Combining advanced biotechnology with traditional forms of healing that have been perfected over centuries in Kerala can lead to better understanding of diseases and pave the way for breakthrough treatments, Smt Sonia Gandhi, Hon’ble Chairperson of the National Advisory Council said today.
She was speaking at the foundation stone laying ceremony of a Bio-Innovation Centre being set up by the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) at its new 20-acre campus in Akkulam, She said IT and Biotechnology are the two engines of future growth in Kerala which may lack in land and resources needed for massive industrial units, but has an abundance of highly educated and skilled people who can power a knowledge economy.
Her remarks came as the Government of Kerala announced a pioneering new digital project in partnership with the RCGB to document diseases, predict outbreaks and monitor healthcare delivery. Hon’ble Chief Minister Shri Oommen Chandy said under the new “Rajeevam: Health For All” programme “vaccine delivery efficiency, impact of environmental variability, disease outbreak prediction , interface of hospitals and public health institutions will all be done on real time basis through a cloud-based database system”.
Given the value and significance of RGCB’s work for Kerala, the state government has provided the institution 20 acres of land, worth Rs 175 crores, free of cost, he said. Shri Chandy also noted that the RGCB is the only biotechnology institute in the country which will have three distinct campuses – one for discovery, a second for innovation and a third for translation.
Shri. Chandy also requested the central government to provide RGCB the status of a ‘degree-granting institution’ for multi-disciplinary science degrees. RGCB’s current facility at Poojappura in the city houses research labs specialising in disease biology, especially cancer and communicable diseases such as TB, Dengue and Cholera. The Centre’s current activities cover a range of scientific fields including nano biosciences, drug delivery, peptide antibiotics, neurosciences, reproductive biology and plant biotechnology, especially spice genomics.
The Bio-Innovation Centre aims to become a ‘Centre of Excellence’ in the areas of disease biology and molecular medicine with core focus on cancer vaccines, immunology and biomarkers.RGCB has also been tasked with the management of the state government’s Biotech Park in Kochi which is a translational facility where knowledge will be converted to new products. It is an incubation facility for biotechnology start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Hon’ble Union Minister for Science & Technology Shri S Jaipal Reddy who lauded RGCB’s multi-faceted approach said the central government is committed to providing all support for the centre’s The BIC is being set up with a Rs 100 crore grant from the Prime Minister’s Office, and Mr Reddy pledged all financial support the institution will need in the future. “I assure you that the BIC will never suffer for want of funds. There will be no limit to the funds made available to the centre to carry out its mandate of biotechnology innovation and translation,” he said.
Other dignitaries are the ceremony today included Hon’ble Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Shri Vayalar Ravi; Hon’ble Union Minister of State for Human Resources Development Dr Shashi Tharoor; Hon’ble Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Shri K C Venugopal; Hon’ble Union Minister of State for Labour & Employment Shri Kodikkunnil Suresh; Hon’ble Minister for Health Shri V S Sivakumar and Hon’ble Speaker Shri G Karthikeyan; and MLAs Shri Ramesh Chennithala and Shri RGCB Director Prof M Radhakrishna Pillai, who delivered the welcome address, said the BIC aims to become a world-class facility that will also be a training and education centre for science and engineering graduates. Shri K M Nair, RGCB Chief Controller proposed thanks.
A 150,000 sq ft building is proposed in BIC phase I which is expected to be commissioned by 2016. Once operational, it will house research laboratories, state-of-the-art instrumentation facilities and Around 35 scientists and 20 technical support staff are expected to be employed at the new facility besides 200 students and researchers working on various projects.
Three laboratories engaged in R&D in nanobiotechnology, peptide antibiotics and molecular diagnostics will soon shift to a 50,000 sq ft transit campus at the KINFRA Video Park in Kazhakkuttam until they move into their permanent home at the BIC.
In the second phase of the BIC, RGCB hopes to add an additional 250,000 sq ft space to develop an “Advanced Centre for Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics” which will also house a 75-bed hospital run jointly with the Regional Cancer Centre, Prof Pillai said.
The centre will offer cutting-edge cancer therapies including stem cell replacements, gene therapies and molecular tumour targeting and imaging, besides carrying out clinical trials of cancer vaccines In Phase II, which is currently in planning stages, the BIC expects to offer investors, biotech companies and entrepreneurs a “test-and-prove” platform for validating biotech and biological products through pre-clinical, analytical, toxicological and biological assays. It will share facilities with technology and business start-ups in biotechnology.