JNU hosts India’s first international biological engineering meeting (iBEM)

For the first time in India, the international biological engineering meeting (iBEM) was held at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi from March 26-28, 2017. Read detailed report below

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New Delhi: The international biological engineering meeting (iBEM) was organized by Prof Pawan K Dhar and Prof Shailja Singh from Jawaharlal Nehru University with the help of Prof V Ravichandiran, Director NIPER Kolkata and several leading biotech and pharma industries. This event saw 30 speakers from India, USA and Singapore sharing their cutting-edge science with over 200 participants across India.
The theme of the meeting was design and construction of genes, proteins, networks and cells, for applications in health sector. The event started with a plenary talk by Professor S. Chandrasegaran of Johns Hopkins University. His lab has been involved in a path breaking science of chemically constructing the yeast chromosome from scratch. His work has led to global coverage and widespread appreciation for showing a new way to do biology. His talk set the stage of the event and was followed by a session to showcase latest technological breakthroughs to make cell factory for producing chemicals, drugs and so on.
The meeting also saw the convergence of engineers, biologists, computer scientists, mathematicians and science administrators for discussing latest scientific developments and providing funding avenues for the emerging community in India. Two panel discussions involving audience opened up several interesting leads and information avenues for the students and scientists.
This event was in direct alignment with the Make in India initiative launched by Prime Minister in September 2014 to transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub. The concept of engineering in biology supports idea of making ‘cell factories’ i.e., converting microbes into manufacturing hubs for making industrial chemicals, drugs for pharma and so on.
Prof Pawan DharProf Pawan K Dhar and Prof Shailja Singh expressed deepest gratitude to the Vice Chancellor and the entire JNU Administration for their strong support in organizing India’s first international conference on biological engineering. The Rector II of JNU, Prof. S.C. Garkoti and Director Research, Prof. R. Chaturvedi expressed JNU’s strong commitment towards science and technology and offered their help and guidance in strengthening academia – industry collaboration for the best benefit of students, scientists and the society.
The discussion at the meeting was highly interactive with participants asking various interesting questions to the speakers. The new opportunities in the various areas where bioengineering could be applied were discussed too.
Pharmaceuticals is predicted to be the third largest market by 2020 in terms of growth. The business of generic drugs will contribute the greatest. India’s patent pool is expected to increase to over 20 percent in the next 10 years. We are the fourth largest global producer of agro chemicals. A global shift towards Asia as the world’s chemicals manufacturing hub.  The field of biological engineering will have significant role to play in all these sectors.
Similarly, the Indian Biotech Industry is expected to grow at 30.46 percent CAGR to reach USD 100 billion by 2025. The Biotechnology Industry in India has grown from $1.1 billion in 2005 to $7 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $11.6 billion in 2017. The Indian biotech sector is divided into five major segments- bio-pharma, bio-services, bio-agri, bio-industrial and bio-informatics. This conference has potential to contribute in the bio-pharma and bio-industrial sectors in a major way. The National Biotechnology Development Strategy (2015-2020) aims to create India as a world class bio manufacturing hub. India constitutes around 8 percent of the total global generics market, by volume indicating a huge untapped opportunity in the sector.
Apart from discussing various applications of biological engineering, other collateral outcomes of this conference were launching of a new Indian competition, similar to that of MIT, USA, announcement of a new not-for-profit society for training, networking and intellectual property generation.
Dr Shailja Singh with one of the speakers.
Dr Shailja Singh with one of the speakers.
The audience at the event.
The audience at the event.