‘Son-bearing’ herbal drug lands BJP leader in a soup

Updated 01 May 2015

‘Son-bearing’ herbal drug lands BJP leader in a soup

NEW DELHI: An Indian guru defended on Friday his herbal drug, whose name claims to help women conceive sons, amid a row embroiling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
Baba Ramdev, who has millions of devotees through his yoga TV show, said the drug helped with infertility and not sex selection, a highly sensitive issue in India where boys are preferred to girls.
“It has got nothing to do with sex selection....But if the name is misleading, we will include a disclaimer from the next batch onwards,” the saffron-robed Ramdev told a news conference in New Delhi.
The drug, called “Divya Putrajeevak Beej” which translates as “Divine Son-Bearing Seed” in English, sparked uproar in parliament on Thursday with the opposition demanding it be pulled from pharmacy shelves.
Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda told parliament that “the government will look into it and proper action will be taken”.
The row is potentially embarrassing for Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after Ramdev campaigned extensively for the Hindu nationalist leader at last year’s general election.
Ramdev, who reportedly has a trust worth around $250 million, a Scottish island and a global herbal medicine business worth billions, courted controversy two years ago when he offered to “cure” homosexuals at his ashram.
“It’s a conspiracy to defame me. People who are raising such questions have no knowledge about nomenclatures and Ayurveda (a traditional form of Indian medicine),” Ramdev said.
Gender-selection is an extremely sensitive topic in India where pre-natal sex determination tests are illegal but rules are often flouted to abort female foetuses.
In January, Modi launched a nationwide campaign aimed at reversing the skewed gender ratio, saying placing more importance on sons was “a psychological illness of the entire country”.
According to the 2011 census, the nation recorded just 914 female births for every 1,000 male births owing to a preference for sons who are seen as breadwinners in a highly patriarchal society.


Russia aims to produce ‘millions’ of virus doses by 2021

Updated 03 August 2020

Russia aims to produce ‘millions’ of virus doses by 2021

  • The Gamaleya institute came under fire after researchers and directors injected themselves with the prototype months ago
  • Scientists have told AFP that Russia will struggle to adapt the vaccine to mass production because the country lacks raw materials, adequate facilities and experience

MOSCOW: Russia said Monday it aims to launch mass production of a coronavirus vaccine next month and turn out “several million” doses per month by next year.
The country is pushing ahead with several vaccine prototypes and one prepared at the Gamaleya institute in Moscow has reached advanced stages of development.
“We are very much counting on starting mass production in September,” industry minister Denis Manturov said in an interview published by TASS news agency.
“We will be able to ensure production volumes of several hundred thousand a month, with an eventual increase to several million by the start of next year,” he said, adding that one developer is preparing production technology at three locations in central Russia.
Health Minister Mikhail Murashko on Saturday said the Gamaleya vaccine had “completed clinical trials” and that documents were being prepared to register it with the state.
Another vaccine, developed by Siberia-based Vektor lab, is currently undergoing clinical trials and two more will begin human testing within the next two months, Murashko said.
Gamaleya’s vaccine is a so-called viral vector vaccine, meaning it employs another virus to carry the DNA encoding of the needed immune response into cells.
Gamaleya’s vaccine employs the adenovirus, a similar technology to the coronavirus vaccine prototype developed by China’s CanSino, currently in the advanced stage of clinical trials.
The Gamaleya institute came under fire after researchers and directors injected themselves with the prototype months ago, with specialists criticizing the move as an unorthodox and rushed way of starting human trials.
Scientists have told AFP that Russia will struggle to adapt the vaccine to mass production because the country lacks raw materials, adequate facilities and experience, particularly with advanced technology like viral vector.
Some Russian officials have boasted that the country will be the first to come up with the vaccine, even comparing it to the space race to produce the first satellite in the Soviet era.
Moscow has dismissed allegations from the UK, the United States and Canada that a hacking group linked to Russian intelligence services tried to steal information about a coronavirus vaccine from labs in the West.
Russia’s coronavirus caseload is currently fourth in the world after the United States, Brazil and India.