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1. National Biopharma Mission

1.1. About National Biopharma mission

  • It is an Industry-Academia Collaborative Mission for accelerating discovery research to early development for biopharmaceuticals.

  • The World Bank assisted INNOVATE IN INDIA (i3) program under this mission aims to create an enabling ecosystem to promote entrepreneurship and indigenous manufacturing in the sector

  • The focus of the mission is to:

  • Develop new vaccines, bio-therapeutics, diagnostics and medical devices to address the rising burden of diseases.

  • bring isolated centres of excellence (Academia) together, enhance regional capabilities and strengthen the current bio-clusters network in terms of capacities as well as quantity and quality of output.

  • deliver 6-10 new products in the next five years and create several dedicated facilities for next-generation skills.

  • To develop platform technologies for product validation, link institutions to strengthen clinical trial networks, promote partial derisking for novel products, and build capacities in emerging areas such as bioethics, bioinformatics etc.

  • The initial focus will be on Vaccines for HPV, Dengue and biosimilars for cancer, diabetics and rheumatoid arthritis and medical devices and diagnostics.

Key components

  • Strengthening the pilot-to-market innovation ecosystem for providing grant funding to support innovation, training, and technology transfer.

  • Accelerating the pilot-to-market process for specific products to provide grant funding to consortia of private, public, and academic institutions to accelerate the development of low-cost select vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, diagnostics, and medical devices.

  • Project management and monitoring and evaluation, aims to cover the operating costs incurred

  • Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a public-sector enterprise under Department of Biotechnology (DBT), is the implementing agency of the mission.

2. Earth Bio-Genome Project (EBP)

About Earth Genome Project

  • It is an international consortium of scientists which will undertake the project that aims to sequence, catalogue, and characterize the genomes of every eukaryotic biodiversity on Earth over a period of 10 years to sequence 1.5 million species in three phases.

  • There are about 8 million eukaryotic species and only 0.2% of eukaryotic genome have been sequenced so far which are still in the crudest form.

  • However the EBP project will help to create a detailed genetic sequence and reveal evolutionary connections among genus, orders and families that will make up the Digital Library of life.

Significance –

  • EBP will address a wide range of issues which humanity faces such as climate change on biodiversity, conservation of endangered species and ecosystems and preservation and enhancement of ecosystem services.

  • It could also lead to discovery of more drugs and let researchers find more sources of food as well.

  • Data sharing policies need to be placed to ensure permanent, freely available resources for future scientific discovery while respecting access and benefit sharing guidelines of the Nagoya Protocol.

  • The organisational and scientific challenges are also being highlighted for the execution of the project and require a coordinated global effort just like the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

  • Collection of samples will be difficult due to remoteness of their natural habitat.

  • The large database thus created would also require a space as large as 200 petabyte .

  • Securing a funding of $4.7 billion is also a challenge.


Challenges –

  • World Economic forum is also collaborating with EGP through its Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth Initiative under which they are developing Earth Bank Codes.

  • Thus the Fourth Industrial Revolution in biology could offer innovations to link new models for biodiversity management.

  • Other Partners of EBP – Africa, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union and United States, Global Genome Biodiversity Network, the Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance, the i5K Initiative to sequence 5000 Arthropod Genome and Genome 10K Project.

  • It will also promote citizen-scientist initiative.

3. Ban On Oxytocin

3.1. About Oxytocin

  • Oxytocin is a hormone produced in humans by the hypothalamus (a part of brain) and secreted by the pituitary gland. It is also produced in animals naturally.

  • Usage of Oxytocin- o During Childbirth- The hormone stimulates the uterine muscles to contract, so labor begins. It is also used to control post-delivery bleeding

  • Breastfeeding- It promotes lactation by moving the milk into the breast during feeding.

  • Human bonding activities- released naturally during sex, it is also known as ‘love hormone’.

  • It has been misused for increasing milk production in animals, increasing size of vegetables, accelerate puberty among trafficked girls etc.

4. Project Dhoop ​

4.1. About the Project Dhoop

  • It is a nationwide campaign launched by FSSAI along with NCERT, New Delhi Municipal Council and North MCD Schools to spread awareness about consumption of Vitamin D through natural sun light and consuming fortified food among school going children.

  • The project urges the schools to shift their morning assembly timing to noon time so that children are able to absorb optimum levels of Vitamin D through natural sunlight.

  • It will ensure that the children are exposed to sun light that will give them the required 90% of Vitamin through sun light.

  • The sunshine from 11AM to 1PM is most beneficial for bones of human body because during that time the best UVB radiation is received.

4.2.  Vitamin D and its importance for the body

  • Vitamin D is essential for the development of human bones.

  • It facilitates absorption of calcium and phosphorus by intestines and their retention in the body and deposition in bones and teeth.

  • When skin is exposed to sun, the cholesterolin in the skin converts the cholesterol to Vitamin D via additional conversions in the liver and kidneys.

  • The deficiency of Vitamin D can cause Rickets in children and Osteomalacia in adults, whereas acute deficiency could lead to brain, cardiovascular and kidney damage.

  • Source of Vitamin D – Fish liver oil, egg yolk, milk, liver etc.

  • According to recent study it was found that more than 90% of boys and girls across various cities in Indian cities are deficient in Vitamin D.

Techniques for Debris Removal

Active Debris Removal (ADR)

  • An external vehicle supplies the mechanism by which the disposal is performed


Postmission Disposal-

  • An object is placed on a trajectory that causes it to reenter Earth’s atmosphere and impact in a particular region.

  • Putting objects in less used orbits.

  • Increasing rate of orbital decay through using a drag enhancement device

  • Orbital decay refers to the continuous reduction of the altitude of a satellite.


About RemoveDebris Mission

  • It is co-funded by the European Commission and the project partners led by the Surrey Space Centre (SSC), University of Surrey, UK.

  • It is 100kg demonstrator project launched onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket

  • It carries its own "junk" - two small cubesats as mock targets to demonstrate some of the Active Debris Removal (ADR) technologies which are following- o Net capture- capturing using net.

  • Harpoon capture- Using Harpoon to allow the junk to be maneuvered out of orbit for a re-entry.

  • Vision-based navigation (VBN)- for tracking debris using VBN camera and LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging).

  • Dragsail de-orbitation –allows the satellite to de-orbit quicker, and to burn up faster in the Earth’s atmosphere.

5.1. Issues related to Space Junk

  • Huge space junk: Only 1,400 of the 19,000 artificial objects presently being tracked in Earth orbit are functional satellites. The remaining objects are collectively known as "space debris".

  • Anti-satellite weapons development: The intentional destruction of the Fengyun-1C weather satellite by China in 2007 has created huge debris and the race of creating ASWs is likely to aggravate the problem

  • Accidents: The accidental collision of American and Russian communications satellites in 2009 greatly increased the number of large debris. However, such collisions are bound to increase with increasing ambitions of countries in space.

  • No international treaty on orbital debris at present: However, Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IDAC) has been formed comprising various space agencies as an international governmental forum for the worldwide coordination of activities related to the issues of man-made and natural debris in space.

  • Voluntary guidelines: United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space has given some guidelines regarding this but they are voluntary in nature.

6. Einstein Ring

6.1. About Hubble Space Telescope:

  • It was launched in 1990 in the Lower Earth Orbit and was named after Edwin Hubble who determined that the universe extends beyond milky way and was the first to prove that it is ever expanding as well.

  • It was built as a collaboration of both NASA and ESA (European Space Agency)

  • This telescope could last till 2030-40 and will be replaced by James Webb Space Telescope which will be launched in 2020.

  • According to the General Relativity theory of Albert Einstein, light can get deflected when passing through gravitational field of a massive body. Therefore, a massive object would warp space and time.

  • When light from a distant object/source (e.g. a galaxy), pass by an extremely large mass/lens (e.g. another galaxy or galaxy cluster), it gets diverted and distorted around the massive intervening cluster and is forced to travel along many different light paths toward Earth, making it seem as though the galaxy is in several places at once.


This is called Gravitational Lens effect.

  • Einstein Ring is a kind of gravitational lens which is formed when the galaxy cluster is so closely aligned that the otherwise divergent light is focussed as a visible ring by them.

  • The rings and lenses magnify objects that otherwise would be too distant and dim to see in today's telescopes.

  • When the amount of bending of light is analyzed and the required bending mass is found greater than the visible mass of the cluster, it shows the presence of Dark matter.

7. Esa’s Gaia Mission

7.1. More about Gaia mission

  • In the latest data, it pins down the positions of nearly 1.7 billion stars and also helps in revealing the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy.

  • It is a leap forward from ESA’s Hipparcos satellite, Gaia’s predecessor and the first space mission for astrometry.

  • The new data not only includes positions, distance indicators and motions of stars in the milky way, but also of asteroids within our Solar System and stars beyond our Galaxy.

  • With these accurate measurements it is possible to separate the parallax of stars from their true movements through the Galaxy.

  • Analysing all these could provide clues to the nature of dark matter and could lead to a more precise measurement of Hubble constant, which describes how fast the universe is expanding.

8. Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (Tess) Mission

8.1. Details about TESS

  • TESS will be the first space-based, all-sky surveyor to search for exo-planets (the planets outside of our own solar system), specifically those that are Earth-like, and close enough for scientists to study them further.

  • SpaceX Falcon9 rocket (reusable launch vehicle) was used to liftoff the satellite and put it in orbit.

9. Isro's IRNSS-1I Satellite

9.1. Details about IRNSS-1I

  • It is the eighth satellite to join the IRNSS satellite constellation.

  • IRNSS-1I will replace IRNSS-1A, the first of the seven navigation satellites, which has become ineffective after its three rubidium atomic clocks failed.

  • It will be placed in a sub-geosynchronous transfer orbit and at its closest point will be 284 km above the Earth and at its farthest will be 20,650 km above the Earth.

  • Like all other IRNSS satellites, IRNSS-1I will also carry two payloads - navigation payload (determines position, velocity and time) and ranging payload (determines the frequency range of the satellite).

10. Sounding Rocket: Rh-300 MKII

Related Information

  • In 1975, all sounding rocket activities were consolidated under the Rohini Sounding Rocket (RSR) Programme.

  • RH-75, with a diameter of 75mm was the first Indian sounding rocket, which was followed by RH-100 and RH-125 rockets.

  • Currently, operational sounding rockets- include three versions namely RH-200, RH-300-Mk-II and RH-560-Mk-III.

10.1. About the sounding rocket

  • They take their name from the nautical term "to sound," which means to take measurements.

  • They are one or two stage solid propellant rockets with a payload of 60kg, and altitude capacity of 160km, used for probing the upper atmospheric regions and for space research.

  • Objective - is to measure neutral wind in the dynamo region (80-120 km) of equatorial ionosphere using the indigenously developed Electron Density and Neutral Wind Probe (ENWi) and perform cross-validation using an independent Tri Methyl Aluminium (TMA) release technique.

  • They also serve as easily affordable platforms to test or prove prototypes of new components or subsystems intended for use in launch vehicles and satellites.

  • The study will enrich available atmospheric data and refine the models used for tropical weather prediction.


Meteor Shower

  • A comet passing close to the Sun heats up and spews dust and gases into a giant glowing head larger than most planets.

  • The dust and gases form a tail that stretches away from the sun for millions of kilometers and is known as comet’s trail.

  • When earth, moving in its orbit around the Sun, passes through such a comet’s trail, debris left behind by comet enters atmosphere and heats up and burn in a bright burst of light.

  • This burning of debris with burst of light is called Meteor Shower.

11. Lyrid 2018

11.1.  About Lyrid 2018

  • This meteor shower was caused by remains of the C/1861 Thatcher comet, and is a yearly celestial phenomenon set around April.

  • Lyrid meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Lyra, as it appears to originate from Lyra.

  • Unlike eclipses, stargazers can enjoy the meteor shower without a visual aid.

April Science and Technology

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