SJCE, Mysore, gets ready to tap the potential of this field.
The convergence of different engineering streams and an inter-disciplinary approach in research is reckoned to hold the key for development, and biotechnology is one such area with tremendous potential.
A blend of biology, chemistry, genetics etc., biotechnology has a wide range of applications — from food and agriculture to pharmaceutical industry and medicinal research.
In view of its importance in value addition to food and agriculture, and its applications in medicine and healthcare, the Government of India too has espoused a Biotechnology Vision of “attaining new heights in biotechnology research, shaping biotechnology into a premier precision tool of the future for creation of wealth and ensuring social justice, specially for the welfare of the poor.”
Yet to be harnessed
Hence experts are unanimous about the scope and potential of biotechnology which is yet to be harnessed, for, it is a revolution in the making on the lines of Information Technology whose benefits have begun to percolate to the masses.
Realising the immense potential of biotechnology and the openings in biotech industries coupled with the trained manpower required for the country, Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering (SJCE), Mysore, has decided to introduce a postgraduate course in biotechnology engineering from the academic year 2011-12 and has ramped up its biotechnology laboratory to meet the future requirements.
As B.G. Sangameshwar, Principal of SJCE, pointed out: The biotech laboratory is not only state-of-the-art but has been modernised to meet the future requirements of advanced studies and research. In addition to the existing laboratory, there is a plan to add another research laboratory exclusively for postgraduate students, the cost of which works out to nearly Rs. 1 crore. The SJCE already offers a B.E. in biotechnology and its facilities are recognised as among the best while the quality of graduates emerging from the institute is said to be outstanding.”
With a bioengineering laboratory and highly qualified faculty, a majority of whom are Ph.D.s, the thrust is on providing hands-on experience which puts the students of SJCE in an advantageous position in the industry, according to N. Haraprasad, a faculty in the Biotechnology Department. “In addition to academic works, we also conduct research for government projects,” he added.
With focus on practicals and research, recruitment is almost 100 per cent and most students have been absorbed by the industry while a few preferred to opt for higher studies and research, said Mr. Haraprasad.
In view of the growing importance of biotechnology, the SJCE roped in M.C. Misra, a veteran scientist from the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), to head the department which is paying rich dividends as he has brought in advanced research components with industrial perspectives to the engineering course. “It is a merger of information technology and biological sciences and there is more emphasis on industrial biotechnology and food processing,” said Dr. Misra.
He pointed out that the role and importance of biotechnology could hardly be over-emphasised in view of the Food Security Act passed by the government as biotechnology will be harnessed to maintain quality of the food as also to increase the food yield. “In addition, biotechnology plays a crucial role in ensuring nutritional security of the nation, in the production of biofertilizers, crop management, seed technology and in generating new products and processes with a wide range of applicability.”
Commenting on the future of biotechnology industry in India, the SJCE faculty members pointed out that the pharmaceutical industry and agriculture and agro-industries are set to harness the wonders of biotechnology and the industry could see investments as well as turnover valued at billions of dollars. Nutraceuticals is another area where biotechnology plays a key role.
There are different areas within the health sector that has biotechnology applications like biodiagnostics, research in enzymes, and research and development of vaccines whose market value cannot be authentically computed but put at billions of dollars.