How is Biotechnology impacting millions of lives?

Are you an avid lover of biology? Are you naturally inclined to apply the principles of biology to create an impact on people’s lives? Well, then the Biotechnology sector is where you may find your dream job.

With the world still reeking of over 520 million deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is undeniable that the figure could have been in billions or even more had it not been for the Biotechnology sector. Almost everything starting from the diagnosis and immediate treatment to the development of vaccines brought to light the promise that Biotechnology holds as a leading technology in the modern world. To know more about the potential of Biotechnology and the facets of human lives that it is able to impact upon, read further down.

What is Biotechnology?

Biotechnology is an industrial sector that deals with the manipulation of living organisms to create commercial products. For instance, the wealth of knowledge accumulated by cell biologists, botanists, zoologists, molecular biologists, and geneticists have been implemented by genetic engineers to manipulate information carried by the DNA in order to create transgenic animals and plants of commercial importance. Quite undoubtedly, the deepest penetrations of the biotechnology sector has been in the healthcare and agricultural markets. However, there are several other important areas where Biotechnology is making inroads with sustainable solutions. This blog highlights some fields wherein Biotechnological interventions are working wonders.

Vaccine development

Within a few months of the detection of coronavirus, scientists mapped the entire genome of the virus and it helped to understand how the virus operates. Genome mapping being an important technique in Biotechnology, the Biotechnology sector can boast of its towering presence in global markets across the map. Also, the highly effective mRNA-based vaccine for COVID-19 was first tested in cells inside the laboratory which entails practising some basic techniques of Biotechnology. Weighing the outcomes, government organizations and pharmaceutical giants have entered into strong public-private partnerships to pool resources and fund research in the domain of vaccine development.

Next-generation computing-aided drug discovery

Advanced computing technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning have enabled Biotech companies to automate their processes and scale up operations. This handholding of technologies have enabled to reduce the cost and time required to take new drugs from bench to bedside. The ability to analyze large data sets helps medicine manufacturers to identify treatments based on the root cause of a disease. This holds immense potential to reduce the usual 90 percent failure rate for developing new drugs.  Data mining from current clinical trials can also help to predict the effectiveness of treatments down to a molecular level and even predict new or different uses for an existing drug thereby reducing cost and effort of establishing new drugs.

Genome editing

Techniques for manipulating the information present in the DNA, known as gene editing in technical jargon, has come a long way since they were first used to make edits such as addition, deletion, silencing, or replacement of a specific gene. Precise gene editing has been made possible by the advancement of technologies such as the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 systems. Engineered nucleases called CRISPRs acting as molecular scissors have unfurled a plethora of applications in gene therapy for the treatment of many conditions including rare genetic disorders and even fatal cancers. Furthermore, gene editing has also allowed the development of improved transgenic plants and animals capable of synthesizing a variety of medically important recombinant human proteins such as Insulin.

Precision medicine

Sequencing the entire human genome, an initiative known as the Human Genome Project, began in 1990 and was completed by 2003. This was another hallmarking achievement of Biotechnology that now allows extensive screening of patients and targeting of interventions. Improvisation of sequencing technologies have reduced the cost of genetic sequencing drastically ever since thereby making personalized gene sequencing affordable. This, in turn, has enabled the development of personalized treatment plans and targeted therapies, which are more effective than less-specific therapies because they focus on a patient’s genetic constitution. Furthermore, the falling cost of sequencing technologies has fostered the development of rapid and inexpensive methods to detect pathogens from clinical samples as well as soil samples.

Boosting agricultural yields

The global population is set to increase by 25% from 7.9 billion in 2022 to 9.7 billion in 2050. The basic need for a growing population is food, and hence its demand for feeding both people and livestock is about to increase proportionately. This automatically necessitates the use of increasing hectares of land for farming while practically cultivable land will keep on reducing as the expanding population of humans keep encroaching onto such lands. Biotechnology offers a solution to this alarming problem through the approach of gene editing. For example, crops such as wheat or corn may be engineered through the transgenic technology to grow in harsher conditions or produce more grain in a smaller area than other crop varieties while providing the same nutritional value. From another perspective, the development of biopesticides can enable protection of crops without the use of harmful chemicals thereby averting environmental damage. 

Bioprinting and tissue engineering

Another promising futuristic application of Biotechnology in the medical field is 3D bioprinting, wherein bioprinters are used to develop cell-based scaffolds using a ‘bio-ink’ comprising cells and biomaterials. This empowers one to develop skin, bone, and vascular grafts from the patient’s own cells for personalized medicine. The bioprinting technology has added a major thrust to the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine by enabling the creation of autologous tissue grafts for wound healing and organ transplantation.

Conclusion

These trends clearly show that the demand for biotechnology is on the rise. The fact that this particular sector is being able to solve real-life problems related to human health and nutrition has catapulted it to fame. It is also quite evident that biotechnologists need more than just a background in biology, chemistry, or pharmaceutical science to build their careers upon. With innovative solutions rooted to the genetic level, biotechnology is here to stay and offer myriad career opportunities to the brightest minds!

THE NANO SCIENCE AND ITS CONTRIBUTION IN TREATING CANCER

Nanoscience involves the study of the control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. This molecular level investigation is at a range usually below 100 nm. In simple terms, a nanometer is one billionth of a meter and the properties of materials at this atomic or subatomic level differ significantly from properties of the same materials at larger sizes. Although, the initial properties of nano materials studied were for its physical, mechanical, electrical, magnetic, chemical and biological applications, recently, attention has been geared towards its pharmaceutical application, especially in the area of drug delivery. According to the definition from NNI (National Nanotechnology Initiative), nanoparticles are structures of sizes ranging from 1 to 100 nm in at least one dimension. However, the prefix “nano” is commonly used for particles that are up to several hundred nanometers in size. Nanocarriers with optimized physicochemical and biological properties are taken up by cells more easily than larger molecules, so they can be successfully used as delivery tools for currently available bioactive compounds.

Cell-specific targeting can be achieved by attaching drugs to individually designed carriers. Recent developments in nanotechnology have shown that nanoparticles (structures smaller than 100 nm in at least one dimension) have a great potential as drug carriers. Due to their small sizes, the nanostructures exhibit unique physicochemical and biological properties (e.g., an enhanced reactive area as well as an ability to cross cell and tissue barriers) that make them a favorable material for biomedical applications. It is difficult to use large size materials in drug delivery because of their poor bioavailability, in vivo solubility, stability, intestinal absorption, sustained and targeted delivery, plasma fluctuations, therapeutic effectiveness etc. To overcome these challenges nanodrug delivery have been designed through the development and fabrication of nanostructures. Nanoparticles have the ability to penetrate tissues, and are easily taken up by cells, which allows efficient delivery of drugs to target site of action. Uptake of nanostructures has been reported to be 15–250 times greater than that of microparticles in the 1–10 um range. Nanoparticles can mimic or alter biological processes (e.g., infection, tissue engineering, de novo synthesis, etc. These devices include, but not limited to, functionalized carbon nanotubes, nanofibers, self-assembling polymeric nano constructs, nanomembranes, and nano-sized silicon chips for drug, protein, nucleic acid, or peptide delivery and release, and biosensors and laboratory diagnostics. Various polymers have been used in the design of drug delivery system as they can effectively deliver the drug to a target site and thus increase the therapeutic benefit, while minimizing side effects. The controlled release (CR) of pharmacologically active agents to the specific site of action at the therapeutically optimal rateand dose regimen has been a major goal in designing such devices. The drug is dissolved, entrapped, encapsulated or attached to a NP matrix and depending upon the method of preparation, nanoparticles, nanospheres or nanocapsules can be obtained. Nanocapsules are vesicular systems in which the drug is confined to a cavity surrounded by a unique polymer membrane, while nanospheres are matrix systems in which the drug is physically and uniformly dispersed. Biodegradable polymeric nanoparticles have attracted considerable attention as potential drug delivery devices in view of their applications in the controlled release of drugs, their ability to target particular organs/tissues, as carriers of DNA in gene therapy, and in their ability to deliver proteins, peptides and genes through a per oral route of administration. Recent advances in the application of nanotechnology in medicine, often referred to as nanomedicine, may revolutionize our approach to healthcare. Cancer nanotechnology is a relatively novel interdisciplinary area of comprehensive research that combines the basic sciences, like biology and chemistry, with engineering and medicine. Nanotechnology involves creating and utilizing the constructs of variable chemistry and architecture with dimensions at the nanoscale level comparable to those of biomolecules or biological vesicles in the human body. Operating with sub-molecular interactions, it offers the potential for unique and novel approaches with a broad spectrum of applications in cancer treatment including areas such as diagnostics, therapeutics, and prognostics.

Nanotechnology also opens pathways to developing new and efficient therapeutic approaches to cancer treatment that can overcome numerous barriers posed by the human body compared to conventional approaches. Improvement in chemotherapeutic delivery through enhanced solubility and prolonged retention time has been the focus of research in nanomedicine. The submicroscopic size and flexibility of nanoparticles offer the promise of selective tumor access. Formulated from a variety of substances, nanoparticles are configured to transport myriad substances in a controlled and targeted fashion to malignant cells while minimizing the damage to normal cells. They are designed and developed to take advantage of the morphology and characteristics of a malignant tumor, such as leaky tumor vasculature, specific cell surface antigen expression, and rapid proliferation.

Nanotechnology offers a revolutionary role in both diagnostics (imaging, immune-detection) and treatment (radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, thermotherapy, photodynamic therapy, and anti-angiogenesis). Moreover, nanoparticles may be designed to offer a multifunctional approach operating simultaneously as an effective and efficient anticancer drug as well as an imaging material to evaluate the efficacy of the drug for treatment follow-up. In recent years, nanomedicine has exhibited strong promise and progress in radically changing the approach to cancer detection and treatment.

MONKEYPOX – A THREATENING RECURRENCE OF A FORGOTTEN AILMENT

On 23rd May 2022, the world stood alarmed once again, when the increasing number of cases of the rare Monkeypox infections were reported to stand at 131 from 18 non-endemic countries, although there has been no recent associated death.

The Monkeypox virus (MPXV) which belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus of the Poxviridae family is made up of double-stranded DNA and is zoonotic in nature. Due to its maintenance in the wild animal population, it is far less sensitive to common eradication methods.  Certain risk factors associated with MPXV infection include increase in geographical range and cessation of vaccination of the host. Environmental factors like increasing risk of animal-host transmission and frequency of contact with potential host may also contribute to viral transmission.

Back in 1958, the MPXV was first identified as a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus by the State Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was isolated first from vesiculo-pustular lesions of infected cynomolgus macaques. In 1970, first human infection was detected in the remote area of Democratic Republic of Congo. 6 deaths were reported in 1996 along with 71 clinical cases. In 2003, first case of MPX in the USA was initiated by exotic pets imported from Ghana. Reemergence of MPXV occurred in 2017 in Nigeria after 39 years of no reported case. In 2018, 3 individual patients were diagnosed with MPX in the UK.

MPXV originated from progenitor pox virus and shares similarities with the variola virus. It has two origins, one of which is the West African variant, exhibiting lower virulence and are less transmissible to humans. The only few cases were reported from certain West African nations. The other strain originates from Central African which prohibits inflammatory cytokine production in infected patients by preventing T-cell receptor-mediated activation and hence is far more virulent.

Specimens for clinical diagnosis purposes include that from skin lesions and swabs. The dermis might exhibit papular lesions. Keratinocytes exhibit vasculitis and viral inclusions apart from spongiosis. Detection of immune responses to the presence of other OPXV makes serological testing unsuitable for MPXV diagnosis, although it may provide evidence of viral exposure.  Injection of anti-poxvirus antibodies into unvaccinated infected individual may aid in diagnosis of MPX. All cases from Nigeria, Singapore, UK and Israel were identified as West African MPXV using PCR and genetic sequencing.

Direct or indirect contact with infected animals (live or dead), for e.g. hunting of small animals for food is the main cause for the transmission of virus in humans, while in animals, aerosol transmission has been detected. Due to increase in T-cell response and production of antiviral antibodies during the course of infection, the development of highly-sensitive diagnostic techniques may help cure patients faster.

The impact of the existing smallpox vaccine on MPXV infections will play an important role in the prevention of the disease, due to concerns regarding its adverse effects in an immunocompromised population. Till now, the Modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) has been found to confer protection against lethal doses of MPXV except for cases in which severely diminished T-cell protection has been observed in the primates.

Contrasting SARS-COV2 MPXV which spreads though aerosols and is more contagious, MPXV spreads though contact and is less contagious. Nevertheless, an extended chain of person-to-person transmission of monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of Congo is an indication of the potential of the virus to infect immunocompromised individuals, which may cause its evolution and independent maintenance in the human population. Groups of population including pregnant women and immunocompromised persons are at higher risk of getting infected. Due to diversity of taxa supporting MPXV replication, more species of animals are prone to the risk of viral infection. Although, there is a lack of information regarding the species causing the viral transmission, certain approaches may be useful in detecting and better understanding the origin, transmission and risk factors of MPXV. These include predictive risk modelling across different landscapes and scales, theoretical mathematical modelling studies, population genetic studies, ecologic risk mapping studies and surveys.

Biochemistry: An Integral Part of Drug Discovery

The on-going pandemic situation gave humanity a hard lesson- life is uncertain. Before the pandemic, we never seriously thought about this type of disease which could lead to such a global health crisis. Now, Covid-19 is a reality and it taught us that as the virus changed itself we must constantly change ourselves and be prepared for sudden battles. Humanity has a long history of fighting against deadly diseases like plague, malaria, polio, cholera, etc. and in all those battles our greatest weapons are drugs. In this article, we will see how biochemistry is an integral part of a drug discovery process.

Biochemistry is the amalgamation of chemistry and biological sciences. It brings together all of the sciences to study the chemical and physical processes that occur in living organisms. It truly is the science of life. Students of biochemistry learn various classical as well as modern subjects like stem cell biology, immunology, bioinformatics, genetic engineering, and many more. These subjects give them ample knowledge about the basic processes of life and that gives them the scope to explore properly a particular phenomenon in a living system. The mixture of chemistry and biology is a tremendous weapon for students for understanding the complex design of a disease-causing bacteria or virus. Applying these knowledge life-saving drugs can be developed by biochemistry professionals.

A drug is a chemical substance that, when administered to a living organism produces a biological effect. Drugs are also called medicine as it is used for treatment, cure, prevent disease, and promote good health. Drugs can be taken via different modes like inhalation, injection, ingestion, absorption via a patch on the skin, suppository, or dissolution under the tongue. So, recently discovered vaccines against Covid-19 are also part of modern-day drugs.

There are several phases of drug discovery and its commercialization; 1) Basic research for lead development 2) Preclinical studies 3) Clinical studies (different phases) 4) Review by regulatory authorities and approval 5) Pre and post marketing monitoring. In all these phases major roles are played by biochemistry people.

The first step of basic research consists of lead molecule discovery and its target identification which is totally done by biomedical scientists. During lead discovery, an intensive search ensues to find a drug-like small molecule or biological therapeutic, typically termed a development candidate, that will progress into preclinical, and if successful, into clinical development and ultimately be a marketed medicine. Generally, drugs are very specific in nature, i.e., they work in a specific manner on a specific type of cell or exo or endotoxins. So, first, to discover the lead, one has to find the type of cell or chemical substances on which the drug is going to affect, what’s the nature of the target.

The next step is the preclinical trial, which is a stage of research that begins before clinical trials (testing in humans) and during which important feasibility, iterative testing, and drug safety data are collected, typically in laboratory animals. This step requires multiple types of studies/tests like screening, tests on isolated organs and bacterial cultures, tests on animal models, general observational tests, confirmatory tests and analogous activities, mechanism of action, systemic pharmacology, quantitative tests etc. that are all done by Biochemistry people. The main purpose of preclinical studies is to accurately model the desired biological effect of a drug in animals [non-human primates] in order to predict treatment outcomes in patients (efficacy), and to identify and characterize all toxicities associated with a drug in order to predict adverse events in people (safety) for informed—preclinical testing analyses the bioactivity, safety, and efficacy of the formulated drug product.

After a proposed drug has gone through premedical trials, the next step is clinical trials. The main difference is while preclinical research answers basic questions about a drug’s safety, it is not a substitute for studies of ways the drug will interact with the human body. The biomedical persons design clinical trials, develop a study plan or protocol and follow them to answer specific research questions related to medical products. Before the trial begins, they decide who qualifies to participate (selection criteria), how many people will be part of the study, how long the study will last, whether there will be a control group and other ways to limit research bias, how the drug will be given to patients and at what dosage, what assessments will be conducted, when, and what data will be collected, how the data will be reviewed and analysed. Clinical trials follow a typical series of early, small-scale, Phase 1 studies [20-100 healthy/diseased volunteers], Phase 3 studies [Several hundred people with the disease], Phase 3 studies [300-3000 volunteers with the disease], and lastly, late-stage, large scale Phase 4 studies [Several thousand volunteers with the disease].

The next step is, review by regulatory authorities and approval of the drug. Drug approval processes are designed to allow safe and effective drugs to be marketed. Drug regulatory agencies in various countries attempt to rely on premarketing scientific studies of the effects of drugs in animals and humans in order to determine if new drugs have a favourable risk-to-benefit ratio. The manufacturer must provide the concerned authority review of all the test and study reports with detailed information about the proposed drug including usage of the drug to be effective, all the possible risks, and how to use it. Physicians and scientists of the concerned authority then review the drug research and the labelling information on how to use the drug. If the findings show the drug’s benefits outweigh its known risks — and that the drug can be manufactured in a way that ensures a quality product.

After the drug gets all the certification, the last step is Post-marketing monitoring. Post marketing drug surveillance refers to the monitoring of drugs once they reach the market after clinical trials. It evaluates drugs taken by individuals under a wide range of circumstances over an extended period of time. Such surveillance is much more likely to detect previously unrecognized positive or negative effects that may be associated with a drug. The majority of post-marketing surveillance concern adverse drug reactions (ADRs) monitoring and evaluation. Therefore, biochemistry people always get an edge in these type of drug developmental industry.

Genetics: A field to excavate for futuristic potentials

According to Edwin Grant Conklin, “what molecules and atoms and electrons are to physicists and chemists, chromosome and genes are to biologists”.

At the end of school days, as the students are at the verge of initiating their higher education, they develop a fairly vivid idea about their inclination towards a particular subject of interest. This decision is the most crucial stepping stone in the budding path of their career. If the science of life fascinates a student, then the curriculum of biology provides a basic introduction to different fields of biological science like botany, zoology, physiology, microbiology, genetics, etc. Some of these fields are classical while the others are contemporary with continuous addition of recent technologies and novel findings.

When a young scientific mind intends to unravel the mystery underlying the behaviour and characteristic features of the living world, the interrogation should be triggered at the level of DNA. DNA is an astonishing molecule that stores every possible information of all life forms: How they look like? Do they resemble their parents? How they function? Whether a person is more inclined to have a disease or whether a person can have some power to avoid a disease? How to increase yield of a crop? And many other questions find their answer in this central molecule of biology. In short, DNA is the language that writes the story of genes according to which the life forms enact.

What is Genetics all about?

Genetics, as a key field of biological science, is the blend of classical concepts of hereditary passage of genetic information from parent to offspring or of a population as a whole together with recent advancements of applied science as in genetic engineering, recombinant DNA technology, forensics and pharmacogenomics. The advancement in this field is now prompting the use of genetic information in designing disease treatment in an individualistic manner – the very essence of personalized medicine or “precision medicine” that may provide life-saving cues for ailments that are hard to treat. Using the concept of genomics and transcriptomics we can also increase sustainability of agriculture, improve crop production (genetically modified crops) to solve the global problem of food scarcity. As a major component of forensic science it is indispensable for solving cases of criminology, dubious parenthood and other issues of biological relevance under legal surveillance. Even the most complex form of genetic information is opening up through high throughput advancements like human genome project.

Components of the subject worth mentioning:

Classical genetics: Classical Genetics is the oldest discipline of genetics based on Mendelian inheritance that provided many insights into inherited traits and elucidated many inherited human disorders that were known to follow Mendel’s law of inheritance and were useful to explain the reappearance of disease within families.

Population genetics: Population genetics deals with genetic differences within and among populations, and the dynamics of how populations evolve as a result of the propagation of genetic mutations occurring within the germlines of individuals together with contribution of evolutionary attributes.

Conservation Genetics: Conservation genetics is an interdisciplinary extension of population genetics for conservation and restoration of biodiversity through comprehension of the dynamics of genes in populations.

Quantitative Genetics: Quantitative genetics deals with the genetics of traits that are continually fluctuating on the basis of alterations in the frequency distribution of traits that are difficult to assign in discrete phenotypic classes.

Ecological Genetics: It deals with features associated with fitness that are involved in interactions between/ within species, and between an organism and its environment.

Medical genetics: In the field of medicine it deals with application of genetics for diagnosis and management of genetic diseases apart from investigating the causes and inheritance of the disorders.

Immunogenetics: It refers to the scientific discipline that studies the molecular and genetic basis of the immune response with emphasis on immunological pathways as well as genetic variations that result in immune defects. It is a subfield of medical genetics.

Molecular genetics: Molecular genetics is concerned with the structure and function of genes at the molecular level and utilizes molecular biology tools and technique of genetic engineering to manipulate organism’s genome that gets translated through protein function to health and disease.

Human genetics: It involves the study of the human genome and the gene transmission from one generation to the next. It is an interdisciplinary field contributed by classical genetics, cytogenetics, molecular genetics, biochemical genetics, genomics, population genetics, developmental genetics, clinical genetics, and genetic counselling.

 Combining the concepts derived from the above mentioned subfields of genetics, every now and then, new areas of scientific knowledge and research are coming up to find the answers of countless questions that are unaddressed till date in living world and its complexity. The new fields with immense potential for research activity that are worth mentioning are Genomics, Epigenomics, Metagenomics, Phramacogenomics, and many others.

Career options:

  1. Genetic Counsellors –Due to increase in gene-based therapies and wellness treatments, there is a rise in demand for Genetic counsellors for Pedigree analysis, identification of risk factors, etc. 

  2. Forensic Science Research Associates/ Scientist – Law enforcement firms recruit geneticists to identify and analyze the evidences from DNA samples, tissue samples, etc. from potential crime scenes.
  3. Genetic Scientist in Agriculture & Food – For food and agriculture based industries, new varieties of genetically modified crops are being generated by manipulating plant genes. The resultant varieties are generated for increased yield, resistance to pests and plant pathogens or for increasing tolerance of the plants for adverse environmental conditions. It is not limited to plants, the scientist work on animal breeds also to get a better variety.

  4. Scientific Researcher – With a doctoral degree a student of genetics can work on a scientific project involving the study of various genes and their regulations to pave the way towards new discoveries like CRISPR gene editing. The Human Genome Project or the 1000 genome project is a hallmark achieved by genetic scientist.

  5. Academic researcher: As an academic researcher one can apply his/her expertise and skills developed through study and research: as a teacher as well as a researcher. And contribute to journals and books with research articles and new findings.

  6. Medical Scientist –The medical scientist can use sequence information to understand genetic disorders especially those with hereditary conditions and find a solution for them. They can address not only diseases of population in general but also at level of individuals based on response of his genome towards medication – the very essence of precision medicine or personalized medicine.
  7. Scientific Content Writer –Scientific writing is a very lucrative career at present and in the coming years as it offers you to learn in the field of one’s mother subject as well as earn.

Genetics is the science of future. As all aspects of life are being questioned for improvisation or for addressing errors or deficiencies, the molecules regulating life are now and will always be in limelight and those molecules are indeed the DNA, RNA and proteins. Therefore innumerable DNA and RNA analysis are awaiting technical knowledge of upcoming geneticists. So the job and research prospect of genetics students are broadening day by day for the young people who aspires to do something new, something different. To open up the prospects of such promising career for our future students, Department of Microbiology from School of Life Science and Biotechnology, Adamas University is opening a new three year undergraduate course BSc with Honours in Genetics.

Curriculum: Addressing all the components in the field of genetics the courses offered include the following:

  • Fundamental Courses: Principles of Transmission genetics, Population and Evolutionary Genetics, Biochemistry, etc.
  • Advanced Courses: Immunology, Molecular Biology, Microbial genetics, Genomics & Proteomics, Nanotechnology, etc.
  • Applied Courses: Bioanalytical tools, Genetic modification in agriculture, food and medicine, Tools for gene expression analysis, Genetic disorder and gene therapy, etc.
  • Skill Enhancement Courses: Molecular diagnostics & genetic counselling, Basics of Forensic Science, Bioinformatics, Intellectual Property Right (IPR) etc.

With all technologically advanced laboratory facilities available and highly qualified faculty members who excel in their respective fields of expertise, our department presents a perfect ambience for the students to undertake BSc Honours in Genetics as a choice to begin their career.

Microbiologist: A prominent career choice for biology students

Biology aspirants at School level:

While the interest in studying biology at School level starts with understanding cells, both plants and animals, it takes a peak during the study of human system. While traditional zoology, botany and physiology creates the base for understanding biology, advancements in the form of microbiology, immunology, biotechnology, recombinant DNA technology etc. paves the path of inquisitiveness among the biology lovers at the school level. This lead to the selection of medical or non-medical biological subjects as career option for the aspirant biologists.

Exploring the less known world:

Microbiology has always been frontrunner among the choice of such biology-aspirants for their studies at undergraduate level beyond medical education (Refer: https://adamasuniversity.ac.in/microbiologyplus-the-most-promising-career-path-beyond-medical-education/ ).

‘Knowing the unknown and seeing the unseen” has been the trend of human acumen since the inception of human race. Microbiology stimulates this, with the challenge of finding novel microorganism (bacteria, virus, protozoa, algae etc.) and a plethora of their magnificent properties. Till date the share of known microorganisms has not even reached 1% posing immense prospect for the future. The microbial world extends from the hottest region of the world to the coolest, from the top of the Everest to the Mariana trench and from the gut of human to the solar panel. Diversity of microorganisms holds the key and charm to study the subject.

Knowledge, Skill and Competency development:

Striking balance between diversity as well as specialization is important during the selection of stream/ subject to be opted for career. The three major focus on the 3-4 year undergraduate degree as well as 1-2 years of post-graduate degree lies in the development of theoretical knowledge, technical skills and more importantly competency as life-long learner. Studies in microbiology provides a well-balanced blending of these enhancing theoretical knowledge to strive for innovation, hands-on skills to work in an industry/ research as well as gain like skills and competency to remain relevant and updated despite rapid technological evolution.

Curriculum:

Studies in microbiology at undergraduate as well as post graduate level is generally divided into several courses as mentioned in the following:

  • Fundamental Courses: Bacteriology, Virology, Biochemistry etc.
  • Advanced Courses: Immunology, molecular Biology, microbial genetics etc.
  • Applied Courses: Food and Dairy Microbiology, Medical Microbiology, Agricultural Microbiology, Industrial Microbiology etc.
  • Skill Enhancement Courses: Quality Control & Quality Assurance, Vaccine Technology, Bioinformatics, Intellectual Property Right (IPR) etc.

Most academic institutions follow a Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) to design their curriculum of Microbiology. However, a few institutions also offer ‘Outcome Based Education’, a student centric educational model employed to maximize learning outcome of the enrolled students.

Infrastructure, facility and Instructors:

Studies in microbiology require sophisticated instruments, well-equipped laboratories and well trained instructors to create a strong base for the students. Unfortunately, many institutions lack these facilities and treat it alongside other conventional subjects. The major requirements in supporting all round development of a microbiologists includes (not limited to):

  • Laboratory Facility (Basic): Laboratory with Bio-Safety Level: I (BSL-I)
  • Instruments (Basic): Microscope, Autoclave, Laminar Air Flow, Centrifuge etc.
  • Instruments (Sophisticated): -80°C freezer, Phase contrast microscope, UV-Vis Spectrophotometer, HPLC etc.
  • Facility: Animal Cell Culture, Plant Tissue Culture, Animal House etc.
  • Co curricular Facility: Tinkering Lab, Incubation Centre, Fabrication Lab etc.

technicians trained in microbiology. However, most of the institutes run the UG and PG program in microbiology employing faculty members from other domain of biology (e.g. botany, zoology etc.) not having requisite exposure and expertise in the core domains of microbiology. The emergence of microbiology as a specialized field of biology also demands the involvement and guidance of personnel from the field of microbiology for proper dissemination of knowledge and skill of aspirant microbiologists. People having relevant industrial exposure adds on significant weightage in terms of leveraging benefit to the students.

Career path:

Despite of the abundance of open source information and higher digital access/ literacy, career path remains unclear to most students at the entry level to graduation. Over rated courses, glorified outcome and rationalizing odd success stories make students a victim during admissions. The following career path of microbiologists are stated to uncover the potential strength as well as challenges to be faced:

  • Teaching: ‘Teacher shapes the future of the coming generation’ This still motivates a lot of students to take up teaching at various level viz. school, college or university as their preferred profession. Microbiology graduates are not only eligible to appear for most of the school level recruitment process (e.g. School Service Commission, WB) they find it ease during exam and highly relevant during teaching. Joining colleges (both govt. or private) after the completion of M.Sc. in Microbiology is a lucrative option while clearing NET (National Eligibility Test)is highly competitive. Teaching at university level having independent research career, guiding Ph.D. students is also highly sought after career.
  • Researcher/Scientists: Most of the students of microbiology aspire to pursue Ph.D. on completion of their M.Sc. and conduct research for creation of knowledge towards human and societal development. There are plenty of research institutes, universities offering position of Junior Research Fellow (JRF), Senior Research Fellow (SRF) in the domain of microbiology (e.g. IISER, IIT, Bose Institute, NIBMG, IACS, IICB etc.). Research funding is mostly obtained from government through Department of Science & Technology (DST), Department of Biotechnology (DBT) Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) etc. The researchers receive good amount of fellowship during the PhD tenure, through these schemes. After completion of PhD, students join institutes as senior researchers or scientists. Alternatively, they continue their research as Post-Doctoral Fellow in India or Abroad. The offer of fellowship at this level is attractive and often higher than the salary offered through regular employment.
  • Industry: While knowledge is created at the university level, its implementation is seen in the industry. There is a boom of biotechnology and allied industries that require trained microbiologists at various level. UG level students are employed as Trainee, laboratory technicians etc. in the Quality Control, production department. While students completing M.Sc. are recruited as QC executive, microbiologists etc. Students having Ph.D. are mostly employed in the R&D division. It is to be emphasized that all pharmaceutical, food, biotech industries have definite requirements of microbiologists as a part of regulatory compliances. Hence, there lies a constant need of microbiologists at various industries.
  • Entrepreneurship: The present generation of students have found a suitable solution to the problem of unemployment by the creation of start-up employing their domain knowledge or interest. Several innovative ideas in the form of product or service has led to the development of enterprise making the students ‘job creators rather than job seekers’. Microbiology has enough scope of developing products related to medical, agricultural and also of inter-disciplinary nature that can be nurtured in the incubation facility in creating a start-up. The Govt. is constantly encouraging such activities with various financial and regulatory support through creation of proper start-up ecosystem at the higher educational institutions.

Thus, Microbiology offers enough scope of quenching thirst for knowledge, ignition towards innovation and having a successful career. However, the success highly depends on the quality of training obtained during academic tenure and perseverance.