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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS | 13 APRIL, 2024

NexCAR19: A Pioneering Step in Cancer Care by India        

UPSC CSE Mains Question

Discuss the potential impacts of made-in-India CAR-T cell therapies like NexCAR19 on the landscape of healthcare and medical research in India. Evaluate the challenges and suggest measures to enhance their accessibility and affordability.


 Why in the News?  

  • The development of NexCAR19, a locally produced Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, signifies a major advancement in cancer treatment in India. It represents an effort to make cutting-edge cancer therapy accessible and affordable to a broader segment of the Indian population.

Background  

  • Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy is a breakthrough in the treatment of certain types of cancer, involving genetically modified T-cells to attack cancer cells. While CAR-T therapies have been developed and approved in the West, they remain prohibitively expensive and out of reach for many in developing countries. Recognizing this gap, Dr. Rahul Purwar and his team at IIT Bombay, in collaboration with Tata Memorial Hospital and other experts, developed NexCAR19 as an affordable alternative, designed specifically for the Indian healthcare landscape.

Key Points of the News

  1. NexCAR19 utilizes a ‘humanized’ version of CAR-T therapy, which integrates human proteins with the original mouse-derived antibodies to potentially reduce side effects like CRS and neurotoxicity.
  2. The clinical trials conducted at Tata Memorial Hospital have been promising, indicating efficacy in treating relapsed or refractory B-lymphomas and B-ALL with fewer adverse effects compared to existing treatments.
  3. Despite the breakthrough, the cost remains a barrier, though significantly lower than international counterparts, with ongoing efforts to reduce it further.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. CAR-T Cell Therapy:
    • A type of cancer treatment that uses a patient’s T cells, genetically modified to fight cancer cells.
  2. Leukapheresis:
    • A procedure to collect white blood cells from a patient’s blood.
  3. Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs):
    • Synthetic receptors that T cells are engineered to express, enabling them to target and destroy cancer cells.
  4. Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS):
    • A significant potential side effect of CAR-T therapy involving severe inflammation caused by an overactive immune response.

Way Forward

  • Further research and refinement are essential to improve the efficacy and safety profile of NexCAR19. Expanding production capabilities and infrastructure, coupled with policy support, could help reduce costs and increase accessibility. Additionally, increasing awareness and education about CAR-T therapy among healthcare providers and patients is crucial for its broader adoption.


UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. What is a key difference between the CAR-T cell therapies developed in the U.S. and India's NexCAR19?
a. NexCAR19 uses completely synthetic CARs
b. NexCAR19 is developed from human stem cells
c. NexCAR19 incorporates human proteins to reduce toxicity
d. NexCAR19 targets different antigens than U.S. therapies
Answer: c. NexCAR19 incorporates human proteins to reduce toxicity
2. Which institution played a significant role in the clinical trials of NexCAR19?
a. National Cancer Institute, Maryland
b. Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
c. Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai
d.All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi
Answer: c. Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai

Cutting-Edge Space Cleanliness: ISRO’s Success in Debris-Free Satellite Deployment                

UPSC CSE Mains Question    

Evaluate the effectiveness of India’s strategies for space debris management. Discuss the role of innovations like POEM-3 in enhancing the sustainability of space operations and propose measures for international collaboration to address the challenges posed by space debris.Top of Form

Why in the News?    

  • ISRO has announced a significant achievement with its PSLV-C58/XPoSat mission, claiming to have left virtually zero debris in Earth orbit, a critical milestone in addressing the growing concern of space debris.      

Background

  • The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), in its C58 mission, incorporated innovative measures to prevent the addition of debris in space. Typically, spent rocket stages contribute to space debris, but ISRO transformed the final stage of PSLV into an experimental module named POEM-3, which was safely de-orbited after completing its mission objectives.

Key Points of the News

  1. Zero Orbital Debris:
    • ISRO ensured zero debris by passivating the PSLV’s fourth stage, effectively removing residual fuels to prevent accidental explosions and then de-orbiting it.
  2. Functionality of POEM-3:
    • POEM-3 served as a temporary orbital platform to perform scientific experiments with various payloads. It featured systems for navigation, control, and communication, supported by solar panels for power.
  3. Contribution to Space Debris Mitigation:
    • By re-using the fourth stage of the rocket and ensuring its controlled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, POEM-3 highlights an innovative approach to mitigate space debris.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle):
    • An expendable launch system developed and operated by ISRO, it is used to deploy satellites into polar orbits.
  2. Orbital Debris:
    • Non-functional, man-made objects in space, including spent rocket stages, defunct satellites, and fragments from disintegration, erosion, and collisions.
  3. POEM-3 (PSLV Orbital Experimental Module-3):
    • A platform used by ISRO to conduct scientific experiments in space, utilizing the spent fourth stage of the PSLV rocket.
  4. De-orbiting:
    • The process of intentionally lowering a satellite or a rocket stage’s orbit to either bring it back to Earth or move it to an orbit where it poses no danger to active satellites.   

Way Forward  

  • Building on this success, it is imperative for ISRO and other space agencies worldwide to incorporate similar sustainability measures in future missions. Enhancing international cooperation and developing advanced technologies for debris removal and satellite retrieval are essential steps for long-term space exploration sustainability.  


UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. What is the primary purpose of the PSLV Orbital Experimental Module-3 (POEM-3)?
a. To serve as a communication satellite
b. To conduct scientific experiments using the spent fourth stage of the rocket
c. To collect space debris
d. To test anti-satellite weapons
Answer: b. To conduct scientific experiments using the spent fourth stage of the rocket

2. What does the term 'passivation' refer to in the context of space missions?
a. Increasing the speed of a spacecraft
b. Equipping spacecraft with passive sensors
c. Removing or neutralizing residual energies and materials to prevent accidental explosions
d. Coating the spacecraft with radiation-resistant material
Answer: c. Removing or neutralizing residual energies and materials to prevent accidental explosions

Impact of U.S. Monetary Policy on Indian Economy Analyzed          

UPSC CSE Mains Question   

Examine the implications of prolonged high U.S. interest rates on the Indian economy. Discuss the potential economic challenges and the strategic measures India should adopt to mitigate these effects.Top of Form

Why in the News?

  • According to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) simulation, India could face significant economic repercussions if the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank maintain high interest rates longer than anticipated.   

Background  

  • The ADB has conducted a simulation exploring the potential economic effects on emerging economies, particularly India, if the U.S. and European central banks decide to sustain higher interest rates into and beyond 2024. This scenario arises amidst concerns that persistent high inflation rates in the U.S. might prompt prolonged stringent monetary policies.  

Key Points of the News

  1. Economic Impact on India:
    • India’s economic growth and inflation are particularly sensitive to U.S. interest rate changes due to its dependence on imports and the resultant exchange rate fluctuations.
  2. Simulation Findings:
    • The ADB simulation predicts a rise in India’s inflation by approximately 0.4 percentage points and a reduction in GDP growth by just under 0.2 percentage points for 2025, compared to baseline projections.
  3. Currency Effects:
    • A ‘higher for longer’ interest rate scenario in the U.S. would likely lead to the depreciation of the Indian rupee against the dollar, increasing the cost of imports and hence, imported inflation.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Interest Rate Differentials:
    • The difference in interest rates between two countries, affecting investment flows and exchange rates.
  2. Imported Inflation:
    • Inflation resulting from increases in the price of imported goods, influenced by exchange rates.
  3. GDP Growth:
    • The increase in a nation’s production of goods and services, measured as the annual rate of improvement in a country’s economy.

Way Forward  

  • India may need to diversify its trade and economic policies to reduce reliance on imported goods and to stabilize its economy against global financial fluctuations. Strengthening domestic production capabilities and exploring new international trade agreements could be vital steps.   


UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. What is the expected impact on India's GDP growth in 2025 due to the prolonged high U.S. interest rates, according to the ADB simulation?
a. Increase by 0.2 percentage points
b. Decrease by under 0.2 percentage points
c. No impact
d. Increase by 0.4 percentage points
Answer: b. Decrease by under 0.2 percentage points

2. Which of the following best describes 'imported inflation'?
a. Inflation that only affects the import sector
b. Inflation caused by domestic policies
c. Inflation resulting from the cost increase of imported goods
d. A temporary increase in prices during economic downturns
Answer: c. Inflation resulting from the cost increase of imported goods

Simpler Tariffs, Better Logistics Key to India’s Global Trade Integration           

UPSC CSE Mains Question     

Discuss the importance of integrating into global value chains for India’s economic growth. Evaluate the measures suggested by the Asian Development Bank to enhance India’s trade competitiveness and integration into GVCs.

 Why in the News?     

  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has emphasized the need for India to simplify its tariff policy and enhance trade competitiveness to better integrate with global value chains (GVCs), as outlined in their Asia Development Outlook report.  

Background

  • India aims to achieve $2 trillion in exports by 2030, a goal that necessitates significant growth in the manufacturing sector and better integration into global value chains. The ADB’s recommendations come as a strategic guide to help India meet these ambitious targets and sustain its growth trajectory over the medium term.

Key Points of the News

  1. Need for Simplified Tariff Policy:
    • A complex tariff system can hinder the ease of doing business and affect the competitiveness of a country’s goods in the global market. Simplifying this can help reduce production costs and enhance export potential.
  2. Improvement in Logistics Infrastructure:
    • Enhancing logistics infrastructure and trade facilitation is crucial for India to effectively participate in GVCs. This includes improving connectivity, efficiency, and reducing logistical costs.
  3. Focus on Manufacturing Sector:
    • Strengthening the manufacturing sector is vital for sustained economic growth, particularly through creating strong linkages with global trade networks.  

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Global Value Chains (GVCs):
    • These are the worldwide networks created by transnational corporations to organize production in various countries based on where the costs and skills are most advantageous for specific activities.
  2. Tariff Policy:
    • A set of rules and standards that a country applies to its import and export duties to regulate trade with other countries.
  3. Trade Facilitation:
    • Measures to reduce trade costs and improve efficiency by simplifying the procedures and requirements involved in importing and exporting goods.

Way Forward  

  • India needs to implement policy reforms that simplify tariffs and improve trade procedures. Additionally, investing in logistics and infrastructure development will be key to enhancing India’s participation in global value chains. Collaboration with international bodies and adherence to global standards can also aid in achieving these objectives.


UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. What is the primary goal of India's growth strategy according to the ADB’s Asia Development Outlook report?
a. To double the agricultural output by 2030
b. To reach $2 trillion in exports by 2030
c. To increase its software exports
d. To reduce its import dependency
Answer: b. To reach $2 trillion in exports by 2030
2. What does the ADB suggest India needs to focus on to enhance its manufacturing sector?
a. Increasing domestic consumption
b. Simplifying its tariff policy
c. Privatizing government-owned enterprises
d. Focusing solely on technology development
Answer: b. Simplifying its tariff policy

Editorial Analysis (I)– India’s Geopolitical Maneuvers: Election Strategies and International Relations

  1. Context
    • Suhasini Haidar’s editorial explores the interplay between domestic politics and foreign policy in India, particularly in the context of the general elections. She critically examines the Indian government’s recent actions and statements that could affect its relationships with neighboring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Key issues discussed include the 1974 India-Sri Lanka maritime agreement, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), and allegations of Indian involvement in transnational killings.
  2. Background
    • This editorial delves into the consequences of intertwining domestic electoral strategies with foreign policy decisions. It highlights the potential risks this approach poses to India’s diplomatic relations, especially when national elections prompt leaders to revisit old agreements or make provocative statements for domestic gain. The article is set against the backdrop of upcoming elections in both India and some of its neighboring countries.
  3. Important Terminology
    • Katchatheevu: An island transferred to Sri Lanka from India in 1974, a point of contention in Indo-Sri Lankan relations.
    • Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA): A law that grants citizenship to persecuted minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, excluding Muslims.
    • National Register of Citizens (NRC): A registry intended to document legal citizens of India, which has led to significant controversy and concern among India’s neighbors.
    • UNCLOS: United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which governs international maritime laws and agreements.
  4. In-Depth Analysis
    • Foreign Policy and Electoral Gains
      • Haidar points out the Modi government’s tactical use of foreign policy as a tool to secure electoral support, particularly in Tamil Nadu. The reevaluation of the 1974 maritime agreement with Sri Lanka serves as an example. Such moves, while potentially beneficial in the short term, risk long-term diplomatic relations.
    • Impact on Bilateral Relationships
      • The editorial underscores the strain that revisiting past agreements can place on international relations. For instance, questioning settled agreements like the 1974 India-Sri Lanka agreement not only impacts bilateral ties but also calls into question India’s credibility in adhering to international norms as governed by UNCLOS.
    • Domestic Policies with International Repercussions
      • The implementation of the CAA and the potential roll-out of the NRC are highlighted as domestic policies with significant foreign policy implications. These actions have already caused unrest and diplomatic tension with neighbors, particularly Bangladesh.
  5. Significance
    • Haidar’s editorial is significant as it illuminates the risks involved in leveraging foreign policy for domestic electoral gains. It argues that such strategies, while appealing in the short term, can undermine a country’s international standing and relationships, potentially leading to isolation or conflict.
  6. Concluding Thoughts
    • The editorial serves as a cautionary tale against the politicization of foreign policy, especially during election times. It advocates for discretion and diplomacy over public, politically charged declarations that could harm long-term international relationships.
  7. Way Forward  
    • Moving forward, the Indian government might benefit from distinguishing between its electoral campaign strategies and its foreign policy decisions. This approach would help maintain the stability and integrity of its international relationships while also preserving its domestic political agenda.

Editorial Analysis (II) – A battle to save Ladakh, and all of humanity       

  1. Context         
    • Janaki Murali’s editorial focuses on the environmental and socio-political challenges facing Ladakh, a region critical due to its unique ecosystem and strategic location. Sonam Wangchuk, a renowned climate activist, is highlighted for his 21-day climate fast, which symbolizes a larger fight against rapid infrastructure developments that threaten the region’s ecological balance.
  2. Background
    • Ladakh, nestled between Pakistan and China, is predominantly inhabited by indigenous tribes dependent on pastoral and agricultural livelihoods. The region, characterized by its high altitude and fragile ecosystem, faces significant threats from climate change and aggressive infrastructure projects. The editorial discusses these issues in the context of recent government actions following Ladakh’s designation as a Union Territory.
  3. Important Terminology
    • NMSHE (National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem): A program under India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change aimed at assessing and supporting the Himalayan region’s resilience to climate change.
    • Zojila tunnel: A significant infrastructure project in Ladakh intended to provide year-round connectivity.
    • Char Dam: Refers to four Hindu pilgrimage sites in the Indian Himalayas, often associated with heavy tourist and pilgrim traffic, which impacts the region’s ecology.
  4. In-depth Analysis
    • Infrastructure vs. Environmental Sustainability
      • Murali critiques the rapid pace of infrastructure development in Ladakh, questioning the long-term environmental impacts of projects like tunnels, highways, and solar energy plants. These developments, while aimed at boosting the economy and connectivity, seem to disregard the ecological vulnerabilities and climatic challenges of the Himalayan region.
    • Government Response to Environmental Challenges
      • The editorial expresses concern over the apparent disregard by government bodies for the ecological and geological warnings presented by past disasters in the Himalayas, such as the Kedarnath floods and the Joshimath subsidence. The lack of adherence to environmental due diligence and risk assessments in sanctioning these projects is a primary concern.
  5. Significance
    • This piece underscores the critical balance between development and ecological preservation, particularly in sensitive regions like the Himalayas. It highlights the broader implications of local environmental issues on global sustainability and human security.
  6. Concluding Thoughts
    • Murali’s editorial serves as a poignant reminder of the consequences of prioritizing short-term infrastructure gains over long-term environmental and human costs. It calls for a reevaluation of developmental policies in ecologically sensitive areas, stressing the need for sustainable practices that do not compromise the health of the planet or its inhabitants. 
  7. Way Forward  
    • The editorial suggests a more integrated approach to development that includes thorough environmental impact assessments, adherence to sustainable development goals, and genuine engagement with community stakeholders and environmental experts to ensure that development does not come at the expense of ecological and human health.
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