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Genetic Engineering for More Food, Cleaner Environment


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Biotechnology Presentation schedule


On 28th December:


Time: 2.00 PM


  • Genetic Engineering for More Food, Cleaner Environment



Dr.S.K.Apte

Molecular Biology Dvision

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre

Trombay, Mumbai-400085



Time: 2.30 PM



  • Energy Efficient and Green Practices by a Corporate


Mr Debraj Sengupta
Paharpur Business Centre & Software
Technology Incubator Park
21, Nehru Place Greens, New Delhi-110019


End at 3.00 PM


On 29th December:


  • Panel discussion on Open Source Biotechnology – An Idea Yet to Take- off in India


Time: 2.00 PM


Chair: Dr. MC Arunan (Sophia College for Women, Mumbai)


Panel:


Dr. Satyajit Rath (NII, New Delhi)


Dr. G. Nagarjuna (HBCSE, TIFR, Mumbai)


Dr.T. Jayaraman (TISS, Mumbai)


Dr. C. K. Raju ( Inmantec & Centre for Studies in Civilizations,Delhi)


Dr. N. Raghuram ( New Delhi)





On 30th December:


Time: 2 PM


  • ^ MEDICAL RADIOISOTOPE TECHNOLOGY AND HUMAN HEALTH



K.B. SAINIS

Director, Bio-Medical Group, Bhabha

Atomic Research Centre, Modular Laboratories, Trombay, Mumbai


Time: 2.30 PM


  • Genetically Engineered Vaccine Against Anthrax : “ From Clone to Clinic”


Prof. Rakesh Bhatnagar

School of Biotechnology, Jawaharlal Nehru University,

New Delhi-110067, India.


Time: 3.00 PM

  • Cytoskeletal Dynamics and Human Diseases


Dr.Dulal Panda

Department of Bioscience, IIT,

Mumbai


Time: 3.30 PM


  • Biotechnology in Municipal Solid Waste Management


Dr. Amiya Kumar Sahu

President

National Solid Waste Association of India

Mumbai


Time: 4 PM


  • ^ BIOTECHNOLOGY AND THE CHALLENGE OF CANCER



Dr. L. C. Padhy

Tata Institute of Fundamental Research,

Homi Bhabha Road, Mumbai 400 005, India


Time: 4.30 PM


  • Title and abstract awaited


Prof. B.C.Tripathy

School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University

New Delhi-110067


Time: 5.PM


  • Selecting Cognate Pairs of Molecules in vitro: Lessons in Molecular Evolution and Possible Applications



Prof. Pramod Yadav

Dean, School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University

New Delhi-110067



Time: 5.30 PM



  • Title and abstract awaited


Dr. Dilip kumar

Director, Central Institute of Fisheries Education

Versova, Andheri West- Mumbai- 400 061


End at 6 PM


On 31st December


Time: 2 PM

  • Radiation technolgy for the development of genetically improved crops and post harvest processing of agro products


^ Dr. S. F. D'SOUZA

Biomedical Group

Nuclear Agriculture and Biotechnology Division,

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre,

Trombay, Mumbai-400085, India.

Email: sfdsouza@ barc.gov.in


Time: 2.30 PM

  • Immunotherapy of Cancer: Issues and Challenges


Dr. S. V. Chiplunkar

Advanced Center for Treatment, Research & Education in Cancer

Tata Memorial Center, Kharghar, Navi Mumbai


Time:3.00PM

  • Social Impact of Modern Biotechnology: Developments in Biomedical Research

Santosh K.Kar

School of biotechnology, Jawaharlal Nehru University

New Delhi-110067


End at 3.30 PM

ABSTRACTS:


"Genetic Engineering for More Food, Cleaner Environment"

S.K.Apte
Molecular Biology Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Trombay, Mumbai - 400 085



Concerted efforts by plant breeders all over the world have produced a large number of high yielding crop varieties and led to green revolutions in different parts of the world. However, the actual yield potential of most crops is never realized in the field due to adverse impact of environmental stresses, such as nutrient deficiencies (N, P, and K), soil salinity, drought, heat and cold and a plethora of bacterial, viral, fungal and insect pathogens. Conventional ways of alleviating these stresses cause pollution in the form of chemical fertilizers or pesticides and other biocides. In future, the agriculture is likely to become even more stressful. Genetic engineering facilitates incorporation of novel traits from any living organism into plants and its expression at will. Using this technology several high yielding, insect / herbicide tolerant crops have been engineered and are in use in many parts of the world. Many more with improved nutritional quality or delayed ripening and other desirable characters are in the offing. These transgenic crops or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have raised several technical, environmental, biosafety and ethical concerns, which need to adequately addressed before this becomes a successful and sustainable technology. Some of these technological advancements and concerned issues will be discussed


^ MEDICAL RADIOISOTOPE TECHNOLOGY AND HUMAN HEALTH


K.B. SAINIS, Ph.D., FNASc, FMAS,

Director, Bio-Medical Group, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Modular Laboratories, Trombay, Mumbai – 400 085


The discoveries of radiation and radioactivity have proved to be a great boon to medical science. Interestingly, in a world where radiation is generally considered bad or hazardous irrespective of the dose, its use as a diagnostic or therapeutic tool has been thriving, nay, showing increasing spread across the globe. The availability of radioisotopes and labeled compounds (including radiopharmaceuticals) on a commercial scale facilitated the widespread applications of Nuclear Medicine that include radiodiagnosis, imaging and radioisotope-therapy of several diseases including cancer.

While x-rays found diagnostic application in the early 20th century, computerized tomography (CT) a three dimensional x-radiographic technique is used today even in small towns of some of the developing countries for imaging and diagnosis of cancers and other diseases and even for obtaining biopsies. Cobalt (Co)-60 teletherapy and localized brachytherapy using iodine (I)-125 or cesium (Cs)-13 are also in widespread use for treatment of cancers. Radioimmunoassay (RIA) technique permits estimation of very small quantities of biomolecules like hormones, proteins, narcotics and other drugs. The discovery of an artificial element technetium (Tc)-99m in 1938 and subsequent availability of Tc-99m generator have revolutionized medical investigation through scintigraphic techniques. In recent years the availability of short-lived radionuclides, especially, fluorine (F)-18 generated in a cyclotron, in the form of F-18 labeled deoxyglucose (FDG), is being extensively used for detection, follow-up and imaging of tumors, their metastases, inflammation, neurological disorders etc. by the positron emission tomography (PET) technique.


In India, Radiation Medicine Centre (RMC) of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in association with its Isotope ( now Radiopharmaceuticals) Division pioneered the use of radioisotopes and nuclear techniques for medical purposes. Radioiodine therapy for thyroid cancer is a well established modality and radiation synovectomy holds promise for the arthritis patients. Board of Radioisotope Technology (BRIT) of the Department of Atomic Energy makes and markets several RIA kits and radiopharmaceuticals. Radiolabelled biomolecules are also available for biotechnological applications. India’s first medical cyclotron was installed at RMC in 2002. Our country needs at least a thousand Co-60 teletherapy machines. The indigenously developed Bhabhatron by BARC and its commercial production hold a strong ray of hope in meeting this goal in the coming years. A new digital medical imaging system developed at BARC will considerable reduce the radiation dose to the patient and at the same time improve the quality of the images obtained. Some of these facilities are available at no cost to the poor and weaker sections of the society. In conclusion, medical uses of radiation and radioisotopes have certainly improved the quality of human life


^ Genetically Engineered Vaccine against Anthrax: “From Clone to Clinic”

Prof. Rakesh Bhatnagar

School of Biotechnology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi-110067, India

Ph # 011-26704079, 26742040 (Telefax)

rakbhat01@yahoo.com, rakeshbhatnagar@mail.jnu.ac.in


The nature of bio-terrorism resulting from anthrax attack is such that an aggressor is likely to strike at a time and place calculated to induce maximum terror through mass casualties. In the absence of specific intelligence in terms of medical suveillance and integrated real-time detection systems, the unpredictable nature of such events compels the development of medical countermeasures, which will enable the authorities to treat the exposed individuals. Early treatment is essential, when the disease reaches a point at which antibiotics are no longer effective owing to the accumulation of a lethal level of toxin, even though the organism is sensitive to the agent. The currently recommended postexposure treatment is a combination of an antibiotic (ciprofloxacin) and a licensed human vaccine AVA (Highly toxic with side effects).

We have PCR-cloned and overexpressed the anthrax protective antigen gene. Bioprocess optimization was done to improve the yields of the genetically engineered protective antigen. The total yield of genetically engineered vaccine obtained was 25 g from a 5-liter bioreactor, which is equivalent to 1 million shots. The genetically engineered protein was found to be functionally and biologically identical to its B. anthracis antigen. Toxicity studies conducted on this protein indicated that the protein is devoid of any toxicity and can be safely used for the development of a safe and effective genetically engineered vaccine against anthrax. Phase II clinical trials are being done as per guidelines of Drug Controller of India and US FDA. Technology for making genetically engineered vaccine against anthrax has already been transferred to Panacea Biotec Ltd., New Delhi, a pharmaceutical company already in the business of making polio and Hepatitis B vaccine.


^ BIOTECHNOLOGY AND THE CHALLENGE OF CANCER


L. C. Padhy

Tata Institute of Fundamental Research,

Homi Bhabha Road, Mumbai 400 005, India.


The challenge of cancer has engaged the best human minds for more than a century and a satisfactory solution to problems, related to various aspects of this disease type, is yet to emerge. In the past several decades, we have learnt that normal cells may become cancerous after they are exposed to biological agents such as bacteria and viruses, chemical agents such as carcinogens and mutagens or physical agents such as UV- and X-rays. In the last two and half decades, the possible roles of oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes in cancer have been unraveled. More recently, cancer has been linked to abnormalities of stem cells. In this talk, I shall briefly discuss how new ideas and methods in modern biotechnology may help us to conquer the scourge of this disease.


^ Selecting Cognate Pairs of Molecules in vitro: Lessons in Molecular Evolution and Possible Applications



Jyoti Bala, Chanchal Kumar and Pramod Yadava*
School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 110067



The pre-cellular evolution of life-like assemblies of molecules depended on cognate pairs of molecules staying together for longer than non-cognate molecules. In the process, they might have influenced each others structure and function. A large number of such events would have lasted for a transient while some might have found super-assemblies with defined self-propagating form and function. Most of the life processes can be visualized as cascades of interactions among mutually cognate molecules e.g., substrate enzyme, ligand-receptor, signal-signal transduction intermediates, antigen-antibody, and drug-drug target etc. all illustrate interaction among cognate molecules in organized living systems. However, the probability of finding cognate structures in a randomly generated pool of variants is rather low and one depends on a vast pool of such molecules

to find such pairs.

RNA has emerged as a molecule of significance in terms of its catalytic potentials and in terms of its regulatory roles with reference to several pathways. RNA can interact with other molecules within cells based either on sequence complementarity or on its structural compatibility with them. With the advent of technology to synthesize and
amplify random sequences of oligonucleotides by replicative or transcriptional reactions in vitro, it has become possible to generate such pools and affinity select molecules recognizing a chosen ligand. We make use of this possibility for selecting RNA molecules binding with glutathione (a molecule of significance in keeping cellular health) and calcium (one of the earliest signaling molecules in the living world). Visualization of secondary structures of these molecules reveals a polyphyletic origin although there are signs of conservation of some motifs among different classes. We propose to use these RNA molecules for modulating availability of their cognate ligands in biological
situations regulated by these ligands.


(*Corresponding authors email: pky0200@mail.jnu.ac.in ; Financial support received from UGC and CSIR is gratefully acknowledged)


Radiation technology for the development of genetically improved crops and post harvest processing of agro products


^ Dr. S. F. D'SOUZA

Biomedical Group

Nuclear Agriculture and Biotechnology Division,

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre,

Trombay, Mumbai-400085, India.

Email: sfdsouza@ barc.gov.in


Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) is playing an important role in addressing various national needs through the peaceful applications of radiations and radioisotopes aiming towards self sufficiency and better life for our large population, in terms of energy production, health and food security.. Use of radioisotopes in agriculture for increasing crop yields and minimizing post-harvest losses is one of the most important fields of peaceful applications of atomic energy for societal benefit.

Availability of wide range of genetic variability is the main stay of plant improvement. Improvement of economically important plants can be achieved by cross breeding, somaclonal variation, recombinant DNA technology or mutation breeding. Mutation breeding is one of the important tools for creating the genetic variability in a short period of time. The novel genes identified in induced mutations can play an important role for preserving and upgrading biodiversity. Mutations may alter one or more of the yield contributing factors leading to higher yields and / or impart resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses and improve quality parameters such as oil and protein quality and quantity, low antinutritional factors, seed size, colour etc

At BARC, radiation induced mutation techniques were successfully used for creating genetic variability in important crops. Using radiation induced mutation and cross-breeding, 32 improved crop varieties developed by B.A.R.C. have been released and notified for commercial cultivation by the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India. These include : 12 groundnut, 2 soybean, 2 mustard, 4 blackgram (urid), 7 greengram (mung), 2 pigeonpea (tur) and 1 each in cowpea (chowli), rice and jute. Some of these varieties especially in groundnut, mung and urid are popular throughout the country and have made good socio-economic impact. Mutation breeding is also complimented with various molecular techniques.

Though India is the leading producer of food in the world, ironically it also registers high post-harvest losses. Thus strategies to increase food production must be complemented with appropriate post-harvest practices and value addition. Issues related to shelf-life, quality and quarantine are the major stumbling blocks to trade, both national and international. Radiation technology offers multidimensional solutions to these problems. The technology can complement and supplement existing and emerging techniques of value addition. The country has the necessary know-how and expertise with the department of Atomic Energy to build and operate radiation-processing plants. Food preservation using radiation involves controlled application of energy of radiations such as gamma rays, X-rays, and accelerated electrons to food and agricultural commodities. It provides an effective alternative to fumigants, which are being banned and phased out due to their deleterious effects on human health and environment. This technology can thus complement and sustain agricultural productivity


Immunotherapy of Cancer: Issues and Challenges

^

Dr. S. V. Chiplunkar


Advanced Center for Treatment, Research & Education in Cancer

Tata Memorial Center, Kharghar, Navi Mumbai

schiplunkar@actrec.gov.in


Activating the immune response against resident cancer cells has been ‘dream’ of immunologists since Ehrlich originally proposed his ‘magic bullet’ strategy for targeting cytotoxic agents to tumor cells via tumor-specific antibodies. During the past 10 years, cancer immunotherapy has undergone a renaissance and there are now numerous experimental strategies that have demonstrated the efficacy in experimental animal models and are being used in clinical settings. Therapeutic antibodies have become a major strategy in clinical oncology owing to their ability to bind specifically to primary and metastatic cancer cells with high affinity and create antitumor effects by complement-mediated cytolysis and antibody-dependent, cell-mediated cytotoxicity (naked antibodies) or by the focused delivery of radiation or cellular toxins (conjugated antibodies).The recent clinical and commercial success of anticancer antibodies such as rituximab and trastuzumab has created great interest in antibody-based therapeutics for hematopoietic malignant neoplasms and solid tumors.

The cost of currently available monoclonal antibody therapies is far higher than that of conventional therapies. It is therefore imperative to develop indigenous novel monoclonal antibodies .The future of such a ‘knowledge based’ industry depends on the protection and commercialization of the outcome of these innovations through strong Intellectual property laws. Forging strategic alliances between the academia and big pharma companies will make the ‘bench to bedside’ dream of cancer immunotherapy a reality.


^ Social Impact of Modern Biotechnology: Developments

in Biomedical Research


Santosh K Kar

School of Biotechnology

Jawaharlal Nehru University

New Delhi-110067


Modern Biotechnology is having significant impact on biomedical research today. This is very clearly evident not only in basic research that are being carried out to understand various disease processes but also in our efforts to develop diagnostic tools and vaccines for them. Inspite of intense efforts we do not have effective vaccines for diseases like Tuberculosis, Malaria and AIDS. By using information and tools that are available today rational designing of vaccine for these diseases are possible.

For example we can now find out how Mycobacterium tuberculosis survives inside an immune competent host and causes the pathological manifestations attributed to tuberculosis. Once we know the mycobacterial genes that regulate the process then suitable therapeutic interventions can be designed not to allow those genes to be expressed so that the pathogen can not survive. For this the availability of sequence information of M. tuberculosis and human genome has become helpful. Once we know what enables a vast majority of the individuals who are infected with M. tuberculosis to protect themselves by mounting protective immune response we can design vaccines that can induce such responses in humans in a population .Thus a vaccine can be rationally designed. Various aspect of all this will be discussed.


^ Biotechnology : Panel Discussion


Open Source Biotechnology- A Movement yet to Take-off


M.C.Arunan, Co-Chairperson, Biotechnology Research Committee, Indian Academy of Social Sciences.

Brain Research & Cognitive Sciences Laboratory, Department of Life Sciences, Sophia College for women, Mumbai, India.

e-mail: mcarunan@gmail.com


A Convenient Introduction:

Dramatic recent expansion of intellectual property protection in the field of biotechnology has led to concerns that ongoing innovation will be blocked unless action is taken to preserve access to and freedom to operate with those tools that are important for further research and development.


The ”open source” approach to technology licensing, development and commercialization evolved out of the free software movement, initiated in the early 1980s in response to restrictive copyright licensing practices adopted by commercial software developers. This approach offers a means of reconciling the public interest in broad access to software development tools with the economic self interest of intellectual property owners.


Building on discussions with public and private sector industry participants,

funding agencies, leaders of the free and open source software movement and scholars in a range of disciplines, we propose to assess the desirability and feasibility of extending open source principles to biotechnology research and development.


Some argue that ”open source biotechnology” is both desirable and broadly

feasible, and demonstrates that many of the essential elements of an embryonic

open source movement are already present in this field.


The tragedy of the anticommons:

Where property rights on multiple components of a single technology are owned

by a number of separate entities, the development and commercialisation of new

products requires co-ordination among many different actors. In a transaction

cost-free world, where everyone has perfect knowledge and there are no impediments or costs associated with negotiation, this would pose no problem because property rights would be transferred through private bargaining to the entity that values them the most. But in reality, transaction costs are positive, and the greater the number and complexity of negotiations, the higher the transaction costs. Michael Heller has described the situation where multiple owners each have a right to exclude others from using a scarce resource as a ”tragedy of the anticommons”: if owners are unable to negotiate successfully for the bundling of rights so that someone has an effective privilege of use, the resource may be underused and the total potential value of the rights (private and social) may not be realized.


Heller’s theory of anticommons tragedy is not a new idea, but a restatement

of a problem familiar to economists – that of co-ordinating complementary assets in a high technology setting. The concept of asset complementarity (possession of one asset has an effect on the marginal value of another asset) is highly relevant to biotechnology research and development because effective co-ordination can be particularly valuable during times of rapid technological change or in complex systems industries – both characteristics of the biotechnology industry – yet is made more difficult by additional uncertainty or complexity.5 It is therefore unsurprising that it appears frequently in discussions of the likely impact of intellectual property rights in biotechnology.


The first application of Heller’s theory in biotechnology was in the biomedical

context. In a 1998 paper in the journal Science, Heller and Eisenberg pointed to

the proliferation of small-scale intellectual property rights in biomedical research

since the 1980s as an example of the tragedy of the anticommons: when users

need access to multiple patented inputs in order to create a single useful product, granting too many property rights upstream stifles socially valuable innovations further downstream in the course of research and product development. ”Anticommons” terminology has since been applied to similar concerns regarding agricultural biotechnology and Biomedicine for three reasons. The first is that biomedicine and agriculture are the most advanced (in terms of product development) and economically significant sectors of the biotechnology industry to date. The second is that the two fields are interesting to compare because they are closely related in terms of both the technology and the types of institutions involved, yet distinct in that they are differently funded, commercial products are aimed at different end consumers, and they are supported by different research and development communities. Finally, the legitimate end goals of biomedical and agricultural research – health and food security – are by far the most pressing concerns of the poor, who make up a large majority of the world’s population.


Further,the concept of ”scientific progress” was originally intimately

connected with an ideal of science pursued as a public good in the public

interest.


To the extent that privatisation of life sciences research and development undermines the global public interest, even a rapid rate of technical innovation could therefore not be described as ”progress” in this sense.


Ref: Hope, J.E., (2004) Ph.D Thesis, Australian National Univ.



A Community Agenda for Sci-Tech Innovation


Satyajit Rath , National Institute of Immunology , Aruna Asaf Ali Road , New Delhi 110067, E-mail: satyajit@nii.res.in

In the context of India's accession to the WTO regime, a great deal of heated discussion has been generated in public discourse. Opinions both emphatically for and against the product patent regime have been aired at length, and both ideological and pecuniary motives have been alleged and disparaged with exemplary vim. Yet, a major issue for science and society, - one that has, like the poor, always been with us and should have, like the poor, come to the forefront of public concern in the present context of the market-driven state, - is notable by its complete absence from the arena. This issue is the design of policies that would foster scientific creation. It is assumed by all sides in the present debates, if for a disparate variety of often somewhat dubious reasons, that scientific creativity forms the bedrock on which long-term societal progress depends, and yet, little thought has been given to looking afresh at the ways and means by which scientific creation may best be promoted today.

Societal support of scientific research has two separate and distinct, although linked, objectives. The first objective is the acquisition of sufficient understanding of issues and problems to provide inputs into the making of public policy. This objective is fulfilled by public-sector and/or non-profit autonomous organizations such as universities and research institutions. Examples would be, say, a sophisticated understanding of biodiversity so that sustainable management of the biosphere can be better designed for the continued public good, a detailed understanding of the ways in which climate changes occur so that food and agriculture policies may be optimally designed, or the comprehension of cause-and-effect relationships in health and disease so that policies of public health, nutrition and workplace management may be best suited to public needs. For the fulfillment of this objective, it is necessary that the results of such research possess a high level of predictive credibility. As scientific understanding improves, it has become more and more apparent that purely reductionist paradigms, in which small problems could be examined in isolation, are unlikely to be adequate for this purpose. It is therefore essential that cooperation in the scientific community on a far wider scale than has been the case so far is critical if major advances are to be expected. Yet, the current contours of the scientific enterprise are defined by competitive notions of exclusive discovery. Are there spaces to be found in which new, more intimately cooperative modes of scientific enquiry can be initiated?

The second objective of societal support for scientific research is the generation of new or usefully altered technologies for the public good. Newly developed technologies are meaningful only if they are manufactured and become available. Since a dominant pathway for manufacture and wide distribution is via the marketplace, successful development of new technologies can bring in profits. Manufacture and distribution are undertaken because they bring in profits, and in the process stimulate the economy, generate jobs, and contribute to national economic development. However, this avenue is entirely dependent on a market economy, and provides little if any significant benefit for those citizens who cannot effectively participate with dignity in the marketplace because of limitations such as poverty, lack of employment, and/or lack of empowerment. How are research and innovation policies to be designed so that technologies providing substantial benefit to the underprivileged are created and used? This is a crucial question since the bulk of innovative research on which technologies are based is still carried out the world over in public sector research institutions (especially in the expanding biotech sphere).

It is certainly possible to take such a discussion into pathways for 'combating' the more reprehensible effects of, say, product patents. Formal efforts at 'patent-busting' would come to mind in this connection. But this would be a reactive approach in the main though not entirely, and would not properly explore the new strengths of the globally interconnected scientific community. What is needed is to explore new ways of establishing 'innovation commons', in which new technologies and methodologies are developed by cooperative communities. Information technology provides a stellar example of this kind. Yet, IT is somewhat unique in being an area where the artifacts to be used take relatively little capital-intensive manufacture. Is it possible to design such approaches for other areas of the scientific enterprise such as, say, the life sciences and biotech? What sort of shapes might such efforts need to take in order to succeed? Indeed, what would 'success' mean for such endeavours? Is it possible to envisage ways by which artifacts can be developed and reach the community without industrial mediation? Is it possible that such efforts may lead to entirely new ways of discovery? It is essential that public discourse begins to grapple with such questions and possibilities.

A possible example in this context would be the development of useful crop varieties in the agribiotech sector. The bulk of 'innovative technology' in this arena currently appears focused on making genetically modified crops (GMOs, so to say), a technology that is patent-protected by the MNC sector. An interesting step away from this corporate model of agribiotech development has been the establishment of an 'open source biology' platform, centered around new, unpatented microbes useful for making transgenic plants. However, such a 'free source' approach still depends on the manufacturing sector for market delivery of products. Also, it still involves making transgenic crops, which is a technology replete with implementation difficulties of both the political and the environmental kind.

One alternate possibility that is being discussed globally is to take advantage of the growing ability to sequence the entire genetic sequence of individual organisms at steadily declining expense. The incorporation of such a step in traditional plant breeding for advantageous traits can allow the breeding programmes to overcome some of the major obstacles to creating crop varieties with advantageous traits that breed true so that seed can be re-used. It would allow the identification of combinations of genes that confer a particular trait and thus allow reliable selection of varieties with combinations of many advantageous traits, and it would even allow the creation of carefully engineered crops in which the introduced gene form providing advantage is not from some other species but from the host crop itself. Such a programme would be of relatively little interest to the mega-profit-sector since farmers can re-use seed. It would require little by way of a manufacturing intermediary, since experimentally generated seed can simply be handed out to be bred by farmers themselves. And it is a programme that would demand a large-scale cooperative global effort between farmer groups, breeders and scientists. Farmer groups would need to provide the necessary inputs critical for prioritization of focus, as well as participating in the field trials involved. Breeders would need to collect and maintain source varieties and carry out careful breeding. Scientists must, on the other hand, generate new ways of handling and interpreting the large mass of data that sequencing-assisted breeding would yield, - essentially, cutting-edge science would result from the enterprise as well. This is not to say that there are no difficulties with this approach, or that it is a sure recipe for success, - it is neither. Rather, it is to suggest a possible example of ways in which the framework of present-day science and technology can be re-cast and used in innovative ways for cooperative generation of useful knowledge.

Do similar possibilities exist in the area of drug discovery? Clearly, there is a sense of impending doom about the currently mainstream model of drug discovery, in which large pharma (or small entrepreneurial biotech) use large-scale drug search methods that are still mostly empirical although the component of molecular biological causality has gone up in recent years. The output of new drugs is steadily declining. This is in part due to a version of the 'worked-over field' problem, and in part due to the empirical nature of the process which mandates very large-scale efforts, leading major pharma to 'not bother' about drugs that will not provide large-scale, enduring sales and profits over the entire duration of the patent protection and beyond.

Thus, a globally collaborative public domain model of drug discovery would be attractive. However, unlike IT, or even the agribiotech example earlier, both the discovery process and the dissemination of artifacts are currently capital-intensive processes. One way of making the discovery process less capital-intensive is to distribute costs by using parallel processing, in which the efforts of large numbers of public-domain centres would generate the actual data. A reduction in the empirical nature of the process can be imagined using the growing ability noted earlier to generate large amounts of global-scale genomic-proteomic data couple to the steadily growing (though still inadequate) predictive power of open-source in silico modeling. None of these components of the discovery process are available in ready-made fashion. Once again, prioritization of focus will depend critically on patient, consumer and public-health activist groups in civil society, as well any successful transparent clinical trials of the outcomes. Thus, the approach can result in the creation of both cutting-edge science and of a public-interest transparent approach to drug discovery and validation. However, drug production for dissemination will require access to the capital-intensive industrial process that is currently not available in the public-sector, public-interest domain. New ways of non-exclusive licensing, possibly coupled to ways of addressing the issue of costs, will need to be explored. Thus, none of these possibilities in public scitech innovation can be addressed by a single process model, making it imperative that the issues involved be discussed in detail in public discourse if outcomes favorable to social empowerment are to result.






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