HERBAL DRUGS: Phytopharm, the UK biotechnology group which specialises in traditional herbal remedies has been granted permission by the US Food and Drug Administration to start clinical trials of a treatment cream made from twelve plants for eczema. Phytopharm, which has links with companies in India, Indonesia and South Africa, has a number of botanical products under development, including a drug for arthritis developed from turmeric and a new treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Richard Dixey, chief executive of Phytopharm, said the decision was an important breakthrough for the company and for the development of botanical products in general.

CURE FOR AIDS: Two separate groups of Thai researchers have claimed to have developed drugs from traditional herbs which combat the HIV virus that leads to the deadly AIDS virus. Researchers at the Princess Chulabhorn Institute in Bangkok and another group in the northeastern province of Mukdaharn claim their medicines can help patients recover from full-blown AIDS. Decha Sukharom, a minister in the Thai government, said that the medicine would be clinically tested and then patented. "The medicine is made from traditional herbs which have no side-effects and is also cheaper,' he said.

TELE INNOVATION: Television companies around the world are forever coming up with innovations to edge out their competitors. Now, LG Electronics Ltd has developed what it claims to be the world's first chip set for the next generation of digital televisions and set-top boxes. The new chip set provides all the key components for digital TVs, including two chips for the digital tuner and three chips for signal processing.

POWER PACT: US-based Enron Corp has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the RPG group to study the potential of marketing natural gas in West Bengal. This was announced by Rebecca Mark, CEO, Enron Development Corp recently. The alliance would look at the possibility of generation, transmission and distribution of natural gas in the state. She also unveiled a proposal to set up a 570-km gas pipeline at an estimated cost of US $330 million in the state. The proposed pipeline from West Bengal to Bangladesh would source the surplus gas reserves present in Bangladesh, she said.

MOSQUITO CONTROL: A birth control method for mosquitoes has been successfully tested by an American insect biochemist at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in the US. Dov Borovsky, who conducted the experiment, took 100,000 mosquito ovaries and then dried and crushed them into a powder. He then inserted them into chlorella

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