Thursday, July 30, 2015

Karen Aiach – ‘Lysogene’ and a fight to save her child

Karen Aiach

History of human race is filled with stories of survival. It is interesting to think how the fragile and weak body of human beings fought and survived this long in a world filled with powerful animals. As a matter of fact, it is such stories which give us inspiration to fight against all odds and find meaning in life.

Karen Aiach is the founder and CEO of a biotech company called Lysogene. This company mainly focus on gene therapy for rare central nervous system diseases. If you are thinking what’s the point we have so many companies and so many CEOs; then hold on. Let me tell you a story as well.

This French lady have no background in Medical field and she herself may never imagined to become the CEO of a pharma company. Did I tell you, by profession she is an audit specialist? Everything changed when her daughter, Orlanda, diagnosed with a rare cancer called ‘Sanfillipo Syndrome’ in 2005. This disease has no cure and reduce life expectancy considerably.

Driven by impulse to find a solution for her baby’s problem she left her career and founded the company, that too in an area where she hardly has any experience.

Hats off to Karen Aiach.

You can read her interview to Forbes here -> “When Her Daughter Was Diagnosed With A Rare Disease, 
This Accountant Started A Biotech Company” – Forbes


Photo Courtesy: This photo is from Forbes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pondicherry Calling

Even on that Saturday morning I didn’t even imagine that, by night I would be in Pondicherry. Gokul was thinking about a tour for long time; probably to get a break from the monotonous life of Bangalore. When his desire got an appropriate chance, a plan was quickly made up for Coorg (which later changed to Chikmagalur). However, I had something else to do on that morning and dropped off. But, continuous rains over Western Ghats created a shadow over Coorg plan and Pondicherry was selected as alternative. As the starting time switched to afternoon, I also jumped in.

It was a hush-hush journey for me. I didn’t even get the chance to take a look at maps. However, faint memories of last journey to Pondicherry really helped. In order to go fast, we took Hosur flyover; however lost all the time we saved at toll booth. Flyovers came and went, and we entered in to the state of Tamilnadu. As we went, petrol became cheaper; buy the time we reached Pondicherry it may probably at its lowest rate in India.

I, Me, Myself
Roads were excellent, especially Krishnagiri – Chennai route. As there were nothing much to do, we talked almost about everything under the sun; Rakesh mainly stick to Kathy Perry songs and Gokul displayed his talent by singing almost all songs from Malayalam movie – ‘Premam’ – multiple times. He almost by hearted all songs from that movie. In another couple of days he may even memorize all dialogues. Oh, I forget to mention, he is the IMDB of Malayalam movie industry. Poor Robin, in addition to the heavy task of driving to and fro, he had to suffer our wits (I am sure Rakesh won’t agree with that) as well.

This route is famous for Biriyanies also. Ambur (Ambur biriyani) and Arcot (Arcot biriyani) fall in this stretch of highway. By 5pm we stopped at a hotel for snacks and had dosas, gobi pakoda etc. By the way, if you are going to Tamilnadu, don’t forget to have dosas. By evening, we crossed Velur and reached Arcot; here we need to leave Chennai highway and take Vandavasi, Cheyyar route to reach Pondicherry. Unfortunately, we missed the turn and ran three kilometre etc.

By the way, this road has some nice natural scenery but only for travellers; not for those who drives. If you are travelling through Tamilnadu always focus on the road (its right and left); as no one can predict when some guy will jump from right or left with or without his/her vehicle. They hardly look left or right before crossing the road!!!

By 10 in the evening we reached Pondicherry and booked a hotel next to JIPMER campus. Long journey demands a good sleep.


No time to waste on Sunday, hence after having a quick breakfast from Chettinad hotel we took Cadalore road to reach Chunnar Boat house. It is from here we can take boats to Paradise beach. Based on your interest and weight of your pocket, you can select motor boat, speed boat etc. Cost/head for motor boat was 200 INR.

Next 3-4 hours we spent in the beach. I did almost everything that I could. Except a somersault, in which my head hit the sea floor and everything went black for some seconds, things went well. Rakesh enjoyed the time by swimming back and forth. Gokul stayed at shores and explored various options in photography. Robin spent half of the time in sea and rest half by looking at the waves.

By the way, it’s really exciting to stand on the waters and let the waves come and hit. More interesting is to jump along with the waves and let its power to pass through me.

One of the most fascinating part of this journey was the 15 minutes we spent in speed boat.

After returning from beach, we went straight to White Town; lunch was from a French restaurant called LB2 (located opposite to PWD office). It was here, I met my friend and neighbour Binesh, after a very long time.

Finally it was time to come back. Sadly we said good bye to this old French Colony and retraced our path back to Bangalore. Oh, forgot to say, without describing Cheyyar River this travelogue won’t be complete. While going we crossed the river in night. However, while coming back we crossed the river in day time. There was hardly any water there.


Chennai Highway

From the left Robin, Gokul and Rakesh

Paradise Beach
Towards the beach

Monday, July 27, 2015

RIP Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

Convocation - IIT G
“Dream, Dream Dream
Dreams transform into thoughts
And thoughts result in action.”

“Dream is not that which you see while sleeping it is something that does not let you sleep.”

― A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

India shockingly heard that news from Shillong. APJ Abdul Kalam, 11th president (2002 – 07) of Independent India, died after suffering major cardiac arrest while delivering a lecture at IIM Shillong. Kalam, also known as - The Missile Man - had one of the most distinguished career and achieved almost all great positions in the country – heading missile program, Scientific Advisor to PM, Bharat Ratna, President of India etc.

Kalam born to a poor family at southern Indian city of Rameshwaram. As the story goes, he used to distribute newspapers in order to supplement family income. He later graduated in Physics and then went on to complete aerospace engineering from University of Madras. Later he narrowly missed from the selection list of Fighter Pilots for Indian Air Force. It was then he joined as a scientist at ADE.

He later worked at ISRO for SLV-3 project and went on to become the chief executive of Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). Later he become the Chief Scientific Advisor to PM and Secretary DRDO. It was during this time, India conducted second round of nuclear tests. On 2002, he became the 11th President of India. For his contributions to the nation, Indian awarded the highest civilian honour to him - Bharat Ratna.

He also wrote best sellers like “Wings of Fire”, “Ignited Minds” etc. In fact, it was only yesterday we bought a book written by him to present as birthday gift.

What make him different from many others is his simplicity and free interactions with children and common people. Children were a very big fan of him, and he was always ready to answer their curious questions. It may be only fate that, he died while delivering a lecture at IIM Shillong.

RIP APJ Abdul Kalam.


Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The damn war - Life in South Sudan

"The only certainty is that it will get worse in the coming months, and the women and girls who die will be war casualties. “Those who are dying of gunshots,” Dr. Dut notes, “are fewer than those who are dying of hunger.” - Starvation as a Product of War, Nicholas Kristof

Their crime? Born in South Sudan at worse time in History.

War and crisis in South Sudan didn’t start yesterday or today. Causalities started piling up some time back; world had enough time to avert the crisis. But, ‘South Sudan’ is not China or Japan; neither this conflict has the glamour of Eastern Ukraine nor that of Palestine. Involved parties don't possess nukes and they don't have missiles which can reach any powerful city in the world. What is abundant in this part of world is AK47, starvation and death. Lately starvation cause more death than AK47.

There is a possibility of famine this year; continuous civil war only makes it worse. There is also a supply side constraint as the road from capital Juba is cut off due to fighting and Northern border with Sudan is closed due to disputes. Isolated from nearby regions and abandoned by rest of the world, people in this area are crumbling under the weight of starvation - death looks like a blessing to them.

At the point of time, it is important to reach an agreement on this conflict and bring an end to this. If P5+1 can show half the interest they had to reach a deal with Iran, this crisis can be stopped.

Hope that, Obama's this visit (last as president) will see some kind of deal on this.

Starvation as a Product of War, Nicholas Kristof

Thursday, July 23, 2015

2006 Mumbai Blasts - Who proved what?

It was on that cursed day - 11th July 2006 - blasts in seven local trains claimed 189 lives (25 more, than Mumbai attacks of 2008) in Mumbai. Apart from breif time - when Yasin Bhatkal was arrested in August, 2013 - this trail was almost out of media radar. As usual prosecution produced mammoth about of paper "...a charge sheet that ran into approximately 10,000 pages; the witness statements of 189 prosecution witnesses, 50 defence witnesses and one court witness; along with other relevant documents such as the chemical analysis report..."(Caravan). Ofcourse its effectiveness will be revealed when MCOCA judge will pronounce verdict and later verdicts by High Court and Supreme Court (as part of appeal process).

I was not so comfortable after reading this report. After 9 years; completing a long trail; we still don't know who did what? Read Caravan report here -> "Nine Years after the Local Train Blasts in Mumbai, There is Little Clarity on Who was Responsible for the Attack"