FROM THE DIRECTOR
Director's Report 2006
The Institute of Bioinformatics and applied Biotechnology (IBAB) had
its beginning nearly 5 years ago and it has emerged as a leading
institution for imparting perhaps the best training in bioinformatics,
keeping particularly in mind the biotechnology sector of the industry.
I feel this is a credible accomplishment considering the nascent nature
of this institute. Both the Vision group on Biotechnology and the
Department of IT & BT, Government of Karnataka are to be
congratulated for setting up such a unique institution, perhaps the
first of its kind in the area of life sciences in India.
The credit for the success of IBAB, as I have been
the last two years of my stay here, should go to a number of people who
have worked devotedly and with enthusiasm. This includes the selfless
contribution in various capacities from a large number of academicians
from the cluster of renowned research institutions and professionals
from companies in Bangalore. Their efforts have been invaluable and
they have been assisting IBAB starting from recruitment of students,
teaching them and to the point till they are placed. I am doubtful if
this experiment would work elsewhere. I would like to compliment my
predecessor and the chairman of IBAB for inculcating such a fine
tradition. I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and
appreciation to each and every one of the faculty members from academia
and expert personnel from industry who have been helping IBAB in one
way or the other.
Bioinformatics is a highly multidisciplinary subject,
and is becoming
increasingly so. It, calls for conceptual inputs from diversified areas
that include statistical and mathematical sciences, computer sciences,
electrical and chemical engineering, besides of course physical,
chemical and biological sciences. I believe the current approach of
soliciting experts from outside is perhaps most advantageous till a new
breed of bioinformaticians or computational biologists evolve.
Last year has been noteworthy in many ways for IBAB,
and one of them
being the clearance of its own premises along with student’s hostel, by
the Government of Karnataka at the Biotech Park, that has been pending
for long. The work is projected to begin any time now and is expected
to be ready for occupation in a year’s time. Thanks to Dr. Pujari and
Shri Shankaralingegowda for their persistent efforts in bringing this
to a reality. IBAB will have nearly three times the laboratory space
that we have currently at ITPB. This will help in implementing IBAB’s
plan to upgrade both the Post-graduate Diploma courses in
Bioinformatics and Biotechniques into two year Master degree programs.
Also, it will speed up the process of getting recognition to these
courses from renowned institutions till such time when IBAB attains the
status of a degree-awarding institution on its own merit. I must
mention at this point that companies who employ our students are
perfectly happy taking them with out the official degree stamp, perhaps
reflecting on the quality of students trained at IBAB.
I am happy to report that IBAB has taken several steps
research activity. I should mention in this context that one more
faculty member has been added recently and we are on the look out for
more. In the initial stages of setting up of IBAB, faculty members were
overwhelmed with teaching commitments and were not able to pay much
attention to research. I am pleased to report that in the recent past
faculty members have obtained research grants from national agencies to
support their research programmes. IBAB has also been able to provide
small start-up funds to help boost up the research activities. These in
turn have helped IBAB in submitting coherent grant applications to seek
funds from agencies like DST and DBT to enhance the infrastructure
facilities for both teaching and research.
In this context, I am indeed pleased to report that
the institute has
signed recently an MOU with the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor for a
collaborative research entitled “Mass-scale analysis of gene
expression patterns in mammalian species in the context of cancer
other biological phenomenon”. With the addition of a few more faculty
members to attain the critical mass, IBAB aspires to be among the elite
cluster of research institutions of Bangalore. The institute would of
course retain its distinct character by preserving the strong teaching
component and industry focus, both in terms of student placements and
also, hopefully, in terms of industry-relevant research in
bioinformatics and biotechnology.
One other uniqueness of the courses taught at IBAB is
that besides core
subjects, students are taught IPR and entrepreneurship as well as
several soft skills to prepare them to face the challenge of
competition. One of the faculty members has in fact been involved in
developing course material in entrepreneurship and IPR, especially with
relevance to biotechnology that can be used by other institutions. In
course of time, IBAB would also like to create a niche for itself in
facilitating scientists to patent their discoveries. In this context, I
would like to share with you, however immodest it may sound, two nice
publications, one in Nature Biotechnology and the other in
our own Current Science. These activities are supported by a
grant from Wadhwani Foundation.
As in previous years IBAB has conducted a number short
ranging from a few days to a month, for the benefit of students and
professionals in the industry.
A new training program has been taken up, along the
lines that are in
practice in some of the DBT-supported institutions across the country,
to train students in bioinformatics from other institutions for a
period of 4-6 months by giving them specific projects. It is proposed
to take around 10 students this year after appropriate screening from
hundreds of applications that are received. We do hope that we will be
able to garner some support from DBT to this new initiative.
A few months ago, Dr. Aileen Allsop, Chairman of the
Governing Board of
AstraZeneca Research Foundation India (AZREFI) happened to visit IBAB
and was impressed with our programmes. She indicated that AZREFI would
help in some fashion to encourage the efforts of the institute. I am
extremely happy to report that the AstraZeneca Research Foundation
India (AZREFI) has endowed a chair in cheminformatics at IBAB. The team
at IBAB wishes to place on record their appreciation to Dr. Aileen
Allsop and to Dr. Ananda Kumar of AstraZeneca Research Foundation,
India, for the trust reposed in us and for the constant support IBAB
has been receiving from AstraZeneca in various ways.
This is what Dr. Anand Kumar has to say on the
occasion of handing over
the cheque "IBAB has become a well known institute in the country in
the short span of 5 years and has carved out a niche for its strong
training program in Bioinformatics. IBAB needs to be supported by
industry because it is an institution with a difference and trains
students keeping industry in mind. Scientists from AstraZeneca and
AZREFI have been taking an active interest in the activities of IBAB
and AZREFI is happy to lend its support to a new program in
Cheminformatics at IBAB."
This recognition, coming as it does at this stage of
years of IBAB, infuses greater strength and confidence in us and will
take us a long way in achieving the institute's vision. IBAB has
initiated action by discussing with a number of experts to develop
course content and to look for suitable faculty with regard to starting
a cheminformatics program some time during next summer. I am pleased to
report that an expert in cheminformatics working in Novartis at Boston
recently visited us on his own and is keen to serve as a visiting
At this juncture, I should mention we are also very
fortunate to have
received a commitment from BIOCON for a substantial recurring grant to
support new faculty. This is in addition to the grant that IBAB has
been receiving in the past. The entire team of IBAB expresses deep
sense of appreciation to Mrs. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw for her continued
support. Her reassurance has been a great source of strength.
Accelrys, the leading software company relating to
structural biology and with whom IBAB has synergistic relationship has
joined the band of well-wishers and admirers of IBAB like the Biocon,
Millipore, Sartorius and others, by announcing scholarships to the two
best students in computational structural biology. I wish to place on
record on behalf of team IBAB our sincere appreciation for this nice
IBAB distinguishes in yet another way by providing
facilities for new start-up companies. Microtest Innovations, involved
in developing diagnostics for HIV and other diseases has been
incubating with us since 2002. It's CEO, has recently been supported by
DST under the DPRP program.
Cell works Inc, which was incubating with us has
outgrown the institute
in its space requirements and had to move out. It is a matter of pride
and satisfaction that this company was started by one of our earlier
faculty members and a good number of IBAB graduates are working there.
Symbiosis Biowares Inc, a cell biology platform
company and the R&D
unit of Novozymes are the two fresh incubatees. These welcome entrants
have made optimal utilization of laboratory space and provide
opportunities for internship and placements for our students.
would also like to mention that we are very proud of a company,
Genbios, set up by our student Savita Anant this past year. We wish her
our best as she takes her company forward.
While science is beyond supply and demand issue, and
need to be
supported by adequate funding, the focus of education perhaps should be
towards exposing the students to a broad range of career options.
Students in life sciences especially, need to be trained beyond the
career model of a principal investigator. In the present scenario,
quality life science programs offer opportunities in companies that
were not there a few years ago. Therefore, programs such as ones run by
IBAB need to be supported adequately so that it can constantly upgrade
and embark on newer challenges in bioinformatics education and
IBAB is grateful to Department of IT & BT,
Government of Karnataka
for their unmatchable support through all these years and I would
appeal to them through our distinguished academician turned Principal
Secretary, Dr. Pujari to do whatever is necessary to bestow such
assistance to IBAB even after it moves to its own premises. That will
be the time when it needs greater aid to furnish the new lab space and
class rooms. We, of course, also solicit support from central /state
governments, their agencies, companies and others.
I would like to congratulate each and every one of the
students of the
4th batch of bioinformatics and the 3rd batch of biotechniques courses
for their hard earned diploma and applaud those who have excelled. I
trust that IBAB has been able to instill in all of you the enchantment
of science and I am optimistic that the spark will grow to enable you
to achieve greater rewards in your chosen path. I urge you all to
recognize and support your alma mater.
I would like to conclude by saying that the IBAB team
has, as usual,
been busy and it has been a very demanding year. Our students would
agree that we keep them even busier. Various new activities have
started and some more are on our mind. We hope to take them up as soon
as we have our own building. We also hope to have our next convocation
at our own building.
It is indeed personally satisfying to see my dear
distinguished scientific colleague Prof. Vijayan and IBAB’s well wisher
Dr. Pujari kindly accepting our invitation to grace this function.
I thank you all for
being with us this afternoon to felicitate the young achievers, and for
your kind attention.