The Compound Eye – Update Edition: DNA Tech Bill, Donor rights and Plan S

DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018:

The first edition of Compound Eye discussed the DNA Technology Bill 2018. It subsequently lapsed after the previous Lok Sabha dissolved before the national elections. It was subsequently re-introduced in the current Lok Sabha and has now been sent to a Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology for further scrutiny. Comments due by 18.11.2019 via email: rsc-st@sansad.nic.in.

What does the Bill do?

  • The Bill constitutes a DNA Regulatory Board which will formulate detailed guidelines.
  • The Bill mandates DNA laboratories to be registered and accredited.
  • The Bill creates DNA databanks which will hold DNA sequences in separate indices – missing persons, suspects, crime scene and offenders – for identifying unidentified deceased remains or placing a criminal at a crime scene. (Read more)

The Whistleblowers Ousted 

Nope, this story is not about US and Ukraine. It is about UK and a bunch of African countries. Whole genome sequencing costs about $800-$1200 per person. Instead companies prefer to create gene chips based on a small population sample, and then use the gene chips to analyse bigger populations. Gene chips can bring down the cost of sequencing to $100 per person. UK-based Wellcome Sanger Institute had partnered with institutions in various African countries to create this primary data set. Through its partners, Sanger obtained genomic data for more than 2500 people.

In a $2.2 million deal inked in 2017, Thermo Fisher Scientific made 75,000 gene chips, or microarrays, for Sanger based on this data set. Following this whistleblowers privately accused Sanger of commercializing the gene chip without proper legal agreements with partner institutions or the consent of the African people who donated their DNA. The institute denies any commercialisation and even Thermo Fisher Scientific has announced that it has not publicly sold any of these chips. Stellenbosch University in South Africa has demanded that Sanger return samples collected through them. (Read more)

India not to join Plan S: 

The Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, K Vijayraghavan announced at an event in Bangalore that contrary to previous plans, India will not be joining the European coalition-led Plan S.

India’s joining would have meant that research funded through Government of India grants – a major chunk of India’s research output – would be publicly available immediately upon publication. It was announced earlier that funding agencies- not authors or institutions- would cover the costs for publication. (More information on Plan S here).

While the biggest challenge would remain implementation of the scheme and timely release of funding so that publications are not held hostage, we also felt the policy created important opportunities. (Read more)

Meanwhile, here is some weird and/or wonderful news:

The pig that is using tools: In a first, pigs have been observed using tools. As an ecologist watched the Visayan warty pigs— one picked up a piece of bark in its mouth and started digging with it, pushing the soil around. Now the dataset is very small, but ain’t that cool?

The human with an in-house brewery: Yup, this man’s gut makes alcohol. His gut began producing beer after it became colonised by high levels of brewer’s yeast. Wonder how many people would believe that this is the correct gut microbiome to have?

The spiders that fox nature: Sleeping beauty and spiderwebs both waited ages for prince charming. Sleeping beauty was under a witch’s spell, but why did the spiderwebs not decompose? A study suggests that spider webs sequester nitrogen away from attacking microbes and stalls their growth. Wonder if thats how witch spells also work??