The remarkable march of India into the world of biosciences and technological advances began in 1986. That year, the then Prime Minister of the country, late Rajiv Gandhi accepted the vision that unless India created a separate Department for Biotechnology, within the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India the country would not progress to the desired extent. This was because many of our macro-economic issues of growth were subsumed within that science’s development. That decision has made India one of the first countries to have a separate department for this stream of science and technology.
In 1982, after detailed deliberations with the scientific community, and on the basis of recommendations by the then Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet, a National Biotechnology Board (NBTB) was constituted by the Government to identify priority areas and evolve long term perspective for Biotechnology in India. It was also responsible for fostering programmes and strengthening indigenous capabilities in this newly emerging discipline.
A separate Department of Biotechnology (DBT) was finally set up in February, 1986 and the NBTB selected Dr S Ramachandran as the first Secretary of the department. The DBT constituted a ten member Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) with heads of various scientific agencies and a seven member Standing Advisory Committee for North America SAC (0) to ensure that the Department kept abreast of global developments in the field of Biotechnology.
There were many serious challenges at the start. First, there were inter-departmental conflicts with no department willing to part with its earlier responsibilities to a new but specialised body. The second most important problem was the “tendency of Indian scientists to publish only in national journals” because publishing in international and solidly peer-reviewed journals took too long. Third, the industry could not be persuaded early to join hands as governmental procedures took too long. The fourth major obstacle was procuring scientific equipment and reagents and other vital necessities for lab research. In those days in the country, not too many people were working on biosciences. The department had therefore to focus on
1. Developing human resources
2. Creation of appropriate infrastructure
3. Research and development
4. Creating a regulatory framework
The first autonomous institute, the National Institute of Immunology which was set up in 1981 was brought under the wings of DBT. Soon after, it was joined by the National Facility for Animal Tissue and Cell Culture of Pune formed in 1986 which was later christened the National Centre for Cell Science.
The late 1990s and early 2000 saw many other institutes like The National Institute for Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), the National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) followed, the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting & Diagnostics, Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development and the Institute of Life Sciences take shape. Subsequently, several other prominent institutes like Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THISTI), Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (INstem), National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI) at Mohali, and National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG) at Kalyani in West Bengal were established.
There is also renewed effort on social aspects such as health care, food and agriculture, energy and environmental security. International collaborations have become more strategic, with better reach and breadth and industry partnerships are growing.
Importance of Biotechnology for India
Biotechnology has a promising future. In future biotechnology will be accredited for some revolutionary technology. Recent advances in bioenergy, bioremediation, synthetic biology, DNA computers, virtual cell, genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics and bio-nanotechnology have made biotechnology even more powerful. Recent discovery of conduction of electricity by DNA and its behavior as a superconductor has opened a new realm in modern science. In future biotechnology will have profound impact in world economy. Biotechnology is a golden tool to solve some of the key global problems like global epidemic, fatal diseases, global warming, rising petroleum fuel crisis and above all poverty.
One of the major scientific revolutions of the twentieth century was the breaking of the genetic code and the development of tools that enable scientists to probe the molecules of life with incredible precision. Now, in the twenty-first century, these developments in biology are being married with the use of ever-increasing computer power to help us face the challenges that the new century brings. Bioinformatics is the name given to the new discipline that has emerged at the interface of biology and computing.
Huge amount of genetic data (DNA, RNA, amino acid and protein sequences) of various organisms, form bacteria to humans, being generated worldwide is stored in a computer database. Specialized software programs are used to find, visualize, and analyze the information, and most importantly, communicate it to other people. Various computer tools are used to predict protein structure which is a valuable information for development of vaccines, diagnostic tools as well as more effective drugs.
Bioinformatics can help in easy and early detection of various diseases like cancer, diabetes and many more with the help of microarray chips (microarrays are miniature arrays of gene fragments attached to glass slides). Bioinformatics also helps scientists to construct phylogenetic tree based on molecular biology and ultimately contribute in the study of evolution. Computer simulations model such things as population dynamics, or calculate the cumulative genetic health of a breeding pool (in agriculture) or endangered population (in conservation). One very exciting potential of this field is that entire DNA sequences or genomes of endangered species can be preserved.
Biotechnology can deliver the next wave of technological change that can be as radical and even more pervasive than that brought about by IT. Employment generation, intellectual wealth creation, expanding entrepreneurial opportunities, augmenting industrial growth are a few of the compelling factors that warrant a focused approach for this sector.
Basic and translational research in key biological processes and new materials will be supported as innovation for tomorrow. Access to the knowledge generated will be improved by supporting knowledge and social networks among stakeholders so that those with appropriate skills can convert the research output into useful products and processes.Research to promote innovation must be supported increasingly on a cooperative rather than a competitive basis. This requires effective communication among science agencies, research institutions, academia and industry
To promote India as a hub of innovation, a network of relevant stakeholders should be developed. Public investment should be used as a catalyst to promote such clustering and networking as this can lead to enhanced creativity by sharing of expertise, resources and infrastructure. Availability of human resource would be ensured at each phase of the product cycle.
2. Strengthening technology transfer capacity
It is proposed to create several national/regional technology transfer cells (TTC’s) over the next 5 years to provide high caliber, specialized and comprehensive technology transfer services. The services would include: evaluating technology and identifying potential commercial uses, developing and executing and intellectual property protection strategies identifying potential licensees and negotiating licenses. Each TTC would service a cluster of institutions in a region or a large city. Optimal delivery of services by the TTCs requires professionals with background in industry and science, wide networks, an external focus and high level licensing skills. The best practices for effective technology transfer will be benchmarked.
The skills of existing technology transfer professionals will be upgraded by a combination of specialized training courses, including linking to important programs redesigning the incentives and career paths for posting.
Scientists and other innovators shall be equipped with a better understanding of markets and commercialization pathways, the process of technology transfer, the strategy of protecting intellectual property rights and industrial licensing.
3. Fiscal and trade policy initiatives
Biotechnology firms are by far the most research intensive among major industries. On an average the biotechnology sector invests 20-30 % of its operating costs in R&D or technology outsourcing. Government support, fiscal incentives and tax benefits are therefore critical to this sector. These measures will also help to capitalize on the inherent cost effectiveness of the Indian biotech enterprise. The suggested interventions include:
Exemption of import duties on key R&D, contract manufacturing / clinical trial equipment and duty credit for R&D consumer goods to enable small and medium entrepreneurs to reduce the high capital cost of conducting research.
Biotechnology Parks & Incubators
Establishing biotechnology parks for the growth of the biotechnology industry is essential either through public-private alliance or public/private sponsorships. With its large human resource in molecular biology, microbiology, biochemical engineering, synthetic organic chemistry, chemical engineering and allied branches of engineering and strong institutional base at the universities, CSIR, ICMR and ICAR, India is well placed to support a number of biotech parks.
Biotechnology Parks can provide a viable mechanism for licensing new technologies to upcoming biotech companies to start new ventures and to achieve early stage value enhancement of the technology with minimum financial inputs. These biotech parks facilitate the lab to land transfer of the technologies by serving as an impetus for entrepreneurship through partnership among innovators from universities, R&D institutions and industry.
Basic minimum components for parks should include research laboratories for product development, multi-purpose pilot facility for manufacturing and process development, quality control and validation of technologies, common effluent treatment plant, a GLP Animal House, a recognized human resource training centre, administrative support centre etc.
The biotech parks should be located so as to be easily accessible for all the stakeholders, tenants, academia with connecting roads, water and power supply and should also attract less administrative clearances from the government.
It is important that biotechnology is used for the social benefit of India and for economic development. To fulfill this vision, it has to be ensured that research and application in biotechnology is guided by a process of decision-making that safeguards both human health and the environment with adherence to the highest ethical standards. There is consensus that existing legislation, backed by science based assessment procedures clearly articulates rules and regulations that can efficiently fulfill this vision.
Choices are required to be made that reflect an adequate balance between benefit, safety, access and the interest of consumers and farmers. It is also important that biotechnology products that are required for social and economic good are produced speedily and at the lowest cost. A scientific, rigorous, transparent, efficient, predictable, and consistent regulatory mechanism for biosafety evaluation and release system/protocol is an essential for achieving these multiple goals.
Public Communication and Participation
Biotechnology today has become as important as traditional plant and animal breeding have been in the past. At the same time, it raises a number of difficult economic, social, ethical, environmental and political issues that constitute major challenges for the human society. The reception of biotech products by the public has been rather mixed. In general biopharmaceutical products seem to be better accepted than transgenic crops.
Clearly it is no longer possible to assume automatic public acceptance of new products and processes that promise public and commercial benefits. Public perception and opinion have a significant influence on the direction and funding of biotechnology research. Hence there is a need to work actively and transparently to inform and engage the civic society in decision-making, and to maintain a relationship of trust and confidence. The government and the industry must actively promote access to information on the benefits and risks in a balanced manner.
To achieve this goal, several enabling factors already exist: a sound biosafety regulatory system; well respected appellate and judicial system for redressal of grievances; cadre of willing and able scientists for effective and accurate communication of information; a large body of extension personnel in agriculture, fisheries, veterinary and human health sectors; large NGO network spread across the country; and an effective and independent mass media
National institute of immunology
The National Institute of Immunology (NII) is committed to advanced research addressing the basic mechanisms involved in body’s defence to identify modalities for manipulation of the immune system to provide protection against diseases and understand mechanisms that can be used to target disease processes for intervention. The institute’s research thrust areas under immunology and related disciplines cluster in four main themes, namely, infection and immunity, molecular design, gene regulation and reproduction and development, where cutting edge research in modern biology is being carried out.
National Center for Cell Sciences, Pune
The National Centre for Cell Science is a National Level, Biotechnology, Tissue Engineering and Tissue Banking research center located at Savitribai Phule Pune University, in Pune. The institute formerly known as “National Facility for Animal Tissue and Cell Culture”, is one of the premier research centers in India, which works on cell-culture, cell-repository, immunology, chromatin-remodelling.
Center for DNA fingerprinting and diagnostics
The Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) is a Biotechnology research centre, located in Hyderabad, operated by the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India. CDFD is Sun Microsystems Centre of Excellence in Medical Bio-informatics, supported with a strong bioinformatics facility, and is the India node of the EMBnet. In addition, DNA fingerprinting and diagnostics services provided by the centre support some of the activities. The centre utilises the Combined DNA Index System for DNA profile Matching. The CDFD and the U.S. FBI had signed an MoU early this year for the acquisition of CODIS.
CDFD receives funding from other agencies like the Wellcome Trust on specific collaborative projects. The Centre is recognised by the University of Hyderabad and Manipal University for pursuing doctor of philosophy in Life Sciences. Research at CDFD has focused largely on molecular epidemiology of bacterial pathogens, structural genetics, molecular genetics, bioinformatics and computational biology
Institute for Life Sciences
The Institute of Life Sciences (ILS), an autonomous institute has been brought under the fold of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India in August 2002. The institute is located in close proximity to other research institutions at Bhubaneswar. The institute was earlier established on February 11, 1989 and was under the administrative and financial control of Department of Science and Technology, Government of Orissa.
The mandate of ILS is to undertake basic and translational research in frontier areas of life sciences. The research interests of the faculty are in three major areas: (a) Infectious Disease Biology, (b) Gene Function and Regulation and (c) Translation Research and Technology Development. In addition, new collaborations with industry have been established to tap commercial potential of laboratory science.
Research and Development Initiatives
With a billion-plus mouths to feed, and counting, crop biotechnology has to be a natural winner in priority terms for a country like India, especially in the era of climate change, degradation of farmlands, increased soil salinity, due to drop in groundwater as well as pollution of surface water sources, more frequent droughts and so on.
Advances in gene discovery and genomics have led to the identification of several novel genes that provide excellent opportunities for effectively tackling problems of biotic/abiotic stresses, for enhancement of crop productivity, and for improvement of their nutritional quality.
These scientific advances can facilitate us in accelerating pre-breeding germplasm enhancement for eventual crop improvement through effective molecular breeding. Along with pursuing basic research, genome sequencing and genomic studies for identification of useful genes, QTLs & validation of their function; developing transgenic crops and crop improvement through marker aided selection for tackling various abiotic & biotic stresses and quality traits are high priority in the agriculture biotechnology programme of the department.
Major ongoing programmes:
1. Wheat Genome Sequencing Programme
2. Rice Functional Genomics
3. Crop Biofortification and quality improvement programme
4. National Plant Gene Repository at NIPGR, New Delhi
5. Next Generation Challenge Programme on Chickpea Genomics,
6. Network project – From QTL to Variety- Marker Assisted Breeding of Rice with Major QTLs for Drought, Flooding and Salt Tolerance,
7. Root Development and Nutrition, germination, Characterisation and Use of EMS Induced Mutants of Upland Variety Nagina-22 for Functional Genomics of Rice,
8. Identification of Candidate Genes for Enhanced Water Use Efficiency in Rice through Activation Tagging, Metabolic Engineering programme,
9. Four Programme support for State Agricultural Universities,
10. Accelerated Crop Improvement Programme to bring important traits into high yielding varieties of Rice, Wheat, Chick pea, soybean, cotton, mustard and Maize.
11. Besides, nearly 300 ongoing R&D projects have been supported by the department during last 3 to 5 years. Several research leads have been obtained and these are being pursued further.
Basic research has been a major thrust area under Plant Biotechnology with special emphasis on signal transduction, root and floral differentiation, host pathogen interaction etc. Application of genomic tools to study both structural and functional genomics under the Solanaceae Genome Initiative. Thrust has also been on forestry, horticulture and plantation crops, fruits & vegetables including application of tissue culture for regeneration of high quality economically important plant species, their field demonstration, and validation of proven technology; germplasm characterization and their improvement of crops through molecular biology tools. Focus is also on major horticulture crops including apple with focus on, 1) Creating A genomics platform for Apple research in India and 2) Improvement of Apple through biotechnological interventions.
Studies are also supported on Forestry network focussing on Genetic improvement of Eucalyptus through mapping and tagging of QTL genes for two industrially important traits like adventious rooting capacity and wood property.
Under saffron network focus is on developing a tissue culture protocol for corm production of desired size, develop in vitro microplants for cormlet production and develop complete agro technology for use of cormlets of small size; characterization of microflora of rhizosphere associated with Saffron crop to develop consortia of beneficial microbes; for genetic improvement of Saffron and functional genomics approaches in understanding the regulation of synthesis and accumulation of appocarotenoids.
Livestock sector plays an important role in the economy of our country. The contribution of this sector in national economy was approximately 3.9% in 2011-12. India ranks first in the world in milk production with an estimated production of 132.4 million tonnes in 2012-13. India is also third largest egg-producer in the world, over 69.7 billion eggs were produced in 2012-13.
DBT supports R & D programmes for development of affordable new generation vaccines and diagnostics against a plethora of animal diseases. The emphasis is to suffix “C” to the R & D programmes to make way for the ‘commercialization’ of the developed leads, products and processes. A thrust in this direction is given through multi-faceted approaches such as collaborative translational research, consolidation of existing projects with potential leads and generation of network programmes around major animal disease of national importance
Aquaculture and Marine Biotechnology
1. Development of diagnostics and vaccines for major diseases in aquaculture
2. Development of culture technology in non-traditional species and front-line demonstrations to prove techno-economic viability of aquaculture production system
3. Improved aspects on new feed development, fish nutrition, breeding and reproduction, health and sanitation, post-harvest, value addition for enhancement of aquaculture productivity
4. Development of in vitro tissue/ cell culture system in various aquaculture species
5. Marine pharmaceuticals, biomaterials, bio-adhesives, bio-flocculent, bio-surfactants, medical implants, biopolymers, bio-plastics, Novel enzymes, Biosensors and Bioremediation
6. Fish transgenics for therapeutic and ornamentals
7. Marine extremophiles
8. Molecular biology of Indian aquaculture species, identification of useful genes for transgenesis work including genomics & proteomics studies
9. Programme support/ Centre of excellence in Aquaculture & Marine Biotechnology
10. Training support in Molecular Biology for Fisheries Professionals
11. Computer Simulation model for Aquaculture system
The DBT has established a Centre of Excellence in Genetics and Genomics of Silkworm at CDFD, Hyderabad. Transgenic lines of silkworm resistant to baculovirus (BmNPV) have been generated through RNAi technology. The transgenic lines are being transferred to sericulture centres for controlled trials after necessary clearance from RCGM. Analysis of immune transcriptome of bacteria-challenged wild silkmoth, Antheraea mylitta led to the identification of a number of potential immune-related genes.
Eleven potential silkworm (Bombyx mori) lines tolerant to BmNPV varying from 27 per cent to 67 per cent have been developed through DNA-marker assisted breeding jointly at Seribiotech Research Laboratory (SBRL), Bangalore and Andhra Pradesh State Sericulture Research and Development Institute (APSSR&DI), Hindupur. The selected lines are at BC-5 F-9 generation and are being further taken up for field trials.
A programme on comparative genetic analysis of sex chromosomes and sex determining genes in silkmoths has been continued at CDFD, Hyderabad. Two novel genes predicted to be involved in the silkworm sex determination, were identified using various biochemical and molecular procedures. Their validation is in progress. W-derived gene Bmz1 has been analysed for its involvement in sex determination.
Human genetics is the study of inheritance as it occurs in human beings. Human genetics encompasses a variety of overlapping fields including: classical genetics, cytogenetics, molecular genetics, biochemical genetics, genomics, population genetics, developmental genetics, clinical genetics, and genetic counseling.
Genes can be the common factor of the qualities of most human-inherited traits. Study of human genetics can be useful as it can answer questions about human nature, understand the diseases and development of effective disease treatment, and understand genetics of human life. This article describes only basic features of human genetics; for the genetics of disorders please see: medical genetics.
Stem Cell Research
Stem cells and regenerative medicine has emerged as a new and most exciting field of life science in view of its potential clinical applications. The classical definition of a stem cell requires that it possess two properties:
1. Self-renewal: the ability to go through numerous cycles of cell division while maintaining the undifferentiated state.
2. Potency: the capacity to differentiate into specialised cell types.
The ability of stem cells to self-renew and give rise to subsequent generations with variable degrees of differentiation capacities, offers significant potential for generation of tissues that can potentially replace diseased and damaged areas in the body, with minimal risk of rejection and side effects. Keeping in view the therapeutic applications of these cells, the DBT has identified this area as one of its thrust areas since 2001.
The overall aim is to promote basic, early and late translational research in the area of stem cell and regenerative medicine in the country. The road map for stem cell research has been broadly categorized into: basic research; pre-clinical and clinical research; industry-academia partnership programme, capacity building; and formulation of an appropriate regulatory framework.
An institute of “Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine” has been established at Bangalore. CMC-DBT Centre for Stem Cell Research CSCR at CMC, Vellore is a translational unit of inStem, Bangalore. National Apex Committee for Stem Cell Research and Therapy (NAC-SCRT) has been established by the Government.
Bioengineering is a multi-disciplinary field of research which involves application of engineering techniques for basic understandings and development of innovative technologies for improved quality of life. The Department of Biotechnology has taken an endeavor to apply principles and techniques of allied quantitative sciences such as physics, mathematics, chemistry, computer sciences and engineering in the domain of biological sciences to effectively address the biomedical challenges.
The main scope of this program is to foster and support innovative ideas in fields of Biomaterials for various therapeutic/biomedical applications, Bio-instruments/Bio-medical devices and implants, Bio-medical sensors, Bio-imaging for improved diagnostics/existing medical equipment, Tissue engineering and other allied areas. The central concern at DBT is improving the quality of life and to that end, bioengineering is a crucial field of activity.
Implantable device for multifunction prosthesis hand control has been fabricated successfully. The implantable device pickup and transmit electromyographic signals transcutaneously. An auxiliary device placed over the skin receives the transmitted signal and also supply electrical power by electromagnetic induction. The signal transmission uses a digital packet radio network to provide high reliability of the EMG signal. The final design and fabrication of the circuits for implantation completed and miniature electronics with power and data transmitter accomplished. The prototype testing in animal models are under process.
Mannequin-based training simulator specifically for detection of different types of heart attacks or AMI (Acute Myocardial Infarction) has been developed to train the cardiologists (trainer). The researchers have developed an interactable (hardware) mannequin, with software simulated Cardiovascular System incorporating parameters like radial artery pulse measurement, ECG determination, BP measurement, heart sound, injection of life-saving drugs etc that can be programmed by the trainer.
Fiberoptic Laser Raman spectrometer has been standardized to develop and evaluate fiberoptic probes designs for the diagnosis of oral precancers (erythtoplakia, leukoplakia and OSMF) and cancers in the clinical setting. Non-invasive, hand-held, compact and wireless technology based easy-to-use device for display of ECG signals for monitoring chest pains devised successfully. The technology has been combined with mobile phone technology using GPRS.
A low cost biosensor for rapid detection of Salmonella typhi has been developed by surface modification of nylon membrane & polyacrylonitrile fibre (PAN) with an aim to use them as solid matrices for ELISA/FIA. A digital and plug-based microfluidic system is being developed to study the aggregation kinetics of the β-amyloid peptides towards understanding the cause of neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer.
Calibration-free pulse oximeter has been successfully developed for non-invasive measurement of oxygen saturation in arterial blood. A couple of novel algorithms has been designed for computation of oxygen saturation and method is independent of source intensity, detector sensitivity, coloration of skin of patient or volume of intervening tissue. Three prototypes have been developed and field testing is underway.
Robotic wheelchair to provide comfort or to give independence of mobility to physically challenged persons has been designed successfully. Prototypes of two models have been developed: a low cost one and an advanced one. The most important feature of the advanced version is its autonomous navigational capability in user’s residence and office.
Microparticle-based dual drug delivery system for the treatment of lung cancer has been extrapolated as a therapeutic option for solid tumors. A model drug, ampicillin along with an anti-cancer drug has been incorporated within the delivery vehicle for the study of release kinetics and bioactivity on various lung cancer cell lines.
An animal model of physical injuries in the goat successfully demonstrated utilizing the autologous chondrocyte culture. Tissue engineered osteochondral grafts developed and tested successfully in vitroin terms of gene expression, biochemistry and biomechanics. Significant efforts also undertaken modifying tissue engineered cartilage system to develop in vitro disease models of Osteoarthritis.
The silk fibroin proteins isolated from domesticated mulberry, Bombyx mori and wild non-mulberry; Antheraea mylitta silkworms have been exploited to develop multilayer 2D films for controlled drug release. The study envisages the versatile and tunable properties of silk making them exciting candidates for the tissue engineering and biotechnological applications.
Scientists at IGIB are exploring the rich microbial diversity of India and developing biotechnological applications using this resource to address issues pertaining to the environment and energy crisis. Different areas that are being pursued are:
1. Microbial diversity and its exploration
2. Hydrogen and bio-plastic from waste
3. Waste water treatment using microbes
Microbes which survive in extreme environments make enzymes tolerant to physical stress. Many of these are difficult to isolate and culture in the laboratory. At IGIB, metagenomic libraries made from samples collected from various ecological niches in different geographical regions of India are being screened for functional clones expressing novel biocatalysts, bioactive compounds and pathways.
Hydrogen has emerged as a clean fuel for the future. IGIB scientists have analyzed metabolic and genomic databases of microbes have been analyzed in order to identify microbes which can collectively provide the biochemical route to production of hydrogen and environment friendly plastics.
IGIB has been involved in screening of pollutants against biodegradative enzymes, development of biosensors for monitoring pollutants and using microbial consortia for treatment of alkaline waste water generated from industries.
India is among the top 12 biotech destinations in the world and ranks second in Asia, after China. The Indian biotech industry is likely to experience significant growth on the back of increasing economic prosperity, health consciousness and a billion-plus population base. Current estimates value the industry at US$ 7 billion in FY15, which is expected to grow at 30.46 per cent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) to US$ 100 billion by FY25.
The sector is divided into five major segments: bio-pharma, bio-services, bio-agri, bio-industrial and bio-informatics. Biotechnology industry’s growth in India is primarily driven by vaccines and recombinant therapeutics. Going forward, India also has the potential to become a major producer of transgenic rice and several Genetically Modified (GM) or engineered vegetables.
The Government of India has taken several initiatives including a biotechnology industry partnership program to develop new technologies and launched a National Rural Healthcare Mission to boost healthcare spending. As per the 12th Five-Year Plan, the government aims to spend US$ 3.7 billion on biotechnology compared to US$ 1.1 billion in the 11th Five-Year Plan to accelerate the pace of research, innovation and development. In addition, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has designed the National Biotechnology Development Strategy (NBDS) to strengthen the industry’s human resources and infrastructure while promoting growth and trade. Furthermore, the Government has allowed 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) through the automatic route for manufacturers of drugs and pharmaceuticals.
Emission mode project on stem cell biology
The Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem), is a state-of-the-art research institute in Bangalore, India, dedicated to the study of stem cell and regenerative biology.
An autonomous institute funded by the Dept of Biotechnology, Govt. of India, inStem emphasizes collaborative research in stem cell biology. inStem’s mandate to allow this cross-disciplinary, multi-pronged approach to research, straddles the divide between clinical and laboratory research in stem cell biology. In trying to answer intractable and challenging questions that face the field, inStem seeks to rewrite the paradigm of the research institute: without barriers and across disciplines.
Research at inStem, encompasses a wide range of topics in stem cell biology: from questions about the fundamental mechanisms that control differentiation and renewal, to clinical studies on the impact of stem cells on recovery from stroke/injury. The institute is also home to the Wadhwani Centre, a generous philanthropic donation dedicated to the study of stem cell biology of the nervous system as well as cardiomyopathies. inStem’s fast-growing, young and enthusiastic atmosphere ensures that its work is at the very forefront of science.
Research at inStem is well-supported, with access to facilities at both NCBS and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP). Together these three institutions serve as part of the Bangalore Biocluster. inStem is also the umbrella organization for three initiatives: inStem itself, the Center for Stem Cell Research (CSCR) located at CMC Vellore, and an Extramural Program in Stem Cell Research (EPiSTEM), a funding initiative for support of stem cell research nationwide. Strategically placed in the biotechnology hub of India with access to world-class research and facilities, inStem is perfectly positioned to take its place as a leader in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine research.
Apart from this, inStem has established collaborative programs with iCeMS, Kyoto, Japan, with Cambridge University (chemical biology of cancer), with IFOM, Milan, with Stempeutics (for research in mesenchymal stem cells) and with MacLaughlin Research Institute, Montana USA (to collaborate on generation of mouse models for study of development and disease).
Jointly with CIRM (California Institute of Regenerative medicine, California), inStem funds collaborative projects that seek to understand stem cells and their future role in human disease.
Problems and issues of biotechnology
There are four main societal concerns in the biotechnology field. Biotechnology is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make products, or any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use. New tools and products developed by biotechnologists are useful in research, agriculture, industry and the clinic.
Societal Concerns With Biotechnology
1. Harm to the environment – This concern is perhaps the most widely cited by those opposed to GMOs. It is very difficult to predict what will happen in an ecosystem where a new organism has been introduced, whether genetically modified or not.
2. Bioterrorism – Governments are worried that terrorists will use biotechnology to create new Superbugs, infectious viruses, or toxins, for which we have no cures.
3. Laboratory/production safety – It’s hard to protect oneself if you don’t know what you’re working with. Some new technologies, usually nonbiologicals such as nanoparticles make commercial production lines before they have been sufficiently tested for safety. There is also concern about technician safety in laboratories, even under secured conditions, when working with organisms of unknown virulence.
4. Ethical issues – Besides the age-old debate over whether cloning genes is sacrilegious, innumerable ethical questions arise over the appropriateness of licensing genetic inventions and other IP issues. In addition, the construction of genes from scratch (the first artificial gene was actually synthesized in 1970) means we might someday be able to create life from a chemical soup which will most certainly go against the ethical or religious beliefs of a significant number of people.