Rewind 2018: What did India’s biotech research institutes achieve?

A look at the achievements of top Department of Biotechnology affiliated research institute during the year 2018

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New Delhi: At present there are sixteen autonomous institutions in India that are functioning under the aegis of the Department of Biotechnology. As per DBT, these institutions are pursuing basic, discovery and translational research in line with the national missions in the areas of agriculture biotechnology, animal biotechnology and health, medical biotechnology, clean energy and bioresource development, secondary agriculture etc. The institutions also have a mandate of human resource development and societal outreach.

While each of these institutes have a unique set of identity and focus areas, they have achieved many milestones over the period of years. Here are few of the achievements of many of these institutes during the year 2018:

♦ Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneshwar through transcriptome analyses has identified several transcription factors with differential expression to salinity and drought stress in Phragmiteskarka, an invasive plant species. ILS developed twenty-seven useful plant expression vectors coupled to recombinant promoters for boosting agricultural production under stress conditions. A recombinant construct was also developed as a whole cell biosensor for the detection of arsenic in drinking water.ILS transferred two technologies, filed 2 patents, obtained 2 patents, published 55 research articles and supported 30 PhD students

♦ Institute for Stem Cell Science & Regenerative Medicine (inStem): National CryoEM Facility was operationalized in inStem, Bangalore. The facility is equipped with a 300 kV Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) that is capable of high-resolution structure determination of macromolecules in solution as well as in situ in cells by tomography. InStem filed 4 patents, published 26 research articles and supported 60 PhD students.

Centre for Chemical Biology & Therapeutics established in inStem recently completed the first phase of the development of Bractoppin, a drug-like inhibitor of phosphopeptide recognition by the human BRCA1 tandem (t)BRCT domain, which selectively inhibits substrate binding with nanomolar potency in vitro.

International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), Delhi developed transgenic lines with significant tolerance for two broad-spectrum systemic herbicides glyphosate and sulfonylurea without introducing any foreign gene into the crop plant. ICGEB transferred dengue diagnostic technology to an Indian company and is successfully commercialized. ICGEB developed two processes, filed 2 patents, obtained 1 international patent, published 100 research articles and supported 9 PhD students.

ICGEB developed high yielding rice through silencing of one of the specific cytokinin oxidase, making it possible to obtain “More grains per plant”. Another breakthrough achieved lately is the development of multiple abiotic and biotic stress tolerant rice, through the manipulation of glyoxalase pathway, which show minimum yield penalty under stress conditions

Regional Centre for Biotechnology (RCB), Faridabad, with a mandate to provide a platform for biotechnology education, training, and research at the interface of multiple disciplines launched PhD programme in Bioinformatics and also operationalised Advanced Technology Platform Centre. RCB through partnership with European Synchroton Radiation Facility (ESRF) in France has imparted training to 200 researchers on advanced beamline for research purpose. RCB filed 2 patents, published 28 research articles and supported 8 PhD students.

National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI), Mohali has demonstrated proof of concept in Banana for the feasibility of carrying out CRISPR based genome editing. This technology is being exploited to develop traits in Banana as well as in crops like wheat, rice and Lathyrus.NABI has developed oligosaccharides-based natural fruit coating that enhances the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables. The technology has dual advantages, first it utilizes the agriculture waste and second it can replace the shellac, a coating material that is obtained from an insect. NABI developed two technologies, commercialised one product, transferred one technology, filed 2 patents, published 26 research articles and supported 4 PhD students and 5 Postdocs.

Application of edible coating material to reduce post-harvest losses. Images of un-coated apples (A) and coated with 1% WP-SAOP (WP: wheat straw polysaccharide, SAOP: stearic acid-oat bran polysaccharide esters) composite coating formulation (B) during 30-45 days storage at 22°C and 65% relative humidity.

National Center for Cell Science (NCCS) identified a novel mechanism to rejuvenate aged stem cells from older donors identified which could lead to improvement of outcome of stem cell transplantation (SCT)-based therapeutic approaches for disorders like leukemia, lymphoma, and aplastic anaemia. Serving as a national repository of animal cell culture, NCCS supplied 8086 cell lines to research/academic organizations Pan-India. NCCS published 51 research articles, filed 8 patents, obtained 8 patents and supported 26 PhD’s

Center of innovative and Applied Bioprocessing (CIAB) developed a scale up processfor production of rose oxide value added citronella oil, atitania-based catalyst for large-scale isomerization of glucose to fructose, a method for isolation of lignin from lignocellulosic biomass in acidic deep eutectic solvent through organic solvent extraction. CIAB has transferred 2 technologies on enzyme based process for rare sugar and a whey based beverage and developed 7 processes/ technologies, filed 7 patents and published 21 research articles.

National Institute of Animal Biotechnology (NIAB), Hyderabad through high throughput siRNA screening identified host proteins supporting the invasion and intracellular multiplication of Brucella. Two immune-dominant protein antigens (BM-5 and BM-7) of Brucella are being used at NIAB to develop ELISA based diagnostics. NIAB published 12 research articles and supported 29 PhD students.

Under MILAN (Meeting of Indian Livestock farmers and Agriculturists with NIAB scientists) programme, NIAB scientists have reached-out to 18 states including eight states of North-Eastern region for addressal of problems in goat rearing as there is high neonatal mortality and death of pigs in mass due to viral infections like swine fever, Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRS).

National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), Delhi has discovered a novel bacterium that can reside inside rice plants and can eat the Rhizoctoniasolani (RS) fungus, a causative pathogen that causes serious sheath blight disease of rice. A novel secreted protein that is used by the bacterium to kill the RS fungus has also been identified. NIPGR developed high yielding variety of chickpea with enhanced yield and increased protein content compared to the parent line through molecular breeding approach. NIPGR has filed 6 patent applications, published 81 research articles, supported 134 PhD students and 66 Postdocs.

Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), Imphal has established Orchid cultivation units in the rural areas of Manipur for demonstration and training of farmers and unemployed youths. Till date, 950 farmers and unemployed youths have been trained in orchids bio-entrepreneurship programme. IBSD published 46 research articles

IBSD has a North East Microbial Repository, which has a total collection of 27466 microbial cultures originated from various ecological niches such as fresh water lakes, traditionally fermented foods, caves, hotsprings, high altitude, low temperature mountains, forest area, plant endophytes etc. A total of 15000 cultures have been characterized by IBSD.

National Institute of Immunology (NII), Delhi has identified novel cellular factors affecting the replication of HIV within cells and a novel DNAase from Streptococcus pneumonia crucial for bacterial survival. Phase II clinical trials of a dendritic cell-based vaccine targeting SPAG9 are currently underway in patients of cervical cancer, in collaboration with the Cancer Institute, Chennai. NII transferred technology to Industry for the large-scale refolding of recombinant insulin, filed 10 patents and published 94 research articles.

Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), Faridabadstarted collaborative project with Bioneeds India Private Ltd. and NCCS, Pune for developing method of treatment of HIV infection and another collaborative project with Premium Serum for the development of aptamer based TB diagnostics. THSTI developed 11 technologies, transferred one technology to industry, filed 11 patents, obtained 1 patent, published 35 research articles and supported 3 PhD students.

National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) has identified receptors (host protein) in neurons, which facilitates the entry of Japanese Encephalitis Virus into cells; the importance of inflammatory pathways in neurodegeneration which follows infection of the brain by the Chandipura virus; role of an ubiquitin ligase, Rnf2, that regulates synapse maturation via non-degradative function of protein ubiquitination that is linked to a neurodevelopmental disorder known as Angelman Syndrome. NBRC published 24 research articles supported 1 MSc and 5 PhD students.

Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Trivandrum published the use of a single dose of HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer instead of the regular three doses, showed role of metformin in regression of vascular disease in patients with type 2 diabetes and demonstrated enhancement of cardiac mitochondrial functions in hypertrophy by Amalakirasayana a traditional Indian Ayurvedic product. RGCB developed 5 technologies, transferred one technology to industry, filed 8 patents, obtained 1 patent, published 89 research articles, supported 12 PhD students and 27 Postdocs.

Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences dedicated the first phase of RGCB Bio-Innovation Centre (BIC) at the KINFRA Film and Video Park in Kazhakootam RGCB Bio-Nest facility, managed by Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology and Kerala Start-Up Mission, Government of Kerala, provides incubation facility for young entrepreneurs and has state-of-the-art equipment to facilitate research and development. Bio-Nest aims to provide a viable mechanism for licensing new technologies to upcoming biotech/pharma companies, start new local ventures and achieve early-state value enhancement of the technology with minimum financial inputs.

National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG) launched Doctoral program on Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, jointly with Regional Centre for Biotechnology (RCB) and GlaxoSmithKline Private limited (GSK).NIBMG has taken genomic laboratories and genetic testing to the doorsteps of clinicians by establishing a Unit in the largest tertiary care government hospital in Kolkata, the SSKM Hospital. About 800 patients have benefitted by getting genetic tests done for various disorders. NIBMG published 20 research articles and supported 2 PhD students.

NIBMG through India project of the International Cancer Genome Consortium, DNA alterations in 10 genes that drive oral cancer. A new mechanism of human papilloma virus action was discovered for cervical cancer, including a gene related to this mechanism and the possible repositioning of a drug.

NIBMG-Kalyani Systems Medicine Cluster includes six major institutions, both clinical and basic science, is an example of cross-talk between doctors, basic scientists and biotechnologists to enable deeper understanding of diseases at the level of biological systems and thereby accelerate treatment and management of diseases. This cluster is using two common diseases (gingivo-buccal oral and cervical cancers, that are most prevalent forms of cancer among men and women in India, respectively) as exemplars to show that a combination of expertise of disparate domains can achieve the goal of understanding the pathobiology of disease and formulating a systems biology approach to clinical management. One of the major achievement include designing of a peptide to block a key gain-of-function oncogenic mutation in TP53 gene.

Center for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD): Medical Genetics Department at the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), Hyderabad, is functional through a MoU with CDFD, Hyderabad to provide services to patients with genetic disorders as well as for training and research. In collaboration with Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences, CDFD conducts a DNB fellowship in Medical Genetics. Two students have completed this training and five students are presently enrolled in the course. CDFD has developed a biocontrol strategy for Bacterial leaf blight (BLB), a serious disease of rice caused by the bacterium Xanthomonasoryzae. The biocontrol agent is a signaling molecule diffusible signal factor, which can be applied directly on the leaves. CDFD has published 64 research articles and supported 8 PhDs as well as 6 Postdoctoral students.