FROM THE DIRECTOR
Director's Report 2007
Professor Menon, Prof. Vijay Chandru, Sri Vidyashankar, Members of the
Governing Body and Scientific Advisory Board of IBAB, Prof. Sharat
Chandra, distinguished invitees, officers from the Government of
Karnataka, parents of the graduating IBAB students, IBAB alumni and my
dear colleagues and students.
Let me also
extend to you all a very warm welcome to the 5th convocation of IBAB.
particularly privileged and honoured to have Professor M G K Menon to
deliver the 5th convocation address of IBAB. He is a luminary with a
highly distinguished career as a scientist and as a policy maker. His
vision and foresight has had high impact on the economic growth and
development of India, as we are seeing today in the flourishing IT
sector. I understand also that it was Professor Menon who indicated to
late Mr. J R D Tata, way back in the 1960’s, about the emerging field
of software. Today we see that TCS has grown to be one of the leading
and largest software companies.
has been at the forefront in the cause of education. I came across his
address to the planning commission, around the 7th Plan Period. He has
expressed his deep concern and emphasized the priority that one ought
to attach to education. I quote "Education is somehow taken for
granted; and there is a tendency to regard education as a low priority
item, as a luxury item or as an incidental item. Education does not
have the public visibility as in other sectors, except when there is a
major frustration or indiscipline”. I guess things have not
substantially changed even as we enter the 11th plan period and after
60 years of independence, except that we have managed, to quote him
again “to extend what exists and produce more of the same”, that is a
large number of colleges and universities. As a result, more frequently
than ever before academics and industries alike bemoan and grumble
about the unsuitability of more than 50% of the students that come out
of these systems. He had foreseen this and warned about it.
In this context
I may mention, however immodest it may sound, that IBAB has taken a
lead in providing a holistic education in the field of bioinformatics
and biotechnology, with an emphasis on personality development, as
contrasted with pedantic transmission of knowledge. This has become
feasible with the most enthusiastic support from academia and industry
that cluster across Bangalore in particular. Proof of this effort is
mirrored in the 100% placement record of IBAB students, year after
year, both in bioinformatics and biotechnology companies as well as in
I welcome you
Sir to this function with a great sense of humility and esteem, and we
eagerly look forward to your inspirational address. Perhaps you will
touch upon how youngsters can be motivated to get them back to pursue
advanced studies of science subjects. I am sure you are fully cognizant
of the distressingly sharp decline in the enrollment of students in the
basic science stream.
Chandru, is a brilliant academician turned entrepreneur, and his
company Strand Genomics earlier and Strand Life Sciences now, with the
motto “Algorithms for life” is the first bioinformatics company from
India that has a global presence. It is a leading provider of
bioinformatics and cheminformatics products and solutions, to biotech
and pharmaceutical companies. Strand Life Sciences was recently
recognized as IT Innovator by NASSCOM in 2006, and as a Technology
Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in 2007.
After his Ph.D.
from MIT, Prof. Vijay Chandru spent considerable amount of time in
academia including Purdue Univ, Pennsylvania Univ, MIT, IBM’s T.J.
Watson center in New York and IISc. While in IISc, Strand Life Sciences
was born, and it was the first university spin-off company, fully
promoted by faculty. Prof. Vijay Chandru is one of the inventors of the
SIMPUTER which was subsequently acquired by Geodesic Information
Systems. He is for sure a source of inspiration to the academics who
wish to pursue entrepreneurial activities. All of us look forward
to hearing your prescription to be a successful scientist cum
entrepreneur in the BIO-IT arena.
Sharat Chandra pointed out, although IBAB is an initiative of the
Government of Karnataka, it has been fashioned with a national or even
a global perspective. This is clearly reflected in the composition of
students, year after year, students come from all parts of India and
occasionally from even the neighbouring countries. What one will
witness in IBAB is a mini-India.
received uninterrupted and enormous support from the Department of IT,
BT and ST of the Government of India over the last 6 years. This has
been instrumental in the smooth functioning of the institute. If IBAB
is moving to its own huge premises, with student hostel and other
facilities at the Biotech park in the next couple of months, the credit
should go to Sri Vidya Shankar who has been giving the utmost attention
to all our requirements so patiently and willingly. His stint at Delhi
School of Economics and Harvard University might have made him look
compassionately towards academics. A very warm welcome to you sir.
report on the activities at IBAB
I am happy to
report that almost all the graduating students of the bioinformatics
course, 39 of them, have been placed, in companies engaged in life
science activities. More companies - such as Jubilant Biosys, Aurigene
and Bristlecone (India) - have recruited our students this time.
Notably, six of the students from the graduating batch took up
internship in the academic environment at the University of Reunion and
INRIA, France. Some of students might get back and register for the
Ph.D. program there in the next few months.
students of the Biotechniques course, wherein the emphasis is on the
wet lab experimentation, have been undergoing internship in various
I may mention
with some degree of pride that a few students from previous batches are
enrolled for their PhDs in institutions like Cornell University and the
Max Planck Institutes.
to initiate a new 18 month-course in cheminformatics from the next
batch of admission, that is from November 2007.
courses, the institute has also been conducting training programmes for
others in academia and industry. This includes one on IPR for
post-graduate students and teachers and another on bioinformatics for
ICMR scientists from different parts of the country.
We embarked on
a new program in the past year to train Masters' level students as
project trainees. I am happy to report this has been a huge success. A
good number of selected trainees from around the country spend 4-6
months period working on research projects. At any point of time, there
will always be at least 10-15 students ensuring continuous support for
the research activity. There are more requests for this than we could
We have added a
new adjunct faculty in Dr. Ashwini Mathur, currently, Head,
Biostatistics and Statistical Reporting, Novartis, Hyderabad. He is an
outstanding teacher and has been teaching modules relating to
biostatistics for the last 3-4 years.
On the research
front, I am pleased to mention that IBAB has received a substantial
research grant from DST under the FIST program. This is in addition to
individual research grants that faculty members have obtained from
different agencies like Department of Biotechnology and Department of
Information Technology. IBAB has established a research collaboration
with Phillip India - Bangalore relating to the molecular basis of Type
II diabetes and obesity. Efforts are underway to utilise the outcome of
this work in a larger program involving clinical research in
collaboration with partners from a European Union consortium.
Separately, the collaborative research program on “Mass scale analysis
of gene expression patterns in mammalian species in the context of
cancer and other related biological phenomenon.” initiated last year
with a well known Midwestern University in the US is being continued.
has already seen publications in reputed international journals like Nature
Biotechnology, Bioinformatics and Nucleic Acids Research
by the younger faculty. They have also developed several databases
which will soon be made public. Besides these, a series of articles
that discusses concepts of business, entrepreneurship and intellectual
property relevant to academic biological research is underway. A couple
of them have already appeared in Current Science.
Furthermore, I am happy to mention that IBAB may soon be recognized as
a Ph.D center by a well known university.
I can say with
confidence that besides the strong teaching and training commitment,
research activity has taken a firm hold at the institute. With the
recent recruitment of a couple of new faculty members, IBAB hopes to
achieve a larger research output and still better trained students in
the coming years. A number of accomplished individuals are looking at
IBAB for faculty positions. This is a welcome sign that augurs
well for the future and should give a sense of satisfaction to the
Government of Karnataka and Dr. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw who were
responsible for creating this institute.
I am sure many
of you might be wondering why am I elaborating all of these, as they
are to be expected from any good institution. To be honest, I myself
felt hesitant and embarrassed to talk about these, having spent my
entire career in the university system. But one should not forget that
IBAB is an infant institution, only 6 years young, with a huge
commitment to teaching activities, and therefore it is not trivial to
incubation and entrepreneurship front, IBAB has had one new incubatee
namely, Novozymes, which is setting up its research wing in India.
Symbiosis Biowares, a cell biology platform company and Microtest
Innovations, involved in developing diagnostics for HIV and other
diseases continue to stay with us. IBAB and Center for Human Genetics
have mutually benefited by sharing lab space, several sophisticated
instruments and academic discussions. Due to the efforts of yet
another colleague, IBAB was selected to be on the Honor Roll for its
activities during the nation-wide 'Entrepreneurship week 2007'.
IBAB has been
fortunate to receive unflinching support from both academia and
industry. I wish to record my sincere appreciation to each and every
one of the individuals from IISc, NCBS, Quintiles, GSK, GE, Accelrys,
AstraZeneca, Cranes Software, Cyberplus, NAL, Metahelix, Strand Life
Sciences, Cell Works, who have been providing teaching support.
I am grateful
to Biocon for its continuous support on several fronts including
sponsorship of faculty chairs year after year. AstraZeneca Research
Foundation of India has endowed a chair in cheminformatics. We do look
for opportunities to establish linkages with companies for mutual
advantage and welcome sponsorship of faculty chairs which help us in
recruiting new faculty who can work with both IBAB and the sponsoring
Sartorius and Accelrys besides providing merit scholarships have agreed
to support a few financial assistantships from the next academic year.
My gratitude to Mr. Sudhir Kant (Millipore), Mr. Amit Chatterjee
(Sartorius) and Mr. Anand Gupta (Accelrys) for their generosity.
A new addition to this list is Strand Life Sciences which has
instituted one fellowship each in Bioinformatics and Cheminformatics.
Thank you Prof. Vijay Chandru.
This is the
occasion that the team IBAB wishes to record its sincere gratefulness
to the Department of IT, BT and ST, The Government of Karnataka for the
generous support in so many ways since inception and the autonomy given
to the institute. I take this opportunity to thank officers at all
levels who have been showing genuine concern to all our needs, more so
now, when the construction of IBAB campus is taking shape. I would like
to once again express our deep sense of appreciation to Mr.
Vidyashankar for his extraordinary effort in creating the new premises
of IBAB at the Biotech Park.
congratulate all the students who have earned their diploma and greet
those who will receive individual honours.
Thank you all
for coming and making it a very pleasant occasion.