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India enters into scientific partnership with the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility

Rapid fire:

  • Provides access to highly intense X-ray source to investigate materials and living matter
  • Partnership to help innovation in biotechnology & drug discovery research
  • Will help improve scientific understanding
  • Numerous young scientists to benefit

Minister of Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan announced India’s Associate Membership to European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), Grenoble, France. India signed an agreement for three years at a total cost of Rs.17.50 crore.

With this agreement, India is the twenty-second country joining the ESRF. The new arrangement will provide access to multiple beamlines and other supporting cutting edge facilities to the Indian scientific community.

The highly intense and brilliant hard X-ray source hosted at ESRF provides opportunities for scientists to investigate materials and living matter in numerous fields like chemistry, physics, material science, structural biology, medical, environmental sciences, information science and nanotechnologies.

Indian scientists will use the facility to probe into the structure of living and non-living matter and explore leads in areas like drug discovery and biotechnology research.

“The collaboration is a great opportunity for India and the involvement of a large number of young people shows the power of this joint programme,” Dr Harsh Vardhan pointed out while announcing the new intensive collaboration between India and ESRF.

He hoped that it will result in excellent trained personnel & new technologies that can help multiple scientific disciplines like biotechnology research, the medical sciences and so on.
Dr VijayRaghavan, Secretary DBT stressed that the new agreement will help boost new level of scientific understanding through access to facilities.

Dr. Francesco Sette, Director General, ESRF highlighted that ESRF has gained from earlier collaboration with India & several scientists from India has visited the facility.

In background, Department of Biotechnology (DBT) completed an ad-hoc arrangement signed in 2008 in association with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) to access the BM14 beamline of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF). The project was implemented by National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi in partnership with EMBL.

The last arrangement was of tremendous utility to the macromolecular crystallography community in India and had a profound impact on research and development in the areas of biotechnology and life sciences in the country especially in understanding the biological mechanisms and development of effective therapeutics and prophylactics to combat human, veterinary and plant diseases. The access to the BM14 beamline has resulted in over 200 research publications, deposition of over 600 structures in the Protein Data Bank, training of more than 150 research personnel and over 100 PhD theses involve data collected under this program.

To build upon the success of the previous arrangement, DBT has now supported the formal joining of India as a scientific partner of the ESRF through the Regional Centre for Biotechnology, Faridabad (RCB). An agreement was signed by Prof. Sudhanshu Vrati (Executive Director, RCB) and Dr. Francesco Sette (Director General, ESRF) with support from Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology signed a three year Arrangement for the medium-term scientific use of synchrotron radiation for non-proprietary research. The present agreement provides access to multiple & more intense beamlines for macromolecular crystallography and also Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS). In addition, access to the Cryo-Electron Microscopy Facility of ESRF will be available in the near future.

India joins the ESRF at a critical time, in which a new and revolutionary Extremely Brilliant Source (EBS) synchrotron source will become operational in 2020. The EBS source will enable, with its unprecedented performances, discoveries in living matter and material research to the benefit of human knowledge, and progress in health, environment and innovative technology challenges. The DBT is pleased to announce this long-term relationship with the ESRF.