The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in collaboration with Department of Science & Technology, and the Department of Science & Technology, Government of South Africa, and South African Medical Research Council will soon embark on a collaborative research programme on HIV, TB and TB/HIV. The programme would be under the framework of bilateral Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement between the Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Governments of India and South Africa.
The thrust areas of the programme would be on development of preventive HIV vaccine by designing immunogens that can elicit potent and broadly neutralizing antibodies; isolation and characterization of neutralizing MAbs effective against clade C HIV-1 viruses for use in combination therapies, passive immunization, and/or for designing preventive vaccines; Creation of cohorts of TB patients with HIV-1 co-infection and formation of national biorepositories (for breath condensates, blood, tissue etc.)to facilitate immunological studies on HIV and TB; and identification of biomarkers and development of novel assays for diagnosis and management of tuberculosis and tuberculosis with HIV co-infection.
The DBT’s initiative in this regard is significant as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and tuberculosis (TB) are the leading causes of death in adults and children in both India and South Africa, and the impact of the converging dual epidemics is one of the major public health challenges of our time. Development of effective biomedical tools and solutions for diagnosis, prevention and treatment of AIDS and tuberculosis is required to address challenges in disease management and control.
Interdisciplinary research in these areas will not only accelerate development of transformational technologies but also help to develop capabilities and solutions for these unconquered diseases. The proposal should be geared towards product development or have clinically useful applications. It should have intra country linkages and a strong collaborative component utilizing complementary expertise of both countries, and addressing regional needs.
Scientists in either country could also submit proposals in case they have an existing product or a proof of concept and they would like to access facilities in either country for a collaborative framework to help facilitate product development in an accelerated manner (e.g. manufacturing, preclinical testing etc.). The programme is aimed to facilitate partnerships between research institutions in India and South Africa. This programme will leverage upon existing scientific capacities, enable technology transfer and catalyze mentorship/training. Thus, this collaboration will synergistically advance discovery efforts towards development of new technologies and products for prevention and management of HIV/AIDS and TB by building scientific leadership capacity, fostering a sustainable environment for translational research and enhancing clinical capability/capacity. In South Africa, this call for proposal is open to researchers residing in South Africa and who are affiliated with a recognized higher educational or research institution such as a university, university of technology or science council. The South African applicant must be in possession of a PhD. Private sector companies are not eligible for this call. In India, the lead Indian applicants should be scientists/faculty members working in regular capacity in universities, academic institutes or national research and development laboratories/institutes. Private sector companies are not eligible for this call.
The department of biotechnology (DBT) will soon begin research in the least understood human organ ‘placenta’ with renewed focus on detailed biology of placental development and function across pregnancy- studies on disease sub-clusters including profiles without any complications with an aim to develop novel biomarkers.
The broad areas of interest of this research include Study placental reflection of maternal morbidity/adverse pregnancy outcome including preterm birth, fetal growth restriction, and preeclampsia; Imprints of future aberrations in growth and development and disease risk (Developmental Origins of Health & Disease, DOHaD); and Development and evaluation of minimally invasive/ non-invasive markers/diagnostics (structural and functional, including imaging techniques and circulating biomarkers) for predicting pregnancy outcome. In vitro and in vivo model system in these identified priorities.
The DBT’s initiative in this regard is significant as fetal growth and development is regulated in a very complex manner and critically hinges on the growth and development of placenta. This unique organ of fetal origin has been indicated to predict not only the outcome of a pregnancy, but also the long term health of the baby. Difficulties in real time assessment in pregnancy due to largely inaccessible position of the placenta have hampered studies and it is thus called the ‘least understood’ human organ. Existing data/samples can be utilized to identify newer markers/molecular signatures for understanding the biology of normal and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
The DBT has invited Letters of Intent (LOI) on Placental Research from eligible scientists by July 31, 2016. This opportunity is open to those working on placenta and also basic and clinical researchers desirous of developing and honing their skills in placental research.
LOIs will be screened based on clarity of questions asked/ hypothesis, relevance and innovative approaches, ability to implement the approaches, background of the investigator and feasibility of doing rigorous research in his present setting.
For this programme, LOI will only help in identifying investigators (both clinicians and scientists) who study the placenta and also those who have never previously applied their approaches to the placenta but are desirous of delving into this area. A networking meeting of all the selected participants would then be facilitated by DBT to develop multi-approach, multi-disciplinary programme towards an identified goal with both short term and long term objectives clearly defining the scientific approaches.
India’s biotechnology sector is set for a booster dose to expand work in drug discovery, vaccines and anti-microbial resistance. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) is in the midst of finalising several programs and global partnerships to give a thrust to these areas, according to secretary K VijayRaghavan.
DBT is looking to invest close to Rs 1000 crore in a programme to expand the existing centres for drug discovery and vaccine research in the country. The department will take up the possibility of investing “a few thousand crores” over the next few years with the finance ministry and hopes the proposal will be approved, he said.
“We’re going to see a multiple hub model where there will be many more top quality centres in India for drug discovery and vaccines,” VijayRaghavan told ET on the sidelines of the Science and Technology in Society (STS) Forum India-Japan workshop held on June 6. “We want to expand this so that bringing to bear genomics into (these areas) is a big thrust,” he said.
The programme is expected to be announced this financial year around August or early September, according to VijayRaghavan.
In addition to national investment programmes, DBT is in the process of finalising international collaboration in vaccines and to combat the country’s growing problem of anti-microbial resistance, he said. “We are likely to see big announcements over the next few months.”
DBT invested close to Rs 6.7 crore ($1,00,000) as seed funding in India-focussed biotech startups and to tackle the issue of anti-microbial resistance earlier this year.
Even as the academia and industries worldwide are actively involved in finding a solution to the growing Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection in terms of new screening/diagnostic tests, vaccines and therapeutic options, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) will soon begin research on HPV prevention and control. The DBT’s initiative in this regard is significant as HPV infection is the leading cause of cervical cancer in the world. India bears 30 per cent of the burden of cervical cancer worldwide. The lack of awareness in rural areas and the lifestyle of women in urban areas worsen the situation of cervical cancer in the country. Low-cost, e?ective solutions are required for the prevention and treatment of HPV infections.
The DBT will conduct this research programme under its Biotechnology Industry Partnership Programme (BIPP). The DBT has invited proposals from eligible biotech companies to conduct research on HPV prevention and control.
Some of the indicative priority areas for submitting proposals include simple, sensitive, accurate and affordable screening tests (standard self-screening methods that are independent of individual interpretation); simple, sensitive, specific and acceptable diagnostic tests (cost effective and applicable to low resource settings); vaccines covering additional number of HPV types; process optimization for cost effective vaccine production; development of vaccines with specified duration of protection; and development of new therapeutic options including products of natural origin.
A single or consortia of Indian companies small, medium or large having in-house R&D units, alone or in collaboration with a partner from another company, institute or organisation are eligible to participate in the research programme. The main industry applicant should have DSIR recognised in-house R&D unit; alternatively, the applicant should be incubated at an incubation centre/biotech park which has a valid SIRO/DSIR certificate.
The last date for submission of proposals under this regular call is July 31, 2014. BIPP is a government partnership programme with industry for support on a cost sharing basis targeted at development of novel and high risk futuristic technologies mainly for viability gap funding and enhancing existing R&D capacities of start-ups and SMEs in key areas of national importance and public good.
DBT is operating this scheme through BIRAC, a not-for-profit public sector undertaking set up by DBT to promote and nurture innovation research in biotech enterprises specially start-ups and SMEs. Major thrust of the programme is towards funding technologies which address a major national problem and/or involves high level of innovation.
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), under its advanced technology scheme, Biotechnology Industry Partnership Programme (BIPP), has invited fresh proposals from biotech companies for providing support on a cost sharing basis targeted at development of novel and high risk futuristic technologies mainly for viability gap funding and enhancing existing R&D capacities of start-ups and SMEs in key areas of national importance and public good.
DBT is operating this scheme through Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Programme (BIRAP), a not-for-profit public sector undertaking set up by DBT to promote and nurture innovation research in biotech enterprises specially start-ups and SMEs. Major thrust of the programme is towards funding technologies which address a major national problem and/or involves high level of innovation. The proposals spanning across the spectrum of pre-proof-of-concept to validation of established technologies are considered for support in the form of grant and loan.
The scheme supports large, medium, small scale companies as well as start-up on cost sharing basis. It would push for high risk, discovery linked innovation and accelerated technology development. Varying models of grants, loans or grant plus loans will be made available under the scheme. It will be one of the most enabling mechanisms to promote R&D in biotech industry and public private partnership programmes.
The programme will also focus on the evaluation and validation of biotech products and indigenous discovery, innovation and technology to products with focus on the products of national relevance or public benefit. BIPP is an advanced technology initiative by the DBT for supporting innovative and challenging R&D in industry.
Under the scheme, support will also be available for setting up of infrastructure and facility. In cases where such a facility leads to R&D capacity building or is required for scale up of an innovative product/process of national importance developed through company’s in-house R&D, facility proposed could be in the area of agriculture, healthcare, biosimilars, industrial processes, energy, bioinformatics, genomics and other relevant areas in biotechnology.
A single or consortia of Indian companies–small, medium or large– having DSIR recognized in-house R&D units, alone or in collaboration with a partner from another company/university/ institute/organization can be part of the programme. The interested biotech companies can apply for the proposal till March 31 this year.