence.

CRISPR-Cas9

  • CRISPR-Cas9 is the most common, cheap and efficient system used for genome editing.
  • CRISPR stands for ‘clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats’.
  • CRISPR is the DNA-targeting part of the system which consists of an RNA molecule, or ‘guide’, designed to bind to specific DNA bases through complementary base-pairing.
  • Cas9 stands for CRISPR-associated protein 9, and is the nuclease part that cuts the DNA.
  • The CRISPR-Cas9 system was originally discovered in bacteria that use this system to destroy invading viruses.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA):

  • Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA.
  • Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (where it is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA). 
  • Mitochondria are structures within cells that convert the energy from food into a form that cells can use.


  • The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases:
    • adenine (A)
    • guanine (G)
    • cytosine (C)
    • thymine (T)
  • DNA bases pair up with each other, A with T and C with G, to form units called base pairs. Each base is also attached to a sugar molecule and a phosphate molecule.
  • Together, a base, sugar, and phosphate are called a Nucleotides are arranged in two long strands that form a spiral called a double helix.
  • The structure of the double helix is somewhat like a ladder, with the base pairs forming the ladder’s rungs and the sugar and phosphate molecules forming the vertical sidepieces of the ladder.
  • An important property of DNA is that it can replicate, or make copies of itself.
  • Each strand of DNA in the double helix can serve as a pattern for duplicating the sequence of bases.
  • This is critical when cells divide because each new cell needs to have an exact copy of the DNA present in the old cell.

 

Annabhau Sathe’s Statue inaugurated in Moscow

Context

In a rare honour, a statue of Marathi litterateur and social reformer “Lokshahir” Annabhau Sathe, considered the Father of Dalit Literature, got inaugurated in Russian capital of Moscow.

About

About Annabhau Sathe:


  • Annabhau Sathe (real name: Tukaram Bhaurao Sathe) was born in 1920 in Maharashtra’s Satara district.
  • He is widely regarded as the Father of Dalit literature and has contributed extensively to the Ambedkarite movement.
  • In 1934, Sathe participated in a workers’ strike under the leadership of Lal Bawta Mill Workers Union.
  • It was during his days at the Matunga Labour Camp that Sathe got to know RB More, an associate of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar in the famous ‘Chavdar Lake’ Satyagraha at Mahad, and joined the labour study circle.
  • Progressive Writers Association was formed at the national level at the same time with the likes of Premchand, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Manto, Ismat Chugtai, Rahul Sankrutyayan, Mulkraj Anand as its members.
    • The group would translate the Russian work of Maxim Gorky, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev into Marathi, which Sathe got hooked on.
    • It is here that he was inspired to write street plays, stories, novels etc. In 1939, he wrote his first ballad ‘Spanish Povada’.

His Work:

  • Several of his works like ‘Aklechi Goshta,’ ‘Stalingradacha Povada,’ ‘Mazi Maina Gavavar Rahili,’ ‘Jag Badal Ghaluni Ghav’ were popular across the state.
  • Almost six of his novels were turned into films and many translated into other languages, including Russian.
  • His ‘Bangalchi Hak’ (Bengal’s Call) on the Bengal famine was translated into Bengali and later presented at London’s Royal Theatre. 
  • Sathe’s work was immensely inspired by the Russian revolution and the Communist ideology.
  • He was a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and featured among the selected authors from India whose work was translated in Russian.
  • Sathe is also regarded as the ‘Maxim Gorky’ of Indian literature.
  • He was the first Indian whose books including Powada of Stalingrad and My Journey to Russia were prescribed in Russian universities.
  • In 1943, he was part of the process that led to the formation of the Indian Peoples Theatre Association (IPTA). He became its national president in 1949.

NASA’s DART Mission

Context

Later this month, NASA’s DART will intentionally crash into Dimorphos, the asteroid moonlet of Didymos.

  • While the asteroid poses no threat to Earth, this is the world’s first test of the kinetic impact technique, using a spacecraft to deflect an asteroid for planetary defense.

Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART)

  • DART is the first-ever mission dedicated to investigating and demonstrating one method of asteroid deflection by changing an asteroid’s motion in space through kinetic impact.
  • This method will have DART deliberately collide with a target asteroid which poses no threat to Earth, in order to change its speed and path.
  • DART’s target is the binary, near-Earth asteroid system Didymos, composed of the roughly 780-meter (2,560-foot) -diameter “Didymos” and the smaller, approximately 160-meter (530-foot)-size “Dimorphos,” which orbits Didymos.
  • DART will impact Dimorphos to change its orbit within the binary system.
  • DART is also carrying a cubesat that will film the larger spacecraft's impact and beam the footage back to researchers on Earth.
  • At the time of DART's impact, Didymos will be visible enough to be a good candidate for study and distant enough to be no danger, at approximately 6.8 million miles (11 kilometers) away from Earth.

Key Objectives

  • DART is a test of our ability to achieve a kinetic impact on an asteroid and observe the asteroid’s response.
  • After DART’s kinetic impact with its target asteroid Dimorphos, an investigation team will measure how much the impact changed the asteroid’s motion in space using telescopes on Earth.
  • This mission engages the international planetary science community and embraces worldwide cooperation to address the global issue of planetary defense.
  • DART’s Mission Objectives:
    • Demonstrate a kinetic impact with Dimorphos.
    • Change the binary orbital period of Dimorphos.
    • Use ground-based telescope observations to measure Dimorphos’ period change before and after impact.
    • Measure the effects of the impact and resulting ejecta on Dimorphos.

What is an Asteroid?

  • Asteroids are small, airless rocky worlds revolving around the sun that are too small to be called planets.
  • They are also known as planetoids or minor planets.
  • In total, the mass of all the asteroids is less than that of Earth’s moon. But despite their size, asteroids can be dangerous.
  • Many have hit Earth in the past, and more will crash into our planet in the future.

Where asteroids are located?

  • Most asteroids lie in a vast ring between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
  • Not everything in the main belt is an asteroid, for instance, comets have recently been discovered there, and Ceres, once thought of only as an asteroid, is now also considered a dwarf planet.
  • Many asteroids lie outside the main belt. For instance, a number of asteroids called Trojans lie along Jupiter’s orbital path.
  • Three groups — Atens, Amors, and Apollos — known as near-Earth asteroids orbit in the inner solar system and sometimes cross the path of Mars and Earth.

Addressing major issue between the Centre and maritime States

Context

Though the government issued the Draft Indian Ports Bill (IP Bill), 2022 for stakeholder consultation, main issue between the Centre and maritime States are intact.

About

Ports in India:

  • Approximately 95 per cent of India’s trade by volume and 68 per cent by value are moved through maritime transport facilitated by 212 ports (12 major and 200 minor ports) along its 7,517 km coastline.
  • Most of the non-major ports are small fishing harbours and only a few of them cater to international shipping.
    • Major ports figure in the Union List and come under the jurisdiction of the Central government.
    • Non-major ports are in the Concurrent List and come under the respective State governments, but the Centre has overriding legislative and executive powers.
  • The major ports are governed under the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963.
  • All the non-major Ports (minor ports) are governed under the Indian Ports Act, 1908 which regulates the berths, stations, anchoring, fastening, mooring and unmooring of vessels.

Need for new bill:

  • The draft IP Bill 2022 seeks to repeal and replace the 114-year-old Indian Ports Act of 1908.
  • The Indian Ports Act, 1908 has become imperative that the Act is revamped to reflect the present-day frameworks, incorporate India’s international obligations, address emerging environmental concerns, and aid the consultative development of the ports sector in the national interest.

Key objectives of the draft bill

  • promote integrated planning between States inter-se and Centre-States through a purely consultative and recommendatory framework;
  • ensure prevention of pollution measures for all ports in India while incorporating India’s obligations under international treaties;
  • address lacunae in the dispute resolution framework required for burgeoning ports sector and
  • Usher-in transparency and cooperation in the development and other aspects through the use of data.

Key features of the bill

  • establish a national council for fostering structured growth and development of the port sector, and ensure optimum utilisation of the coastline of India
  • empower and establish State Maritime Boards for effective administration, control and management of non-major ports in India;
  • provide for adjudicatory mechanisms for redressal of port related disputes and,
  • prevention and containment of pollution at ports, and take measures for conservation of ports

What are the key international obligations addressed under the bill?

The new Bill incorporates several international instruments, to which India is a party, in the national legislation namely,

  • International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code 2004
  • International Convention for the prevention of pollution from ships (MARPOL) 1973
  • International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments (Ballast Water Management Convention) 2004

Pandemic preparedness fund

Context

To counter financial obstacles, weak infrastructure, scarcity of healthcare, etc, the World Bank Board of Directors has approved setting up a Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (PPR).

What is a Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF)?

  • Financial Intermediary Funds (FIFs) provide the global development community with independently governed multi-contributor collaboration platforms.
  • Typically focused on specific themes, FIFs are designed to mobilize significant financial support and engender collective action for development priorities, often contributing to global public goods.
  • At the heart of each FIF is a type of trust fund for which the World Bank serves as trustee.

Why is there a need for a FIF on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPR)?

  • The new FIF on PPR will help focus and sustain much-needed high-level attention on strengthening health systems.
  • The fund will provide long-term financing to low or middle-income countries to bridge the gaps that they face during a pandemic.
    • It will help such countries at regional, national, and global levels.
  • As per the WHO, FIF will help in building PPR capacity in zoonotic disease surveillance, emergency communication, management, laboratories, community engagement, critical health workforce, etc.

Who developed the plan?

  • The FIF for pandemic PPR is put forward by G20 in the presidency of Italy.
  • During a G20 Summit in 2021, under Italy's presidency, it was decided to establish G20 Joint Finance-Health Task Force for pandemic preparedness.
  • The FIF is also established by the strong support of the G20 nations and beyond.
    • At present, calls for the proposal for investments funded by the FIF will open in November 2022.
  • Officially launched in September 2022, the FIF have commitments from India, the USA, the UK, Australia, Canada, China, the European Commission, Republic of Korea, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Wellcome Trust.

Integration of Child Help-line 1098 with 112

Context

The only dedicated helpline for children, Childline 1098, running successfully for the past 26 years as a partnership between civil society and the government, will be integrated with national emergency number 112.

About

About the new circular:

  • The Ministry of Women & Child Development (WCD) has decided to integrate the Child Helpline (1098) with Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) with telephonic short code 112 and 112 India App and their linkage with District Child Protection Units (DCPUs) with the help of Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).

Issues:

  • Childline 1098 has been a very effective and successful project, and is meant exclusively for children, unlike 112, which deals with emergencies related to police matters, health and women’s safety. 
    • Civil Society fears that with the police becoming first responders to calls from children, there might be a drop in the reporting of offences.
  • Police personnel should not be the first responders as they can’t provide the support and counselling children need. 
    • Childline units typically have a phone operator, who are sometimes children rescued from the streets, a social worker, or a counsellor. 
  • Childline 1098 is not just an emergency helpline. It provides a range of services to children and, therefore, the transfer from MWCD to MHA is very odd.
    • Law and order issues constitute only a small chunk of the total cases handled by Childline. 

Do You Know?

  • Childline 1098 was set up in 1996 as a project at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
  • Childine is run as a private trust called Childline India Foundation which is funded by the Ministry of Women & Child Development (WCD).

Fall in natural rubber prices in India

Context

After a moderate post-pandemic revival, the price of natural rubber (NR) has crashed to a 16-month low of 150Rs per kg (RSS grade 4) in the Indian market.

About

Reason of sharp fall in prices:

  • The current fall in prices is attributed primarily to a weak Chinese demand and the European energy crisis, along with high inflation and an import glut, among other things. 

Natural Rubber:

  • Commercial Plantation Crop: Rubber is made from the latex of a tree called Hevea Brasiliensis.
  • Rubber is largely perceived as a strategic industrial raw material and accorded special status globally for defence, national security and industrial development.
  • Conditions for Growth: It is an equatorial crop, but under special conditions, it is also grown in tropical and sub-tropical areas.
    • Temperature: Above 25°C with moist and humid climate.
    • Rainfall: More than 200 cm.
    • Soil Type: Rich well drained alluvial soil

Natural Rubber in India:

  • Commercial cultivation of natural rubber was introduced in India by the British, although the experimental efforts to grow rubber on a commercial scale in India were initiated as early as 1873 at the Botanical Gardens, Calcutta.  
  • The first commercial Hevea plantations in India were established at Thattekadu in 1902.
  • India is currently the world’s fifth largest producer of natural rubber while it also remains the second biggest consumer of the material globally. 
  • About 40% of India’s total natural rubber consumption is currently met through imports.
  • The auto-tyre manufacturing sector accounted for 73.1% of the total quantity of natural rubber consumption. 

Japan-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise – Jimex 2022

Context

The sixth edition of Japan India Maritime Exercise 2022 (JIMEX 22) hosted by Indian Navy commenced in the Bay of Bengal recently.

About

About JIMEX 2022:

  • JIMEX series of exercises was started in January 2012. It mainly focuses on maritime security cooperation.
  • JIMEX 22 seeks to consolidate the high degree of interoperability that exists between maritime forces of the two countries, through complex exercises in the surface, sub-surface and air domains.
  • The Indian Navy is being represented by three indigenously designed and built warships;
    • Sahyadri, a multi-purpose stealth frigate and
    • Anti-Submarine Warfare Corvettes Kadmatt and Kavaratti.
  • Japan is represented by Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) ships Izumo, a Helicopter Carrier, and Takanami, a Guided Missile Destroyer.
  • Significance:
    • The sixth edition of JIMEX is not only significant due to India and Japan’s involvement in the Quad, but the occasion also marks 10 years since the exercise’s first edition.
    • It is also 70 years since diplomatic relations between India and Japan were established.

Editorial

Connecting the dots to boost the patent ecosystem

Context:

India has reported a rise in patent applications filed by Indian residents. But the issues of long pendency in the India patent ecosystem are causing hindrances to innovation. The same has also been highlighted in the recent report of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM).

What are the Issues?

  • Increase in Abandoned applications: Annual Report (2019-20) of the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs, Trademarks and Geographical Indications (CGPDTM) shows that the number of abandoned patent applications, has increased by almost 350%.
  • Long pendency discourages Innovation: Innovations usually have short-life spans, and delays in the processing of patent applications discourage applicants from following up on their applications.
  • Perverse incentives for Patent Filling: National Intellectual Property Rights Policy 2016, emphasis more on patent filing, which encourages the filing of patent applications even when the innovator knows that their claims will not pass scrutiny.
  • Limited collaboration between the industry and academia: Innovations from India, originating from collaborative research projects, and implemented and commercialized in the automotive space have been scarce.
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ThinkQ

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QUIZ - 14th September 2022

Mains Question:

Q. The pandemic has highlighted the pressing need for a ‘multilateral financial intermediary fund’ to help low- and middle-income countries become better prepared for global health crises. Do you think the new ‘Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response’ could change the global health landscape for the better? (150 words)

Question Mapping

  • Subject: International Relations (GS-II)
    • Sub-topic:  Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
  • Subject: Polity & Governance (GS-II)
    • Sub-topic: Issues related to Health

Approach

  • Introduction- Brief about the fund and its structure
  • Need of such funds
  • Discuss how does it fit in the larger global health architecture
  • Benefits of this new centralized pandemic fund
    • Complementing existing resources and fund gaps that are unaddressed
    • allowing better coordination
    • strengthening the health care workforce
    • expanding manufacturing capacity for medical commodities
    • reinforcing health surveillance systems

Verifying, please be patient.

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