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14th November Current Affairs

Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial cooperation (BECA)

In News:

India and the U.S. will sign the last foundational agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial cooperation (BECA) during the upcoming 2+2 ministerial dialogue.

What is BECA?

This agreement would facilitate exchange of geospatial information between India and United States for both military and civilian use.

Significance and benefits for India from BECA:

BECA will allow India to use US expertise on geospatial intelligence and to enhance military accuracy of automated hardware systems and weapons like cruise, ballistic missiles and drones.

The plasma therapy debate

In News:

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has been considering dropping the plasma therapy from the national guidelines as it found that convalescent plasma was ineffective in arresting Covid-19.

In China and Netherlands too, the plasma therapy yielded very little or no results.

What is plasma therapy?

Plasma is the liquid part of the blood. Convalescent plasma, extracted from the blood of patients recovering from an infection, is a source of antibodies against the infection.

The therapy involves using their plasma to help others recover.

For Covid-19, this has been one of the treatment options. The donor would have to be a documented case of Covid-19 and healthy for 28 days since the last symptoms.

Way forward:

Covid care is individualised care. Use of the right drugs in the right patient does work. Experts say use of convalescent therapy has saved some lives but concerns have been raised by the PLACID trial.

Therefore, the potential harms of the non-immune components of convalescent plasma should be rigorously investigated, only donor plasma with detectable titers of neutralizing antibodies should be given to trial participants, to ensure that the potential for benefit exists for all intervention arm patients.

India-USA 2+2 Dialogue 2020

In News:

Recently, India and the USA have concluded the 3rd India-USA 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi.

Details:

The USA reiterated its support to India in defending its territorial sovereignty in the background of the ongoing standoff between India-China.

It also referred to the greater threats posed by China in the Indo-Pacific region and by the Covid-19 pandemic in general.

The first two rounds of these dialogues between both the countries were held in 2018 and 2019.

Key Points:

India has signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) with the USA.

BECA will enable the exchange of geospatial data and information between the two countries and will improve the accuracy of India’s missiles in precision strikes.

The geospatial maps and charts to be shared, will be acquired from multiple sources like satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), reconnaissance aircraft, aerostats among others.

As part of measures to enhance military to military cooperation, Liaison Officers at each other’s establishments could be leveraged to enhance information sharing.

BECA is one of the four foundational military communication agreements between the two countries. The other three are:

General Security Of Military Information Agreement.

Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement.

Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement.

Both countries released a Joint Statement on shared Indo-USA goals in the Asia-Pacific region and emphasised that the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea should not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of any nation in accordance with international law.

They also decided to expand joint capacity building activities with partner countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

Other Steps Taken:

  • Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Technical Cooperation in Earth Observations and Earth Sciences.
  • Agreement to extend the duration of the MoU on the Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership.
  • Agreement on the electronic exchange of customs data.
  • Letter of intent regarding cooperation in traditional Indian medicines.
  • Discussions on the status of Afghanistan and support for its peace process.

‘2+2’ Dialogue:

2+2 Ministerial is the highest-level institutional mechanism between the two countries.

It is a format of dialogue where the defence/foreign ministers or secretaries meet with their counterparts from another country.

India holds such talks with Australia, Japan and the USA.

Way Forward:

The signing of BECA is a significant achievement for India as it is a sign of the USA accepting the Indian request for cooperation in the advanced field of maritime domain awareness.

India-USA’s national security convergences have grown closer in a more multipolar world and the meetings as well as the agreements not only advance their individual interests but also ensure that the bilateral cooperation between them makes a positive contribution in the world arena.

Computation Analysis of Indian Genes

In News:

Recently, the results from the computation analysis of the 1029 sequenced genomes from India were published in the scientific journal, Nucleic Acid Research.

Key Points:

The analysis has found that out of 55,898,122 single nucleotide variants in India 18,016,257 (32.23%) variants are unique and found only in the samples sequenced from India.

This emphasizes the need for an India centric population genomic initiative.

The analysis was carried out by CSIR constituent labs, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.

IndiGenomes Resource Database:

It encompasses the genomic data from over 1000 whole genome sequences sequenced from across India as part of the IndiGen programme and represents diverse geographies and ethnicities.

The IndiGen Programme was launched in April 2019, under which genome sequencing of 1029 self-declared healthy Indians drawn from across the country has been completed.

Its objective was to enable genetic epidemiology and develop public health technologies applications using population genome data.

The resource provides access to over 55 million genetic variants representing the contemporary Indian population with an objective to classify variants involved in mendelian disorders and improve precision medicine outcomes.

Mendelian disorder is a type of genetic disorder, resulting due to alterations in a gene or due to abnormalities in the genome.

It enables the identification of markers for carrier screening, variations causing genetic diseases, prevention of adverse events and provides better diagnosis and optimal therapy through mining data.

This resource can provide useful insights for clinicians and researchers in comprehending genetics not only at the population level but at the individual level.

Background:

Despite having this rich genetic diversity, India has been under-represented in global genome studies. Further, the population architecture of India has resulted in high prevalence of recessive alleles.

In the absence of large-scale whole genome studies from India, the population-specific genetic variants are not adequately captured and catalogued in global medical literature.

In order to fill the gap of whole genome sequences from different populations in India, CSIR initiated the IndiGen Programme.

Genome:

A genome is all the genetic matter in an organism. It is defined as an organism’s complete set of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA), including all of its genes.

Every organism’s genetic code is contained in its DNA, the building blocks of life.

Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism.

In humans, a copy of the entire genome contains more than 3 billion DNA base pairs.

Genome sequencing:

Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome—the order of Adenine, Cytosine, Guanines, and Thymine that make up an organism’s DNA.

Application:

Genome sequencing can play a crucial role for new advancements in medical science (like predictive diagnosis and precision medicine, genomic information) and in disease management.

Through genome sequencing methodology, researchers and clinicians can easily detect the disease related to genetic disorder.

Importance of Genome Sequencing:

The study of entire genome sequences will help understand how the genome as a whole works—how genes work together to direct the growth, development and maintenance of an entire organism.

The genes account for less than 25% of the DNA in the genome, and so knowing the entire genome sequence will help scientists study the parts of the genome outside the genes.