IILM College of Engineering and Technology

Biotechnology Sector- Transforming the Careers from Plinth to Paramount

Biotechnology is the amalgamation of Biology with Technology to transform existing processes by induction of biological entities to make them better in terms of productivity and quality of the products. It is the domain which holds promising future for students in multifarious domains like Health sector, Pharmaceuticals, Bioinformatics, Clinical research, Stem cell banking, Research & Development, Production and Quality control sector of Food & Beverages companies etc. List of career options is endless in this forte. As per the authenticated facts and observations, the major question that flashes in the mind of all the students after completion of their Class 12th Studies is which college to opt for, which career options to go for, which stream should be selected to give them a competitive edge over others. This article is a minuscule endeavour to throw light on the beaming career avenues in Biotechnology arena with a compact coverage of various specialization offered by this field.

For Biology background students, most promising career is offered by the stream of Biotechnology. Reason behind this is that Biotechnology offers a vibrant knowledge base in plethora of subjects which includes Metabolic Engineering, Recombinant DNA technology, Immunodiagnostic Techniques, Industrial Biotechnology, Bioprocess Engineering, Plant Tissue culture Techniques, Computer aided drug designing, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Analytical techniques in Biotech, Downstream processing technologies, Environmental Biotechnology, Patenting in Biotechnology, Molecular Signalling pathways, Stem cell technology, Genomics & proteomics.

Recombinant DNA technology exposes the students to various methodologies to develop recombinant microbes and enzymes with better efficiency, economic cost of production and high yield. Plant technologists have been able to induct resistant genes in wild type plant varieties which gives them protection against insects & pests. Epitome of efficiency in Biotechnology sector has been demonstrated by success stories of products like Golden rice, Flavr Savr tomato etc. Environmental Biotechnology has provided solutions for buzzing environmental problems like hazardous effects of oil spills or petroleum hydrocarbons. Many microbial species mainly Pseudomonas fluorescens, Alcaligenes species, Micrococcus roseus have been known to do microbial degradation of crude oil and remove hydrocarbon contaminants of petroleum and thereby, saving the biodiversity and environmental ecology. By gaining insights into other domains like Computer aided drug designing, students are able to assess the molecular signalling pathways, decipher disease targets and find out new lead compounds by virtual screening to develop potential therapeutics for life threatening diseases.

With exposure to humongous forte, A student of Biotechnology gets well equipped with tools and techniques to enhance his employability from Core R& D sector to stem cell banking; from quality control in pharmaceuticals to developing transgenics by applying genetic engineering.

Apart from placement options, Bio entrepreneurship has arisen as the great option for the Bio-technocrats. With focus on Innovation and entrepreneurship, firms like BIRAC and MSME are offering good amount of funds for innovative business ideas and projects in Biotechnology. Key aspect looked for granting the funds is the feasibility and uniqueness of the idea to address the problems of mankind and offer solutions.

In nutshell, Biotechnology offers the best of both the worlds and should be chosen as the first priority option by the students without a pinch of dilemma. This sector has emerged as the most dynamic choice for all the Biologists.

Written by:

Dr. Pallavi Singh, Associate Professor, Biotechnology, IILM Engineering, Greater Noida

 

Next Generation Sequencing- Revolutionizing the Global Scenario in Genomics Technologies

Completion of Human Genome Project in April 2003, a project initiated by National Human Genome Research Institute, led to a revolutionary change in domains of Genomics and personalized medicine. Deciphering the sequence of entire 3 billion base pairs of human genome was a landmark achievement of International Human Genome Sequencing consortium & Celera Genomics group and they took only 13 years to complete this project. This research Project led to discovery that only 3% of our genome is made of up of coding genes and rest 97% comprises of Junk DNA made up of transposons, tandem repeats, Introns and other non coding regions.

DNA sequencing is the technique of finding the correct sequence of nucleotides A,T,G,C in a given genetic fragment. First generation sequencing started way back in 1970’s when two methods were told by two groups of Scientists. Sanger’s dideoxy Chain Termination method and Maxam Gilbert Sequencing are the techniques, which emerged in 1977 , based on using gel electrophoresis, using fluorescently tagged ddNTPs and terminating the sequencing in a manner that generated sequences vary in just one nucleotide base pair. First complete genomic sequence to be completed was of Bacteriophage phiX174. Continuing with evolution in DNA sequencing technologies, Dr.Pal Nyren at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm published the methodology of Pyrosequencing. Developments in tools of Bioinformatics led to emergence of faster and more inexpensive techniques of DNA sequencing. Whole Genome sequencing using Shotgun Sequencing approach marked a new era in this domain.

Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) is a powerful platform and tool which allows sequencing of thousand to millions of genomes simultaneously. The resolution and extremely high throughput sequencing efficiency provided by NGS has made it a buzz word across the globe. NGS has transformed fields like diagnosing genetic diseases, pharmacogenomics and Clinical diagnostics.

Sanger Sequencing method, developed in 1970s is a golden benchmark methodology which is still used today in routine sequencing applications and validation of NGS data. NGS machines have been introduced in last decade with varying technical details and working principles. Common steps applied during NGS by all these methods involves Sample preparation where DNA is fragmented and ligated with adaptor molecules , followed by Sequencing where all the adaptor ligated DNA fragments are amplified in multiple copies leading to generation of cluster of amplified DNA molecules followed by generation of raw data output which is analyzed further to decipher the correct sequence.

NGS platforms differ in the type of Sequencing techniques adopted during the 2nd step. Mainly four Sequencing methods are applied in NGS- Sequencing by Synthesis, Sequencing by ligation, Pyrosequencing and Ion semiconductor sequencing. ILLumina HiSeq 4000 machines utilizes sequencing by synthesis method, which is the most popular method globally and it is able to generate hundreds of coverage per run. In fact, with this technology, Complete DNA sequencing of 15 individuals can be done simultaneously and will be completed in just 3 and a half day.

NGS has provided us a really powerful tool and we do not lie far away from the day when each individual will have their complete genome card in form and size of an ATM card in their pockets and Doctors will prescribe the medicines based on our specific genome card in every nook and corner of the world.

Written by: Dr. Pallavi Singh, Associate Professor, Department of Biotechnology

 

TOXICITY TESTING – A WAY TO ENSURE SAFETY AND EFFICACY OF DRUGS

As quoted by the Father of Toxicology, Paracelsus “All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison and a remedy”, it becomes mandatory for the mankind to investigate and develop the methods to find out that what dosage of a compound is going to cure us and what dosage is going to have lethal impacts on our body.To study the safety of any chemical substance, be it a pharmaceutical molecule, an environmental chemical, cosmetic or agricultural use product, we do toxicity testing studies. These studies come under the branch of science, known as toxicology.

World level regulatory bodies like US Food and Drug administration (FDA) has emphasized in guideline CFR 21 Part 314 that it is essential to screen the new drug entities for their pharmacological action, effective dosage and toxicological impacts in animals. Clinical trials are conducted using invitro and in vivo studies to assess ADMET parameters-Absorption, distribution, metabolism, Excretion and toxicity parameters of new molecules identified as potent drug molecules to assess Effective dose and Lethal dose of these compounds.Usually toxicants have been classified based on the chemical composition, course of action and class. Class is further bifurcated into 2 subtypes- The exposure class and the intent usage of compound.Exposure class covers those toxicants which are occurring in air, soil, food and water. On the other hand, The usage class categories drugs based on their application in various forte like whether they are going to be used as therapeutic molecules, cosmetics ingredients, agricultural chemicals, pesticides and food additives etc.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and development (OECD) has prescribed specific guidelines for carrying out toxicological assays using animal cell lines or complete animal models. A standard 3 test battery has been laid down during International conference on Harmonization to establish genotoxicity and cytotoxicity of chemical substances. AMES test is the essential preliminary assay to find out the mutagenic potential of new drug molecules and it uses auxotrophic strains of Salmonella typhimurium to analyze mutagenicity of new molecules. Further, a cytotoxicity tests needs to be conducted to assess the extent of DNA damage or chromosomal abnormalities inflicted by the potent drug compounds. Chromosomal aberration assay, COMET test, Sister chromatid exchange assay, Micronucleus test are some of the most widely used techniques to analyze the cytotoxic effect of the drugs. In continuation to mutagenic and cytotoxic potential assessment, in vivo tests need to be carried to check allergenicity or tendency to induce hypersensitive reactions by these molecules. Skin irritation test and skin sensitivity tests are commonly conducted on experimental animals like guinea pigs, albino rats or rabbits to check allergenicity of new drug molecules.

After complete safety assessment on all these parameters, drugs are released in the market. As per the phase IV guidelines of clinical trials, a pharmacovigilance is still maintained on the drugs, post release in the market, to ensure that there is no side effects of the drugs on human beings after consumption for a prolonged period of time.