Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Branch into biotech

Biotechnology is one of the fast growing sectors in India as well the world. This emerging field of biological sciences is going to take a leap forward in the next five years. The importance of biotechnology in India was recognised after the establishment of the National Biotechnological Board in 1982. Biotechnology’s applications like genetics, engineering, genomics, bio-computing, bio-medical engineering, bio-sensors, bio-informatics etc will be hot topics in the next few decades. Biosafety guidelines are strictly followed to prevent damage to human health and environment.

Course clues

The Department of Bio-technology (DBT) has interfaces with a number of academic institutions and government agencies such as the CSIR, ICAR, ICMR, DAE and DBT etc. involved in research and development activities.

Today, in collaboration with the University Grants Commission (UGC), the DBT supports postgraduate courses with focus of biotechnology in over 60 universities, IITs and other premier institutions across the country. Along with doctoral postdoctoral courses, there are regular short-term courses or training programmes for mid-career scientists.

Biotech is essentially an interdisciplinary pursuit utilising chemistry, microbiology, biochemistry and chemical engineering. It has various applications in healthcare, agriculture, food processing, environmental and industrial sectors. A large share of global investment in biotechnology is in the healthcare sector. Considerable efforts have been put to ensure food and nutritional security through R & D in biotechnology. A major thrust has been given to the area of genomics. Under the food biotechnology initiatives, a technology for scale-up of our low-cost nutrients and foods has been standardised. The tissue culture industry caters to horticulture and floriculture. The herbal medicine has increased the level of interests in plants with potential in therapeutic benefits and commercial demands for herbal products in global markets. Developments of vaccines for important diseases afflicting livestock and diagnostic kits for farm animal healthcare are several activities in this sector. All the antibiotics come under biotech banner. Chemicals, we are using are being replaced by biochemicals or other biotech products. Biotechnology will provide new ways of influencing raw material processing. Cloning and designer babies may become usual feature. In the field of seri-biotechnology, the DBT has initiated a programme in genetic enhancement of mulberry and nunmulberry silkworms and host plants. The programme includes development of immuno-diagnostics tools for detection of pathogens, biocontrol measures for major pests and diseases of silkworm, new races of silkworm for better productivity as well as enzyme degumming of silk.

Agriculture biotech will give us plants that have disease resistance, improved yields and stress tolerance. Environment biotechnology will help control pollution problems. Enzyme technology is used to produce amino acids, food processing, cellulose hydrolysis in paper processing, diagnostics and bioassays-to fabric processing. The hot jobs are in emerging fields of research, in particular, scientists with experience in genomics, proteomics, and nanotechnology are in demand.

Work opportunities

There are lots of jobs for scientists with a chemistry background, chiefly organic and medicinal chemists. Scientists with experience in genomics and proteomics research — especially biologists and organic chemists who can conduct high-throughput screening to support exploratory drug discovery projects — are in demand in many companies. Cancer research, tissue engineering, and bioinformatics are also major areas where companies are hiring. Tissue engineering needs cell and molecular biologists to work with biomaterial engineers, computer-assisted designers, microscopic imaging specialists, robotics engineers, and equipment developers. And there is an ever-growing need for scientists with both a deep working knowledge of the biological sciences and experience in computational methods to make sense of growing scientific databases.

Placement prospects

Today, there are over 150 modern biotech companies in India. Some of these have pursued a product-based business model, others have adopted a service model on the lines of the IT sector. India’s major strengths in biotechnology are its highly trained workforce, a very good base of infrastructure through a well networked chain of laboratories, clusters of biogeneric industries, traditional knowledge. Put together, these are by any standard, very formidable assets. In terms of global industrial growth, biotechnology is at present referred to as the sunrise sector.

Website watch

In addition to job postings in individual biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms, universities and government sites, various websites too feature job postings like:

Training talk

The postgraduate centres of training include:

  • Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, website:

  • Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

  • Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla.

  • University of Jammu, Jammu.

  • Panjab University, Chandigarh.

  • Punjabi University, Patiala.

  • Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala.

  • Guru Jambheshwar University, Hisar.

  • Undergraduate courses are available at:

  • Delhi University, Delhi.

  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi.

  • B.N. College, Patna.

  • Anamallai University, Kerala.