Tuesday, December 26, 2017

IBAB, Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University (SAI) Hosted a Two-Week Course on Genomics in Healthcare and Translational Research

From over 220 applications, 25 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students from across India were selected to participate in a residential two-week hands on workshop in ‘Genomics in Healthcare and Translational Research’ from December 10-23, 2017. This workshop was under the aegis of the B4 (Boston Bangalore Biosciences Beginnings) Program, funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, and supported by the IT/BT Department, Government of Karnataka.

B4 aims to build a scientific research corridor by engaging scientists from India and Harvard through exchange programs. Its two projects are the Science & Technology Fellowship (B4) Program in Boston and the Young Scientist Development Courses held in Bangalore. The B4 program was led by Professor Venkatesh Murthy, Harvard University, and is coordinated by Savitha Ananth, SAI.

The aim of the Genomics workshop was to “introduce talented Indian students to the emerging area of genomics and enable them to explore the power and excitement of Next Generation Sequencing technologies to address clinically relevant research questions,” said Professor M.Vijayalakshmi, IBAB, who was instrumental in developing the curriculum for the workshop.

Genomics and Next-generation Sequencing technologies have influenced scientific research and medicine significantly, which has made a striking impact on healthcare and translational medicine over the last decade. The capability to sequence DNA at higher speeds with precision and resolution unravels several dimensions of the complex genome and enhances the applicability of genomic information in personalized medicine. 

There is an acute shortage of cutting-edge training courses that focus on both aspects of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS); generation of genomic data through sequencing, and the analysis of sequencing data. The disease patterns specific to the Indian subcontinent and the mutant profiles of Indian patients have not been explored systematically in the case of several diseases. This underlines the need for focussed training to a large number of student researchers and clinicians to bridge the existing gap between academic and clinical research. Such trainings will not only equip clinicians with newer ways of addressing health care but also create employment opportunities for trained personnel in scientific research laboratories and hospitals across India.

Distinguished faculty and postdoctoral fellows from institutions such as Boston University, Harvard, Broad Institute, Boston, ACTREC (Mumbai), IGIB (Delhi), CCMB (Hyderabad), IISC and NCBS (Bangalore) trained the participants on both the experimental aspects of genomic sequencing & computational analysis of sequencing data through didactic research lectures and hands-on sessions. The workshop concluded on December 23 with a panel discussion on ‘Genomics - Trends and Opportunities’.  

Following the workshop was the valedictory event of the first phase of B4. The keynote address was delivered by Dr. VijayaRaghavan (Secretary, DBT) who highlighted the current and future study and practice of Bio Sciences in India. He emphasized the need to build a science-based ecosystem that is sensitive to the nation’s needs.

Dr. Vijay Raghavan’s talk was followed by a panel moderated by Prof. Venkatesh Murthy, Chair of Molecular & Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Boston and lead faculty of the B4 Program. The discussion focused on the impact of the program in India. Panelists included Aditya Murthy, Faculty from IISC, and three B4 fellows, Parvathi Sreekumar, Ramya Purkanti, and Gayatri Ramakrishnan, who have recently returned from a year at Harvard.

The closing vote of thanks was delivered by Prof. N. Yathindra, Director, IBAB. Who spoke of the value of the B4 Program for the young Indian scientists and the bridge created between academic institutions in the US and India. He also emphasized the value of translation of knowledge from academia to practice.

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