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Last Date of Concept Proposal submission: December 26, 2017

Tissue engineering has become an established protocol for the bioengineering of living tissues using engineered scaffolds to simulate the ECM so that cells can populate the scaffold and allow for tissue regeneration. The success of tissue engineering methods has now generated strong interest in the next level of whole organ development wherein the tools of tissue engineering are integrated with engineering and process technologies, molecular biology and developmental biology to generate working organs that can have sufficient survivability to either serve as a bridge to transplant or as a replacement organ itself. This effort is a significantly multidisciplinary and ideally multi-institutional effort that brings together various complementary expertise in a mission mode with the specific goal of translating the results to clinical trials. DBT is now calling for such multi institutional and multidisciplinary concept proposals. A minimum of 3 Institutes should be involved as a team. At least one of the institutions must be a medical institution and at least one of the PIs must be a clinician. The following are candidate organs for development, although the teams may propose some other organ, provided there is a clear credible evidence for such a choice.

1. Heart
2. Liver
3. Pancreas
4. Skin
5. Bone integrated with muscle, tendon and marrow
6. Whole tooth
7. Eye

Click here for Complete Call

Mode of Submission
Concept Proposals should be submitted in 3 hard copies (strictly as per the prescribed format) to following address:

Dr. Kakali Dey Dasgupta,
Scientist ‘D’, Department of Biotechnology,
Block-2, Room No.814, 8th floor,
CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi – 110003

and soft copy mandatorily should be sent at bioenggloi.dbt@gov.in

Regional Centre for Biotechnology (RCB) is an institution of national importance established through an Act of Indian parliament by the Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India under the auspices of UNESCO. The primary focus of RCB is to provide world class education, training and conduct innovative research at the interface of multiple disciplines to create high quality human resource in disciplinary and interdisciplinary areas of biotechnology. To this end, the Centre is offering the master’s and doctoral degree programs in biotechnology, while other degree/diploma programs in niche areas of biotechnology are under development.

The Centre invites applications from suitably qualified, dynamic, and result-oriented scientists with flair for teaching, to fill up the following academic positions on direct recruitment / deputation or contract basis. The candidate should preferably have demonstrated research experience, and interest to pursue research and teaching in any of the following areas: (1) Synthetic Biology & Metabolic Engineering, (2) Fermentation, Scale-up & Downstream Processing, (3) Biocatalysis & Enzyme Engineering, (4) Metagenomics & Microbiome, (5) Antibody Engineering for Therapeutic Applications, (6) Cancer Biology & Therapy, (7) Infectious Disease Biology for Developing Prophylactics and Therapeutics, (8) Plant Biotechnology for Crop Improvements, and (9) Big Data Analytics, Computational Biology & Bioinformatics.

RCB will provide the selected candidates a shared laboratory space with adequate start-up support for setting up the lab. However, the faculty is required to raise the extra mural grants to support their research activities and build the research program. The faculty is also required to participate in the management of the Centre with responsibilities assigned by the competent authority as per the requirements. Interested candidates should submit their applications in the prescribed online format available on http://www.rcb.res.in/, or http://www.rcb.ac.in/. There is no last date and the application can be made throughout the year till the positions are filled up.

Stakeholders discuss ways to realize full potential of “National Certification System for Tissue Culture Raised Plants”

Tissue Culture Industries, Farmers and Mission Directors of State Horticulture Mission/Senior Officials of Horticulture Department in the State’s dealing with tissue culture plants/quality planting material interacted at a Stakeholder Meet on “National Certification System for Tissue Culture Raised Plants (NCS-TCP)” to identify the way forward to realize the full potential of this certification system, which in unique, dynamic and comprehensive in nature.IMG_20171114_105548

Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology conducted the meet on November 14, 2017 at SCOPE Convention Centre Auditorium, SCOPE Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi to create awareness among all the Stakeholders particularly key Officials from Centre and State Government’s Agriculture and Horticulture Departments.

Shri. S. K. Pattanayak, Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare Ministry of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, in his keynote address stressed on a system in which all tissue culture material would be procured from accredited laboratories and the need for participation of states in such a system. He said that India is doing very well in tissue culture research and that scientific institutions of international repute is now open for Indian scientists for new research. He underlined the need for funding for the popularization of tissue culture from the Ministry of Agriculture. IMG_20171114_120027

Professor K VijayRaghavan, Secretary Department of Biotechnology (DBT), in his inaugural address highlighted the strong foundation of partnership between farmers and scientific community and added the need to have a well articulated project for new improved varieties for horticulture. Since, India is the only country to develop this certification system, Professor VijayRaghavan pointed out that this progress can be used for building capacities in the neighbouring countries and that it would be an important step in science diplomacy.

Highlighting the structure and current status of NCS-TCP and the impact it has made on production of quality materials in different states, Dr Renu Swarup, Senior Advisor, DBT stressed on the need for popularising tissue culture plants across India by 2020 and enlisting the participation of the states in the process.
The Biotech Consortium India Limited (BCIL) assisted DBT in implementing the NCS-TCP as the Management Cell and also organized the event.

Government of India has established the “National Certification System for Tissue Culture Raised Plants (NCS-TCP)” authorizing Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology as the Certification Agency vide the Gazette Notification dated 10th March 2006 under the “Seeds Act, 1966” for ensuring production and distribution of quality tissue culture planting materials.

With increasing demand for agricultural, forestry, plantation and horticulture crops, the demand for high quality, high yielding, disease free planting stock has been increased significantly over the last two decades. Conventional propagation method, which includes sowing of seeds, propagation by cutting, layering etc suffers from the inherent limitations in the number that can be produced, non-uniformity of quality and incidence of diseases. Plant Tissue Culture has emerged as an important biotechnology and commercially viable tool to multiply elite varieties of high quality, disease free and high yielding plants rapidly in the laboratory irrespective of the season of the year. In India, the Tissue Culture Industry is growing at a rate of 15% per annum.

The purpose of NCS-TCP is to ensure production and distribution of quality tissue culture planting materials. NCS-TCP is a unique quality management system, first of its kind in the world, which ensures recognition of Tissue Culture Production Facility for the production of quality planting material and certification of end products.

NCS-TCP has made significant impact in the last one decade of its implementation. Currently, around 80 Companies are recognized. Two Referral Centre’s and five Test Laboratories are accredited under this system. The recognized companies are eligible for getting their planting material certified from the Accredited Test Laboratories. So far, more than 275 million Tissue Culture plants have been certified through this system.

STAKEHOLDER_MEET_TCULTURESLIDER

Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology is conducting a Stakeholder Meet on “National Certification System for Tissue Culture Raised Plants (NCS-TCP)” on November 14, 2017 at SCOPE Convention Centre Auditorium, SCOPE Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi to create awareness among all the Stakeholders particularly key Officials from Centre and State Government’s Agriculture and Horticulture Departments. The Biotech Consortium India Limited (BCIL) is assisting DBT in implementing the NCS-TCP as the Management Cell and organizing the event.

Government of India has established the “National Certification System for Tissue Culture Raised Plants (NCS-TCP)” authorizing Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology as the Certification Agency vide the Gazette Notification dated 10th March 2006 under the “Seeds Act, 1966” for ensuring production and distribution of quality tissue culture planting materials.

The purpose of NCS-TCP is to ensure production and distribution of quality tissue culture planting materials. NCS-TCP is a unique quality management system, first of its kind in the world, which ensures recognition of Tissue Culture Production Facility for the production of quality planting material and certification of end products.
NCS-TCP has made significant impact in the last one decade of its implementation. Currently, around 80 Companies are recognized. Two Referral Centre’s and five Test Laboratories are accredited under this system. The recognized companies are eligible for getting their planting material certified from the Accredited Test Laboratories. So far, more than 275 million Tissue Culture plants have been certified through this system.

The purpose of Stakeholder Meet is interaction amongst the stakeholders who will be participating namely Tissue Culture Industries, Farmers and Mission Directors of State Horticulture Mission/Senior Officials of Horticulture Department in the State’s dealing with tissue culture plants/quality planting material. This interaction is expected to identify the way forward towards realizing the full potential of this certification system which in unique, dynamic and comprehensive in nature.

Venue: Auditorium, SCOPE Convention Centre , SCOPE Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi
Date: 14th November, 2017

Click here for Detailed programme

Rapid fire:

  • Dr. Renu Swarup, Senior Adviser DBT awarded with National Entrepreneurship Award, 2017 under Mentor (Government) category
  • She also holds charge of Managing Director, BIRAC, a Public Sector Company
  • Through industry academia partnerships, she supported more than 1000 Start-ups & Entrepreneurs & nearly 500 small companies for innovation research & product development
  • BIRAC incorporated by the Government of India to nurture and promote innovation research in the Biotech Enterprise with focus on Start-ups and SMEs
  • Union Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley presented the awards at the National Entrepreneurship Award Ceremony, 2017

Dr. Renu Swarup, Senior Adviser in the Department of Bio-technology, Ministry of Science & Technology has been awarded with National Entrepreneurship Award, 2017 under Mentor (Government) category in the Recognition Track. Union Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley presented the awards at the National Entrepreneurship Award Ceremony, 2017 in New Delhi.
award

She also holds position of Managing Director, Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a Public Sector Company. BIRAC incorporated by the Government of India to nurture and promote innovation research in the Biotech Enterprise with special focus on Start-ups and SMEs. Through Biotechnology translational research and industry academia partnerships, she has supported more than 1000 Start-ups and Entrepreneurs and nearly 500 small companies for innovation research and product development.DOLvk7BW4AAFBUR

A PhD in Genetics and Plant Breeding, Dr. Renu Swarup completed her Post Doctoral at The John Innes Centre, Norwich UK, under Commonwealth Scholarship and returned to India to take up the assignment of a Science Manager in the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, in 1989. As a Science Manager, issues related to policy planning and implementations are a part of her assignment. She was actively engaged in formulation of the Biotechnology Vision in 2001, National Biotechnology Development Strategy in 2007 and Strategy II, 2015-2020 as the Member Secretary of the Expert Committee.

A Member of the National Academy of Sciences India (NASI), she is also a Member of Governing Body of National Institutes, Universities and Centers. She was awarded the “Bio-Spectrum Person of the Year Award” in 2012.

Inspection visit of Lt Governor Sh Anil Baijal of the LOTUSHR project at Barapullah Drain, Sun Dial Park, Sarai Kale Khan, Delhi November 11, 2017 0830 hours

Rapid fire:

  • Lt. Governor Sh Anil Baijal, took an on the spot update on the progress of the LOTUSHR project at the Barapullah Drain site.
  • The goal of LOTUSHR project is to develop water treatment technologies for pollutant removal including the heavy metal & new and emerging contaminants.
  • Lt Governor congratulated DBT & the Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research & he gave instructions for the smooth coordination of the project to IIT Delhi, DDA & DJB.
  • He also stated the benefits emerging from the project have far reaching effects: swachhata, clean water for industrial, agricultural & community use.

Background:
The Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, the Government of Netherlands are implementing the project LOTUSHR (LOcal Treatment of Urban Sewage Streams for Healthy Reuse) (Swachh Barapullah) and is a joint Indo-Netherlands collaborative project.

The project aims to demonstrate a novel holistic waste-water management approach, that will produce clean water which can be reused for various proposes (e.g. industrial, agricultural, community use etc.), while simultaneously recovering nutrients and energy from the urban waste water, thus converting drain into profitable mines. Special attention will be paid to pathogen removal and removing conventional and emerging pollutants, a major issue mostly ignored by existing STP/ WWTPs.

DBT in consultation with DDA has identified the Barapullah drain, Sarai Kale Khan, in the state of Delhi as a demonstration site for the proposed interdisciplinary technological solutions. Barapullah is a 12.5 km long drain responsible for about 30% of pollution in the Yamuna river, collecting mainly domestic sewage and waste from small industry.

Partnering Institutes:-
Indian side: IIT-Delhi, TERI-New Delhi, and NEERI-Nagpur
Dutch side: TU Delft, UNESCO, Wageningen University, NIOO-KNAW, Vrije Universiteit

Updates on the project activities:-

LOTUSHR project was inaugurated by Lt. Governor, New Delhi, Sh. Anil Baijal along with Hon’ble Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan and The Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister Bert Koenders on May 9th 2017. DSC_0032

The project has progressed at considerable pace; with construction of the onsite-test lab at Barapullah site completed. Sampling on all 20 locations have been executed for characterization of the drain water. The data will become available within the 1 month.

The drain water samples are being collected and analyzed on small test reactors in the laboratories at IIT-Delhi and TERI, the data generated shared with the Dutch partners. Ph.D. and Post Doc students from The Netherlands have also spent 3 months in India on testing of the water. Standardization of the parameters for the reactors to be installed at the site is underway.

By January, 2018, a demonstration of multiple treatment technologies (Anaerobic membrane bioreactor, Dissolved Air Floatation, Photobioreactor, and Wetland) will be initiated at the test site. These demonstrations will be running for an year to effectively test the treatment efficacy during seasonal variations in pollutant load in water.

Deliverables:-
The project will develop an innovative pilot scale plant, suitable to cope with Indian conditions in a location specific manner. The final design of the pilot plant will be scalable and modular, to fit into the highly populated urban terrain.

Lt Governor inspection visit

1. Lt. Governor Sh Anil Baijal, at a short notice took an on the spot update on the progress of the LOTUSHR project at the Barapullah Drain site, Sun Dial Park, Sari Kale Khan to take stock of the progress made in the project.

2. The goal of LOTUSHR project is to develop water treatment technologies for pollutant removal including the heavy metal as well as new and emerging contaminants which usually go undetected in existing traditional sewage treatment plants.

3. The Lt Governor Sh Anil Baijal, was also accompanied by Dr. K VijayRaghavan, Secretary, DBT, GoI, Prof. T R Sreekrishnan, Project coordinator and Dean IIT Delhi , Sh Udai Pratap Singh, Vice Chairman DDA, Sh Keshav Chandra, CEO, DJB and Sh S.B.K. Singh, Special Commissioner, Delhi Police and Ms. Varsha Joshi, Power Secretary, Delhi Govt

4. While congratulating the Department of Biotechnology, Govt of India and the Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research, the Lt Governor gave instructions for the ensured smooth coordination of different departments involved in the project i.e. IIT Delhi, DDA, DJB. He advised that the project should be a node for government-community-science interaction and hub.

5. He also stated the benefits emerging from the project have far reaching effects: swacchata, clean water for industrial, agricultural and community use. Recycling and reuse of the of waste water for both recovery of waste and generation of gas/power would benefit all sectors and therefore all agencies Delhi Jal Board, DDA and other agencies of Delhi also collaborate and support DBT for a win-win partnership

RCUK & DBT SLider2
Rapid fire:

  • The India-UK Strategic Group on AMR Research held their second meeting in New Delhi on 7th Nov 2017
  • In this meet they discussed mutual research priorities to tackle AMR an increasingly serious global threat
  • The strategic group also welcomed AMR research experts who are participating in an India-UK sandpit-style workshop
  • This workshop is organised by DBT and RCUK from 7th to 10th November in Delhi NCR
  • It will serve as a platform to build interdisciplinary research teams & joint outline proposals for research into various aspects of AMR
  • Professor K. VijayRaghavan, Secretary, DBT said, “Our research efforts are addressing the detection, diagnosis and prevalence of AMR.”

The India-UK Strategic Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Research held their second meeting in New Delhi on 7th November 2017 to discuss mutual research priorities to tackle AMR, an increasingly serious global threat. They also assessed progress made by the India-UK partnership in AMR, since its launch last November by the Indian Minister for Science & Technology, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Minister of Earth Sciences, Dr Harsh Vardhan and the UK Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Jo Johnson.

The India-UK AMR collaboration is led by India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the UK Research Councils. Both DBT and RCUK are nodal agencies coordinating this initiative with other research funding partners in India like the Department of Science and Technology, Indian Council of Social Science Research, Indian Council of Medical Research, Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

The strategic group commended the progress, which has since its first meeting in November 2016, successfully commissioned a mapping report on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Research in India, which was released by Indian Minister of State for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences Shri Y S Chowdary and the UK Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Jo Johnson at an event in New Delhi last week. Also present at this event were Sir Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Nobel laureate and President of the Royal Society, Professor K VijayRaghavan, Secretary DBT and Sir Dominic Asquith KCMG, British High Commissioner to India.

Both Ministers welcomed the joint report and the DBT – RCUK partnership addressing AMR. The report identifies gaps in our understanding, especially in countries with high disease burdens, and highlights that we can use multi-disciplinary research to fill key areas of potential action including the environment, industrial waste, farming practise, and how people use and understand valuable antibiotic drugs.

The strategic group also welcomed AMR research experts from India and the United Kingdom who are participating in an India-UK sandpit-style workshop this week to develop outline proposals for AMR research. This workshop is organised by DBT and RCUK from 7th to 10th November in Delhi NCR, and will serve as a platform to build interdisciplinary research teams and joint outline proposals for research into various aspects of AMR.

Up to £13 million joint funding, under the Newton Bhabha Fund, will be utilised on projects funded as a result of this workshop.

Professor K. VijayRaghavan, Secretary, DBT said: “The challenge AMR poses is enormous from India’s perspective because it revolves not only around the use of antibiotics, but also around enforcement, industrial waste and use of antibiotics in the livestock industry, all of which, in turn, affects the food chain and public water supply, thereby causing major health risks. Our research efforts are addressing the detection, diagnosis and prevalence of AMR. Our international partnerships are crucial to help scale up these efforts.”

Professor Stuart Taberner, Director of International and Interdisciplinary Research, RCUK, said: “Global challenges such as AMR can be addressed by strong, collaborative research partnerships, such as the one India and UK are demonstrating through various initiatives in AMR. While the joint mapping report identifies gaps in our understanding, I am hopeful that some of proposals that will be developed at the interactive workshop will help address these gaps.”

Scoping Report on Anti-Microbial Resistance in India

Manidipa Banerjee & Krishanu Ray

The Nobel Prize of 2017 is jointly awarded to Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson for their contribution in developing the technique of Cryo-electron Microscopy for imaging large molecules in vitrified ice, which is considered as if they are in their natural environment. Of course, this is a big deal because it opens the window of seeing the biological molecules such as proteins in their natural environment. My objective here is to deconstruct the history and usefulness of this method at the popular level. Also, highlight its impact on future research and development of new applications.

Let us first go back to the history. Microscopy as a tool has ushered in many revolutions in science and technology which further enhanced the quality of human life. It has also majorly influenced human belief system. Imagine how one could accept the fact that malaria and leprosy are caused by tiny organisms called pathogen if they were never seen. Because the human mind is strongly oriented towards accepting what is seen, we tend to believe the most once we see something. Although the practice of science over several centuries have generated scores of ways to infer what is unseen through many indirect ways and logical deductions, the influence of visual confirmation has maintained the prime place amongst all these. Thus, microscopy and various forms of image gathering have always captured our attention by enabling us to see the unseen. Modern microscopy has come a long way from its debut with Anton van Leeuwenhoek’s magnifiers in late 17th century. Initially, the microscopy was limited to enlarging the objects with innate, optical contrast-defined structures such as cell wall, microorganisms, etc. The invention of dye staining and improvements in the compound microscope designs with artificial lighting arrangements or illumination systems created the field of histology and histopathology. The later, greatly influenced development of the current diagnostic practices in medical science and treatment of diseases; then came the era of advanced fluorescence spectroscopy and its convergence with microscopy, such as confocal microscopes, made it possible to ‘see’ molecules in action. It also improved our understanding of cellular physiology, and subsequently, helped the discovery of many more modern medicines. However, a gap remained, i.e., none of these technologies can actually ‘show’ where a particular drug binds.

It was the preserve of crystallography. Since the discovery of X-ray diffraction technique by the father-son team of Braggs in the early 20th century, the X-ray crystallography has made a significant inroad in enabling us to see the atoms as they are within a molecule and helped find several cures. Notwithstanding the centrality of this technique in modern medicine, the images obtained by the X-ray diffraction technique can only be considered as an average view of reality or a deduction. It is also hamstrung by the fact the one needs a large number of the same molecule to be packed in an ordered array for obtaining such a deduction. In most cases, the molecules of life work in tandem with many other different kinds. Their ‘structures,’ as well as ‘function,’ are more often determined by the company they keep.

The Cryo-electron microscopy has the potential to provide a breakthrough in this scenario. It can enable visualization of individual molecules at near-atomic details in a natural setting because it does not require packing the molecules in a crystalline array. Therefore, one can potentially ‘see’ how TB bacteria evade the most potent drug ever invented or find an inescapable lock preventing their invasion into our cells.

How does one get this information? Let us now get into some detail behind this invention. It was already proven in 1930’s that when electrons are accelerated to nearly reaching the speed of light, they behave as a wave. This particle-wave duality was demonstrated in the most obvious way by Max Knoll and Ernst Ruska at the Berlin Technische Hochschule in 1931 by installing the first ever electron microscope. The instrument showed details within a material that were hitherto remained ‘unseen’ by using visible light. Biologists, material scientists, and medical sciences immediately understood the power of this technique and its usefulness in applications. Since then, electron microscope has been used as a tool for critical pathological analysis of tissue material and in cell biology research. There was, however, one major impediment. The electrons deflect better from the higher-Z, or larger atoms and biology is mostly managed by Hydrogen, Carbon, Oxygen and Nitrogen-based molecules. Also, illuminating a specimen with too many electrons at a time drills a hole by vaporizing the material. Therefore, the electron images are always very faint. Hence, one needs to keep the specimen steady for a ‘long’ time to get a clear, sharp, image. Further, the electron beam must travel in high vacuum lest they will be diverted or absorbed by the air, and all biological systems are full of water, which will evaporate as soon as one puts them in a vacuum.

The Achilles heel of biological electron microscopy was bypassed through systematic replacement of water in biomaterial with resins and making ultrathin slices. They are also heavily doped with Osmium, Lead, and Uranium. All these treatments altered a majority of natural organization of molecules. So we got an image of a highly manicured artifact. It is comparable to the images projected on celluloid after applying heavy makeup and dressings on the artists/subjects. Nonetheless, the information obtained was highly valuable and made innumerable vital discoveries, such as the real cause of Scrappy, the Alzheimer’s disease and much more.

Still, the desire to ‘see the molecule as they are’ was nursed by many. The first breakthrough came when Jacques Dubochet demonstrated that one could render ice invisible under an electron beam by freezing a thin layer of water so quickly that it could not crystallize. By keeping the ice in this ‘vitreous’ form on a stage inside the electron microscope, one could potentially image items that are dissolved in this ice. The technique was further improved by Richard Henderson and his colleagues. They also introduced biological macromolecules into this vitreous ice and looked at them under the electron microscope. The results were stunning, almost magical. Suddenly, the prospect of looking at a microtubule or ribosome became a reality. Still, there was a major drawback, i.e., how to extract the atomic structure from the blobs seen on the image plates. Physicist-turned-Biologist, Joachim Frank, introduced the deduction which made it possible. He suggested that by collecting a large number of images at multiple angles, classifying these images according to certain geometric criteria and making class-averaged images, one could remove the ‘noise’ from the blobs and make them look better. More importantly, one could extract the three-dimensional topology of individual molecules using this method. The slow collection of images using photographic films was a major impediment that prevented full realization of this technique as an industry-grade tool. The advent of ever so fast camera chips and image analysis technique combined with computational powers kept improving the prospect until we got the direct electron-detecting camera chip. With the ability to ‘see’ the electron image without having to convert them to an optical form first not only improved the resolution, but it also managed to capture events occurring at sub-millisecond speed. One can now literally see how a ribosome makes protein in real time.

So what! One may still ask what’s the big deal. Here is a riposte. Since the beginning of evolution, organisms made electricity from sunlight and used it to convert carbon dioxide to glucose – the primary food source of life. Even though humanity also has invented ways to make electricity from sunlight using silicon wafers, the efficiency is very low. Moreover, we still can’t make glucose from thin air and sunlight. The Cryo-electron microscopy extends the promise to show how it happens in reality within a chloroplast or on the membrane of cyanobacteria. The race had already begun decades ago to unlock the secret using this particular tool. The ability to see how a drug binds to a ribosome or on a channel protein at the surface of a bacterium or a cell would help to develop a more useful therapy. It could also revolutionize the development of new application materials using organics.

One can go on with many more examples, but I guess you are already exhausted reading this rant. So with wishes and optimism of a great ‘cryogenic’ era, I must now withdraw.

Additional reading:
1. Nature vol 550, PP-167 (12 October 2017) doi:10.1038/nature.2017.22738
2. Nature vol 525, PP 172–174 (10 September 2015) doi:10.1038/525172a

Cryo-Electron Microscopy in India: Cryo-Electron Microscopy has been practiced in India from 2000 onwards. The first sets of systems were installed in NIV Pune, IIT-B Powai, CCMB Hyderabad and NICED Kolkata around the same time. This was followed by an installation in TIFR, Mumbai, IIT-Delhi and several other places. Most of these were low energy systems good for low-resolution contrast imaging. Prof. Amar Nath Ghosh and his student Somnath Dutta at NICED produced the first 3D-Cryo-electron microscope structure of a bacterial protein (Vibrio cholerae hemolysin oligomer) at NICED in 2010. The use of the more high energy Cryo-Electron microscopy started with the installation of a 300 KeV system at CSIR-IICB, Kolkata. Recently, a state of the art system is installed in NCBS-TIFR, Bengaluru. With this installation, active and high-resolution analysis using the technology can start in this country. Interestingly, several young and enthusiastic faculty have joined in the last few years and started their research using the Cryo-electron microscope (see the list below), and several structural biologists who have been using X-ray crystallography as the main tool is contemplating to switch to the Cryo-TEM. Therefore, the prospect of future research in India using this technology can only improve.

Experts practicing Cryo-Electron microscopy in India:

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Local cryoEM Expertise: A state-of-the-art facility for cryoelectron microscopy, consisting of a 300 KV cryoelectron microscope equipped with the direct detector and a phase plate, is currently being set up in NCBS, Bangalore. It is expected to cater towards data collection requirements of the Indian structural biology community. There are also several 200 KeV microscopes, which are either currently functional or are being installed or purchased for several institutes in the country. These can potentially serve as screening microscopes in the initial part of the workflow for cryoelectron microscopy and single particle reconstructions – such as determining freezing conditions for different samples, or for low to medium resolution model generation. It is hoped that access to more state-of-the-art facilities will aid the efforts of local laboratories to effectively utilize this technique to address scientific questions.

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CryoEM in Virology: Cryoelectron microscopy and single particle reconstructions, as well as cryotomography methods, are particularly essential for virology research. Viruses are obligatory intracellular pathogens that interact with cellular components to gain entry into host cells, where they carry out replication and generation of progeny virions for the perpetuation of the infection. Structural detail of the conformational alterations in viruses during entry, assembly, and disassembly, interaction with receptors and other cellular components or with cellular membranes can be studied efficiently in using cryoelectron microscopy and cryotomography. Due to the dynamic nature of these processes and the large size of complexes formed, the other available structure determination techniques like X-ray crystallography or NMR are either not suitable or fairly challenging for understanding these processes. Cryoelectron microscopy based reconstructions are also very essential in determining structures of new or re-emerging pathogens quickly (example: Zika Virus) to aid the drug discovery process.

Authors’ profile:
Manidipa Banerjee, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, India
Krishanu Ray, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai 400005, India

Indo-German Cooperation in Health Research Call for Proposals 2017

Within the agreement of Indo-German cooperation in S&T of 1974, the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and Forschungszentrum Julich BMBH (FZJ), Federal Republic of Germany, has agreed for cooperative programme in biotechnology.

The purpose of the programme is to stimulate new collaborations, e.g. the preparation of joint projects under national funding programmes. The programme facilitates bilateral cooperation in biotechnology between the scientific communities of India and Germany by way of Joint research projects which will encompass Bilateral workshops/seminar and exchange visits of scientist.

  1. Nodal Implementing Agencies
    Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of the Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India, New Delhi and the Project Management Agency at the German Aerospace Center (DLR-PT, European and International Cooperation), Bonn are the nodal implementing agencies from the Indian and German side respectively.
  2. Area of cooperation
    Proposals in identified priority area is ”Bioinformatics in Health Research”.

Click here for Call Text: DBT-BMBF, Germany joint call on Bioinformatics in Health Research

Deadline for submission of completed applications – 15th January, 2018
Proposed commencement of Projects – 1st May, 2018