FROM THE DIRECTOR
Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology (IBAB) was
established in the year 2001. It was set up on the recommendation of
the Vision Group on Biotechnology, an advisory body to the Chief
Minister of Karnataka, Shri. S. M. Krishna. The Vision Group includes
representation from academia, industry and government, each recognizing
the strengths of other sectors and the value of working together. The
same is the case with IBAB's Governing Body, which has distinguished
members from all the three sectors. Consequently, all three have
rallied to help us jump-start our courses, while the industry is
providing support in teaching as well as internships and placements.
The State Government has played a proactive role by providing core
funding and visibility. The ICICI Bank has contributed much needed
funds to help build up our laboratories.
The first year in IBAB's life has been an exciting and challenging
time. A Post Graduate Diploma programme in bioinformatics was initiated
in February 2002. We selected 30 students from among 1500 applicants,
after a national-level selection. The students were not quite sure what
they would be learning or who was going to teach them. In view of the
acute shortage of teachers who could provide a true flavour of the
excitement in modern biology, we have preferred to rely on actual
practitioners of the various 'arts'. Thus, cellular, molecular and
structural biology modules were taught by faculty from the Indian
Institute of Science, structural bioinformatics and signal transduction
by those from the National Centre for Biological Sciences, modern
biology lab techniques by scientists from the Centre for Human
Genetics, industrial biotechnology and intellectual property rights
issues by scientists from Biocon India and drug design by a leading
scientist from AstraZeneca, to name a few. The support of the
scientific and technical community in Bangalore (documented elsewhere
in this site)
has been overwhelming. We and our students are very grateful to them.
An on-the-job internship experience is an integral part of the program
at IBAB and we succeeded in placing all the students at leading
academic and industrial institutions all over the country. Going by
current indications, most students will find suitable placements in
industry while a few wish to pursue research careers in academia.
response to the second round of admissions was as overwhelming as the
first - an irrefutable proof of the success of the course. 34 young men
and women with diverse educational backgrounds have joined this
January, the start of the course having been advanced by two months.
The heartening feature of the 2003-2004 class is the large number of
women who successfully competed and joined the course this year, as
also students with engineering background.
While the major activity during the past one year has been the planning
and running of the postgraduate course in bioinformatics, I would also
like to mention our other mandates. Three short-term courses have been
conducted, and three others are in the pipeline. On the 'incubation of
entrepreneurs' front, one entrepreneur has signed up, and discussions
are on with two others. IBAB premises also host the Centre for Human
Genetics, a state-of- the-art facility carrying out research in this
very important area. With the recruitment of two young faculty members,
R & D is expected to pickup. IBAB is already a partner in the
CSIR-sponsored project 'Development of versatile, portable software for
Bioinformatics' under its New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership
also very pleased to report that the Government of Karnataka has
instituted two Chief Minister’s scholarships for the best male and
female student in each batch. Mrs. Sudha Murty of Infosys foundation
has very graciously agreed to institute two medals for the best
performing students. Millipore India has shown exemplary generosity and
social commitment by providing funds for two scholarships to be given
to outstanding women candidates, while Sartorius India has agreed to
support a meritorious student with life science background.
should mention that we do not regard this programme merely as a course
that specializes in bioinformatics. Although our focus is
bioinformatics, we see ourselves as providing a high-quality and modern
postgraduate education. Whether it is basic skills in programming or
understanding structural biology, a critical reading of the literature
or doing computer modelling of biological systems, our attempt is to
'educate' in the true sense of the word rather than just 'teach'. I
hope that really valuable attributes – exposures and competence in a
range of subjects, basic professional skills in writing and speaking,
the ability to work in a group etc – will be retained even more than
the specifics of the subjects being taught. In the 'knowledge economy',
especially the higher-end of this economy, a good education acquires an
even higher value than it has always had and a multi-disciplinary one
even more so.
though the course content and teaching at IBAB is of very high
standard an official stamp of recognition is very essential. This is
particularly important for getting due credit while seeking admission
to academic institutions of higher learning. We have initiated the
process towards seeking recognition of our course and eventually a
Deemed University status from the Government of India. Since IBAB's
mandate is to remain an autonomous, self-financing institution, we need
to charge steeper fees than is usual for postgraduate courses in other
government funded universities. We hope that the quality and
market-relevance of the education justifies this.
are also going on with some leading industries to initiate
collaborative research projects. However, no academic institution can
survive on fees alone and financial support from the Government of
Karnataka and other funding agencies (DBT, MIT, CSIR etc) is crucial to
meet the infrastructure costs.
I pray that the overwhelming moral and technical help from my
colleagues at various institutions such as IISc, NCBS, JNCASR, NAL,
ISRO, SINP will continue, so as to attain a high academic standard.
While the interaction with these institutions at the moment is mainly
one-way, it is my sincere hope that it will prove mutually beneficial
in the long run.
The effort being made to set-up an education and research centre
relevant to the needs of the industry is rather novel in India. It
cannot succeed without the proactive support and constant interaction
of the concerned industry. As already mentioned, several corporate
organizations have been very generous in sparing their scientists to
help design and teach various modules at IBAB. I do hope that the
performance of the first batch of students will make them favourably
inclined to do so, to an even larger extent.
Finally, I look forward to IBAB forging ahead in the coming years and
ready to meet newer and tougher challenges in the frontier areas of
bioinformatics and biotechnology.