ADDRESS ON THE OCCASION OF SILVER JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS OF CENTRE FOR CELLULAR AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY,
26-11-2002 : Hyderabad
Multi Dimension of Technology
I am indeed delighted to participate in the Silver Jubilee Foundation Day Celebrations of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad. CCMB is a very important scientific laboratory nurtured by eminent scientists like Dr Pushpa Bhargava, Prof Sharat Chandra and Dr D. Balasubramanian and now Dr Lalji Singh. My greetings to Hon'ble Minister of State Shri Bachi Singh Rawat, Dr RA Mashelkar, Scientists and Staff of CCMB, distinguished scientists from India and abroad, guests and participants of the Symposium on 'Current Excitement in Biology'. Bio science and bio-technology are already making revolutionary changes in health sector, agricultural sector and industrial sector. CCMB's contribution in establishing excellent research base and scientific human power has been noteworthy. DNA finger printing technique, Bio-informatics and trans-genic animal models for diseases are important milestones in the history of CCMB.
I would like to share with you friends, some of the predictions of Ray Kurzweil written in his book "When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence - The Age Of Spiritual Machines". World Wide Web will make tremendous impact in the way we communicate and live. Most of the computers and accessories will be of micro sized, wearable and will have wireless communications with each other. Moderately priced PCs capable of performing about billion calculations per second today, will be able to perform about trillion calculations per second with in next 10 years. And by 2020 computational ability of an ordinary PC will exceed the capability of human brain. By 2030 the capability of a normal PC would be around 1000 times of human capability.
By the end of this century there would be a strong trend towards merger of human thinking with the world of machine intelligence that the human species initially created. When there would no longer be any clear distinction between human and computers, how are we, the molecular biologists would help us to retain the supremacy of man over machines? Computers are going to give us a challenge. It is not only for the biologists and bio-technologists, the entire scientific community would have greater responsibility of keeping the mankind above the man-made computers. Fortunately, the creativity and imagination components of human has not been fully explored and utilized. The human genome is full of software that is yet to be activated to unleash the ingenious potentials of human spices. You have the key.
Time has come for our scientific community to prove our abilities in the field of bio-science and bio-technology for harnessing these technologies in multiple fields for wealth generation for societal transformation as we have accomplished in the field of information technology. Technology is the most nonlinear tool that can effect the most fundamental changes in the ground rules of economic competitiveness. Science is linked to technology through applications. Technology is linked to economy and environment through manufacture. Economy and environment link Technology to the society
Bio Diversity - Technology Prosperity Matrix
One of the core competencies of India is Bio Diversity. Bio Diversity and technology combined will yield value added products. A few countries like India, China, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Malaysia etc., are very rich in biodiversity. Technology is needed for developing a genetically engineered seed or transforming a molecule extracted from the herb into a drug. Today technologically advanced nations are USA, Japan, France, Germany, UK etc. India to become a developed nation, what is needed is high productivity in agriculture, biodiversity material and technology integration. There are some regions in desert nations where biodiversity and technology are poor. Today there is no nation having rich bio-diversity and high technology together. Therefore the challenge is integration of technological best and abundant biodiversity. I dream that Indian scientists discover hundreds of herbal based molecules leading to value added pharmaceutical drugs for domestic and global needs.
India is rich in herbs, germ-plasm and micro-organisms. Industrially developed countries are importing these bio-resources in the raw forms and add value to them for export to developing countries including India as special seeds, medicines and bio-materials, fully protecting patents of such products. Instead of allowing export of such resources and importing value added products at high cost, India must add its own technology for conversion of such resources to value added products for use in domestic requirement and also for export.
Biotechnology in Health Care
I would like to share my experiences while I was in Anna University, Chennai. An unique research effort resulted in getting a patent for a new molecule discovered from a herb as an anti cancer drug. This came out of the fusion of two great minds, one was a bio technologist and the other was a traditional siddha medical practitioner. The traditional system of medicine like Ayurveda, Siddha etc have advocated and practiced preventive and curative medicinal recipes specific to individuals. The body, mind, food and environment were looked at holistically to suggest a preventive or curative approach to health. New technologies such as human genome sequencing, proteomics, pharmaco-genomics, ultra high throughput screening are revolutionizing drug discovery. Medicinal plants offer enormous scope for development of drugs. We need to create database of traditional medicinal plants for specific bioactivity and lead for development of new drugs. India has got tremendous potentials for herbal farming and research.
Other experiments were to find a hardware-software integrated solution to bring back a near normal life for mentally challenged children. During our preliminary studies I have seen tremendous scope for bio-medical electronics and embedded software. Also, we were exploring to indigenize the cochlear implant to revive hearing capabilities for the severe to profound damaged auditory system. On reviving the hearing, IT based training could be given to develop normal speech. Our scientists have also successfully developed a bacteria to absorb the oil spillage on the sea bed and dis-integrate the oil into eco-friendly soluble.
Vision for medicare
A report on "Health Care in India" has been prepared by a panel of leading doctors and medical technologists in the country. It reports the typical problems facing us for two decades in the health care and possible solutions. The expert team has identified eradication of three major diseases viz. Tuberculosis, HIV and water-borne diseases, by next decade followed by cardiovascular diseases, neuro-psychiatric disorders, renal diseases and hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders, eye disorders, genetic diseases, accidents and trauma, which need our attention. We should see how the advancement in technology could be put to use to improve the health care system of the country, to cope up with such problems. Such an effort will make cost effective medical technology and devices available and accessible to all the citizens of our country. This will contribute for nation's progress as a strong body and sound minds are essential to accomplish anything.
The report has brought out multidimensions of health care problems in our country. The Vision of providing affordable and effective healthcare to our entire population goes much beyond the capability of any individual, institution or organisation. Technology is an important tool to give fast healthcare and we have to seek its help. This vision has to became a multi-organisational missions leading to the generation of thousands of Goal oriented projects. These projects will have to be supported and nurtured not only by the Government, but also by our industry and philanthropic organisations. The most important ingredient of such a multi-organisational mission will be the leadership decentralised and yet linked together. For example the academic institutions which do research on various technological systems, will be tools for medical-care have to be fed to their knowledge to the industries which not only productionise cost effective medical products but also adopt nearby villages for medical care coupled with education. The hospitals of medical research centres can have umbilical with other R&D organisations for developing indigenous medical care equipments, devices and consumables.
The interfacing between medical science and various other technologies has given rise to numerous techniques both curative and investigative and has provided the research worker with numerous tools to pry into the working of various physiological functions right up to the molecular levels. Developments in bio-technology and molecular biology have now made it possible not only to design drugs for specific properties but also to deliver them to the specific sites where they are most required. Newer imaging techniques have now made it possible to obtain real time images of the various organs at a physiological and biological level and hence the right treatment is possible. We can now identify not only the genes that cause disease but also correct the defects through gene therapy. Recent breakthroughs in stem cell research are likely to lead to the regeneration of diseased organs.
The role of genes in heart diseases and stroke is now universally accepted. The apo-B gene is responsible for the cholesterol management in the body. My friend, Dr. B. Soma Raju informs me that as a clinician he is looking toward two major approaches for gene therapy for heart diseases: treating the heart muscle itself and treating veins and arteries. Molecular biology will also have a clear impact on the science and practice of psychiatry in near future.
World population today has crossed the mark of six billion of which a vast majority do not have even the basic needs such as drinking water, food and shelter. Population growth needs to be checked on priority through concerted effort by developing new methods and devices which will be acceptable to the masses including those with low literacy levels and living in rural and remote areas. Reversible and long acting contraceptive methods including those of plant origin and immunological methods could be evolved. Application of BIO-MEMS in delivering the birth control pharmaceuticals through sub-dermal implants may be another approach which you may like to consider. Improving maternal health and reducing infant mortality should be ensured if population control methods need to succeed. A refocus on reproductive health profile is needed for ensuring a healthy progeny. Genetic flaws are responsible for a fifth of all infant mortality, half of all mis-carriages and up to 80% all mental retardation.
HIV / AIDS
In spite of the fact that the average lifespan of population has significantly increased in the recent years including those in developing nations like India, the overall health profile has shown a decline with emergence of new threats like HIV/ AIDS and resurgence of eradicated diseases like small box, controlled diseases like malaria showing virulence due to drug resistance and mutation of different strains. We may need to develop effective vaccines and novel pharmaceutical approach to control the menace of such major health problems. In our national context HIV/TB and Malaria need a special attention. Can we evolve an empowered consortium and integrated approach to find permanent and long lasting solutions? Incidents of non-communicable, stress related and psycho somatic diseases are showing a steep rise due to life style changes of modern human being. The mind-body-spirit in the control and management of such illness may be more effective. Bio-medical scientists need to adopt such holistic approach to health care delivery.
Mind- Body-Spirit Approach
Preventive cardiology needs to be given a focus for a large country like ours, since cardiac care of the patients is rather expensive. Lifestyle changes which have occurred in the recent past in our society due to cultural invasion have brought with it the inevitable increase in stress level, the preference for high fat diet and sedentary life has become an important epidemiological risk factor. Due to this, there is a steep increase in the incidence of cardiac diseases, particularly among the youth and the adult population in the early years of life. One of our DRDO laboratories, the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS) is conducting a very interesting research study sponsored by Ministry of Health on regression of coronary artery disease by lifestyle changes including meditation, low fat high fibre diet and regular aerobic exercise like walking. This study is being progressed in collaboration with Global Hospital and Research Centre at Mount Abu. I visited that hospital a couple of months ago and talked to some of the patients who are undergoing the lifestyle intervention programme and also discussed with our scientists. I was delighted to see the remarkable improvement in the cardiac health status and quality of life of the patients as assessed by the psycho-neuro-immunological parameters in the well controlled study. Similar efforts using non-drug methods of management of these patients will help in reducing the cost of cardiac healthcare in India.
On Breast Cancer: a new project
The Bangalore Cancer research Foundation conducted a unique multi-institutional study sponsored by DRDO with the participation of Defence Institute of Psychology (DIPR), Defence Institute of Physiology (DIPAS) and Centre for Cellular and Microbiology (CCMB). The study was aimed at establishing the relationship of the stress of breast cancer patients with the neuro endocrine response leading to immune modulation which will determine the prognosis to treatment or progression of the disease. The perceived stress of the patients will be influenced by the social support being provided by the spouses and care givers and hence in the study a system approach was made to evaluate the stress of the patients in the social ambience. Forty patients of breast cancer, their spouses and equal number of the care givers served as volunteers for the study.
Standard psychological methods were used to quantify the stress of the patients, their coping strategies, blood cortisol, cell mediated immunity and humoral immunity were measured in all the three groups. The study revealed specific correlation of the stress of the patients with the immune responses. Patients who received adequate social support had lower level of perceived stress and their prognosis to surgical, radiation and chemotherapy were better than those who had higher level of perceived stress due to inadequate emotional support from the spouses and care givers. The primary message which emanated from the study indicates that for successful prognosis, it will be essential to combine psychotherapy along with the conventional medical management of cancer. It also emphasises the necessity to address the problem at the mind-body complex where the etiological factor may have the root. The sample size is small. Elaborate further research in this area is very vital.
Bio Degradation in Waste Management
Environmental Pollution, particularly in the Himalayan region is a special issue to be addressed by biologists like you. A number of people visit Himalayas for various purposes which lead to accumulation of waste materials. Can the biologists and bio-technologists collectively find a solution for human waste management through bio-degradation identifying appropriate psychrophyllic bacteria and through genetic engineering? Can they develop more effective strains which can survive at sub-zero temperatures and effect bio-degradations? There are few accomplishments in this direction which need to be further improved upon to develop practically deployable solutions.
Integrated action for developed India
We have identified five areas where India has a core competence for an integrated action. (1) Agriculture and food processing - we have to put a target of doubling the present production of food and agricultural products. Other areas of agriculture and agro food processing would bring prosperity to rural people and speed up the economic growth. (2) Reliable and quality electric power for all parts of the country. (3) Education and Healthcare - we have seen, based on the experience, education and healthcare are inter related. (4) Information Technology - This is one of our core competence. We believe, this area can be used to promote education in remote areas and also to create national wealth. (5) Strategic sectors - This area, fortunately, witnessed the growth in nuclear technology, space technology and defence technology.
These five areas are closely inter-related and culminate in 30 IMM 2020 missions leading to national food and economic security. A strong partnership among the R&D, academy, Industry and the community as a whole with the Government departments will be essential to accomplish the vision. The advent of bio-chip technology micro-array and functional genomics has opened-up new avenues for finding effective therapeutic measures. Indian Scientists with networked institutions and databases with industrial collaboration should venture to develop acceptable and marketable drugs for diseases like HIV and cancer.
Science and Value System
The global economy, particularly in the WTO environment, competitiveness will be very important and should become part of building the economy of the nation. It is essential for India to have continuous research and data generation to protect the Intellectual Property Rights. Code of ethics and IPR guidelines have to be streamlined based on the global standards and a nationwide awareness and adherence need to be established. This will ensure protection of our Intellectual Property Rights and ancient wisdom in addition to upholding our scientific credibility in international forums. Also rigorous sustained experimentation of ancient knowledge is required to understand its scientific rationale for IPR protection. Various islands of excellence, the research institutions, need to be connected on-line for sharing their expertise across the boundaries of the institutions to excel nation as a whole by bringing synergized research efforts.
Bio-diversity is a gift of nature. It will give us economic strength. It will be a healer. Scientific research and technological advancements have to go together. Researches in pharmaceutical industries have to work together to provide cost effective herbal drugs to common man, as the herbal drugs will have least side effects fortunately. Friends, during this brief talk, I could give some glimpses of exiting possibilities for India and also about the emerging possibilities of research in the world. There are a number of areas in which India can lead and give benefit to its people, to eliminate poverty, to give better health and also to make a prosperous India. Our scientific and technological community while sharing this excitement may also concentrate on a few areas to make India greater. This should be not only to achieve a great name for India but also to create global business. Young persons in this country are eagerly waiting for such opportunities and intellectual challenges for them. India's rich bio-diversity and the traditional knowledge base give us a unique advantage. I am confident that India can achieve it.
I would like to conclude with the words of Jeff Lyon and Peter Gorner in Altered Fates, "We humans have evolved intellectually to the point that, relatively soon, we will be able to understand the composition, function, and dynamics of the genome in much of its intimidating complexity. Emotionally, however we are still apes, With all the behavioral baggage that brings to the issue. Perhaps one day our spices will rise above it baser heritage and learn to apply its new knowledge wisely."
I congratulate the CCMB family for completing 25 glorious years of hard work. My greetings and best wishes to the CCMB community to achieve greater heights of scientific milestones! May God bless you all.