Having spent most of my time in understanding the fundamentals of plant biology at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and in some of the laboratories in USA and Germany, I moved to the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi in 1997, where I got more effectively involved in gene function studies and plant transformation. The aim of the group that I was heading at ICGEB was to understand the mechanisms and to develop abiotic and biotic stress tolerant plants. Thus tools of modern biology and plant biotechnology became part of my career. In 2004, I published a book along with Dr Menakshi Munshi, who recently retired as a Senior Advisor from the Department of Biotechnology, Govt of India, on “ Biotechnology: applications and careers”.
During the last two decades there has been an immense growth in the knowledge and data generation, especially in this post genomics era, the recent application is detection of “COVID-19 variants”. These advancement have been made in all the domains of biotechnology; plant, animal health, agriculture, environment, industrial etc. The boundaries between subjects have disappeared and new transdisciplinary research topics have emerged viz. bioelectronics, biomaterials, bio economy, bio photonics, bio refinery etc.
The big data that has emerged and more that will pour in at a faster pace in future will be through sequencing of all the life on the planet; plants, animals, microorganisms, and through other omics based approaches. It is visualized that this big data will need new paradigms in bio informatics for proper utilization in improving human health, enhance agricultural production and to combat environmental degradation. For analytical usage of this big data, artificial intelligence and new machine learning tools will be deployed.
The biology of living organisms is being revealed at immense speed with each passing day. Hence in years to come the knowledge will be of great help in not only understanding the evolution and interrelationship of bio-forms in different ecosystem, but will also help us to preserve our biodiversity, use bio based knowledge for sustainable development, improve the environment, address human health related issues and also improve our agricultural productivity to feed the growing population. Biotechnology solutions based on micorbiome data have been applied in probiotics, diagnostics, fecal microbiome transplantation and therapeutics.
“During the last more than one year of COVID pandemic that the world faced, we have seen how biological research and biotechnology has helped the humanity by providing necessary information on the disease as well as aid in developing vaccine and that too within one year”.
Many of the above topics are the core area of researchers who constitute the fellowship of the Biotech Research Society of India. I am privileged to have been elected the President of the Society this year. This Society has been navigated very well by Prof Ashok Pandey and Prof T.P. Singh during the past decade. The Society has played an important role in enhancing knowledge and technical skills through various meetings and discussions. I would see that we do include all the emerging areas in biotechnology, some of these I have illustrated above, in our future discussions and help evolve sound policy in the country for safe utilization of new bioproducts and technologies. Be these related to plant transformation, including crisper–CAS based system, synthetic biology, stem cell research, nanobiotechnology, biomaterials, biofuel, biocontrol , etc. The Society will continue to provide platform to the young researchers and enable them through its annual meetings to develop collaboration and networking to encourage them to take on big ticket research for solving the problems of the society. We will encourage seed and pharmaceutical industry, farmers, social scientists, NGOs to come on board and partner with scientists.
Other agenda that we need to bring on the table during our annual meetings is to include discussions on bioethics, bioterrorism, on improving science communication and quality of our Indian journals. Recruiting young members will be essential for the development of the society. We should also explore outreach to junior and high school students and expose them to the developments in new biotechnology and its impact on the society and economy. Let us work together to work of a better and safe world through biotech interventions.
This year the annual meeting of BRSI was conducted at Jaipur. It was in hybrid mode, though mostly online presentations were made. I am thankful to organizers for facilities and technical support for conducting this event. I hope in future we will get an opportunity to meet in person. With online meetings I greatly miss personal discussion during coffee and lunch breaks and interacting with young colleagues over their poster presentations. I hope and pray the normalcy returns soon.
Wishing best of heath and lots of success to all the fellows and members of the Society
Sudhir K Sopory