Gain of function
The term ‘gain of function research’ has recently cropped up in the debate about the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
What is Gain-of-function Research?
‘Gain of function’ is a field of research focused on growing generations of microorganisms, under conditions that cause mutations in a virus.
These experiments are termed ‘gain of function’ because they involve manipulating pathogens in a way that they gain an advantage in or through a function, such as increased transmissibility.
Such experiments allow scientists to better predict emerging infectious diseases, and to develop vaccines and therapeutics.
How is it carried out?
It involves deliberately altering an organism in the lab, altering a gene, or introducing a mutation in a pathogen to study its transmissibility, virulence and immunogenicity.
This is done by genetically engineering the virus and by allowing them to grow in different growth mediums, a technique called serial passage.
Issues related to the research:
Gain-of-function research involves manipulations that make certain pathogenic microbes more deadly or more transmissible.
There is also ‘loss-of-function’ research, which involves inactivating mutations, resulting in a significant loss of original function, or no function to the pathogen.
Gain-of-function research reportedly carries inherent biosafety and biosecurity risks and is thus referred to as ‘dual-use research of concern’ (DURC).
Serial passaging involves allowing the pathogen to grow under different circumstances and then observing the changes.
Relevance to Covid-19 pandemic:
The discussion around gain of function research came back to focus recently, after a report argued that the possibility of the virus accidentally leaking out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology could not be entirely dismissed.
While scientists had earlier ruled out the possibility of the virus being ‘genetically engineered’, a recent report said serial passaging may have led to the evolution of the virus during an ongoing gain of function research project in the Chinese city.
How is it regulated in India?
All activities related to genetically engineered organisms or cells and hazardous microorganisms and products are regulated as per the “Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells Rules, 1989”.
In 2020, the Department of Biotechnology issued guidelines for the establishment of containment facilities, called ‘Biosafety labs’.
The notification provides operational guidance on the containment of biohazards and levels of biosafety that all institutions involved in research, development and handling of these microorganisms must comply with.
Chief of Defence Staff
Chief of Defence Staff to chair important meeting to sort out issues on theatre command
The meeting is called to iron out the differences on issue of the structure of the Theatre Commands.
The war fighting structure of the Armed Forces (Army, Air Force and Navy) is being reorganised into theatre commands with an aim to have the assets of all three forces under one commander responsible for all operations under his theatre.
At present, the three armed forces have together 17 commands with Army and Air Force having seven commands each and Navy has three commands.
Read this to know more about theatre commands.
He will be the single-point military adviser to the government as suggested by the Kargil Review Committee in 1999.
He will be a Four-star General.
CDS acts as the permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee which will also have three service chiefs as members.
His core function will be to foster greater operational synergy between the three service branches of the Indian military and keep inter-service frictions to a minimum.
Not eligible to hold any Government office after demitting the office of CDS.
No private employment without prior approval for a period of five years after demitting the office of CDS.
Roles and functions:
CDS will provide “single-point military advice”to the government, inject synergy in planning, procurements and logistics in the armed forces.
It will ensure integration of land-air-sea operations through the eventual setting up of theatre commands.
The CDS will also function as the military advisor to the PM-led Nuclear Command Authority,as also have direct command of tri-Service organizations to handle the new warfare domains of space and cyberspace.
He will function as the Principal Military Adviser to the Defence Minister and also as the Permanent Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC).
The CDS will be member of Defence Acquisition Council and Defence Planning Committee.
NISHTHA: Teachers’ Training Programme
Ministry of Tribal Affairs and NCERT come together on a joint mission for NISHTHA Capacity Building Programme for Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) Teachers and Principals.
What is NISHTHA?
National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA) is a national mission to improve learning outcomes at the elementary level. This is done through integrated teacher training.
It is the largest teachers’ training programme of its kind in the world.
It has been launched under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Samagra Shiksha in 2109-20.
To motivate and equip teachers to encourage and foster critical thinking in students and also teachers will get awareness and develop their skills on various aspects.
Training will be conducted directly by 33120 Key Resource Persons (KRPs) and State Resource Persons (SRP) identified by the State and UTs, who will in turn be trained by 120 National Resource Persons identified from National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA).