“Indian scientists are returning home with cutting edge expertise”

The return of bio-scientists back to India is helping strengthen research and drug pipeline, feels Mr Robert Balderas, Vice President, BD Biosciences

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In a chat with Rahul Koul, Chief Editor, BioVoice News during his recent visit to India, Mr Robert Balderas, Vice President, R&D, Becton Dickinson (BD) Biosciences, shared valuable insights on various aspects related to flow cytometry and BD’s recent activities. Read on:


BV_icon_finalWhat have been your experiences so far with the ‘BD Horizon Tour’ on teaching flow cytometry techniques in India?

Robert:  The first tour we had earlier here in India dealt with the development of funnel design, a high parameter one with a range of 10-18 colours. Last year, we produced the second tour that dealt with flow cytometry in intercellular proteins.  Based on the feedback we received from these two, we decided to come up with the BD Horizon Tour 3.  This year it was conducted at three places in India including Delhi on April 19, then in Pune, on April 20 at National Centre for Cell Science. Chennai hosted it in its last leg on April 22 at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. And the response here was again overwhelming.

BV_icon_final Did you provide any hands on training during the tour?

There is more focus on the education during the tours than hands on training because of the huge number of audience we generally have at such venues. But at the same time, we have a large group of 10-12 application scientists in India who I believe work with the demo boxes (flow cytometers) that will go around.

BV_icon_final Please tell us about the BD FACSCelesta that was launched recently? How is it different from the previous platforms of BD?

This is one of the flow cytometers that has been well appreciated by all the researchers and used by all scientists across world. It is the replacement for our previous best flow cytometry box, BD FACSCalibre. The BD FACSCelesta allows researchers to benefit from new innovations in instrument and reagent technology. They can now, with improved brightness and low spectral overlap, characterize, and resolve even dim staining populations of interest. It has got multiple configurations, delivering the performance required for varied immunology and cell biology applications. The four configurations allow the use of 10 or 12 colors. When combined with the patented technology of BD Horizon Brilliant polymer dyes, it enables greater resolution of previously unobserved cell populations and is an ideal solution for researchers wanting more fluorophore choices when using multicolor flow cytometry.

While it was released only recently in India, the response received has been overwhelming. In fact, the India has been the prominent country in Asia to order maximum number of units so far.

BV_icon_finalGiven your expertise in the area of stem cells, please tell us about the latest in the field?

We have been providing the instrumentation in the interesting field of regenerative cells. It is the continuous discovery of new phentotypes and expression of receptors on those cells. The researchers are trying their best to come up with new stem cell based therapies but a lot is still going on.

“The BD FACSCelesta allows researchers to benefit from new innovations in instrument and reagent technology.  They can now, with improved brightness and low spectral overlap, characterize, and resolve even dim staining populations of interest.”

BV_icon_final How do you look at the R&D presence in India besides the achievements made by upcoming startups?

Today there is a revolution of sorts in countries like India and China. Scientists from here have in last 15 years been taking up opportunities to work on their education in other developed countries. They have been doing post docs in Europe and US. They have taken up challenges to work at various places. They made sacrifices and went away from the places of comfort to acquire skills. Now, we are witnessing the trend that they are coming back. They are re-populating the universities and other places with a passion. They have good publications and research skills. They are bringing their expectations and help build new innovation culture here in these nations based on the rich interaction they had abroad. This surely is going to expand horizons in the high dimensional biology. Here too they are asking the companies like BD to bring in the technology. They are coming back home yet working with us here too. This is a new step in Industry-academia relationship.

BV_icon_final Since you have touched upon the industry-academia interaction topic, do you plan to replicate your Hamdard University excellence centre kind of experiment at other places too?

Absolutely, we will like to do that but in different ways. The idea is to sit with the scientists, listen to their challenges they have.

When we collaborate, we share our technology. Then there is need and we provide the solutions. We don’t have to always come here to sell. Remember whatever we do at the BD, we always keep in mind that it will help patients. So in a way we share the technology to solve the problems together.

“The bio-pharma industry in India will surely benefit from scientists coming back from abroad. The kind of drugs they build with their expertise will bring a paradigm shift in Indian context.”

BV_icon_final We have been witnessing the miniaturization of technology from huge boxes to compact and handy instruments. Where does BD stand on that?

We have scaled down our huge machines to relatively smaller boxes of 18 cm by 18 cm. We are taking advantage of the innovative techniques by other industries as well. For example laser development and optical fibre is being used in making the technology better and compact. Things are getting smaller and easy to manage. We at BD try to make smarter machines.

BV_icon_final What is the priority area of focus for BD in India?

All the flow cytometers in BD profile allow us to do two things. To analyse the cell population and what I think is most important is to provide the right kind of technology. There are many on-going things in India. Various institutions and individuals are focusing on high end biology and new cell therapies. The drugs from the plants (phytopharma) are an upcoming important phenomenon to explore. We will surely try to help researchers through our continuous quest for innovative solutions.

The bio-pharma industry in India will surely benefit from scientists coming back from abroad. Indian scientists are returning home with cutting edge expertise. The kind of drugs they build with their expertise will bring a paradigm shift in Indian context.