Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Animal biotech
Vet a choice
Sunit Dhawan

Going by the recent advances in science and technology, the 21st century has aptly bee termed as the ďEra of IT and BTĒ.

While the scope and significance of IT (Information Technology) hardly needs to be overemphasised, BT (biotechnology) has also emerged as a promising field that facilitates commercial exploitation of biological resources.

Biotechnology may be defined as the commercial application of bio-resources (living organisms and their products), involving a deliberate manipulation of their DNA molecules.

A large number of wide-ranging products and services, generated through modern biotechnology and genetic engineering, are already in the market.

In view of the immense potential of biotechnology in the livestock sector, the specialisation of animal biotechnology has emerged as a distinct discipline.

Scope and significance

Though in a nascent stage, this field of study has nonetheless made its importance felt in global scientific circles in a little time.

The underlying objectives of this upcoming scientific stream are identification and characterisation of animal breeds, developing DNA-based diagnostics and genetically engineered vaccines for animals, studying animal genomics and its applications in detail and developing embryo-transfer technology and other such techniques. DNA forensics, molecular diagnostics, cloning, wildlife conservation, stem-cell research and bio-processing technologies are other emerging areas under the discipline.

The area has diverse and widespread applications in the realms of food quality control, analyses of milk and milk products and other animal products, besides development of disease-free, high-pedigree animals and the like.


To become an animal biotechnologist, one requires a Masterís degree in veterinary science with a specialisation in the discipline. Those having a bachelorís degree in veterinary science and animal husbandry (B.VSc and AH) are eligible for the Masterís programme.

Centres of study

The Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, has introduced a Masterís (M.VSc) in Animal Biotechnology at three centres in the country.

These are the GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pant Nagar, Jawaharlal Nehru University of Agricultural Sciences, Jabalpur, and Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar.

Earn and learn

The admission to the course at these institutions offering the government-sponsored Masterís course is through a centralised test conducted by Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

The Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, grants a cash incentive of Rs 5,000 per student per month to the students who have cleared their national-level immense potential owing to its wide-ranging applications and universal nature.

What is the government doing to promote this area of study?

The Department of Biotechnology of the Union Government has started a specialised M. VSc course in Animal Biotechnology in three universities of the country, HAU being one of them. The government gives a special cash incentive of Rs 5,000 per student each month, besides a research grant of Rs 40,000 for every student during the course.

What is the eligibility for joining M.VSc in Animal Biotechnology?

Graduates in veterinary science and animal husbandry having a B.VSc/ A& H degree from a recognised institution can apply for admission to the course. The admission is made on the basis of a national-level test conducted by Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Some other institutes like the NDRI, Karnal, IVRI, Izzatnagar, and TNVASU, Chennai, also offer specialised courses in the discipline.

What are the key research areas in the field?

Molecular diagnostics, recombinant vaccines, DNA forensics, animal genomics, embryo sexing and stem-cell research are some of the major thrust areas. Wildlife conservation, cloning, bioinformatics and preservation of biological database are some other related fields.

What is the scope of placement for fresh passouts?

The ABT professionals are readily absorbed by the growing biotechnology industry, pharmaceutical units, the defence sector, research organisations and food-processing industry as quality-control experts. They can also join as faculty members in universities or engineering colleges or go abroad for research projects.

ó Sunit Dhawan