1. Main Thrust of Activity
Growth of biotechnology has accelerated particularly during the last decade due to path breaking advancements in biology and new technologies that produce large high quality data. One such advancement is the high through put full genome sequencing projects, including human genome, have produced very large data. The analysis of such large data and extraction of knowledge from this data is possible only with the help of new algorithms and compute intensive techniques. Thus biologists need to use almost every new technical development in information technology and computer sciences and intelligent application to solve complex biological problems leading the development of multi-disciplinary area called bioinformatics.
Bioinformatics has become a frontline applied science and is of vital importance to study new biology, which is widely recognized as the new scientific endeavor of the twenty-first century. The growth in full genomic sequencing, structural genomics, proteomics, micro-array etc. will be very slow without application of bioinformatics. In fact usefulness of these areas to solve complex biological problems will be limited without bioinformatics and thus very high importance to Bioinformatics.
India was the first country in the world to establish in 1987 a Biotechnology Information System (BTIS) network to create an infrastructure that enables it to harness, biotechnology through the application of Bioinformatics. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has taken up this infrastructure development project and created a distributed network at a very low cost. BTIS is today recognized as one of the major scientific network in the world dedicated to provide the-state-of-the-art infrastructure, education, manpower and tools in bioinformatics.
The principal aim of the bioinformatics programme is to ensure that India emerges as a key international player in the field of bioinformatics; enabling a greater access to wealth of information created during the post-genomic era and catalyse the country’s attainment of lead position in medical, agricultural, animal and environmental biotechnology. The following are the major thrusts of the programme.
To undertake advanced research in frontier areas of bioinformatics and computational biology.
To develop world class human resource in bioinformatics
To establish effective academia-industry interface
To pursue and promote international cooperation with leading institutions, organizations and countries in the world.
To create world-class platforms for technology development, transfer and commercialisation.
Biotechnology Information System (BTISnet)
India was the first country in the world to establish National Bioinformatics Network. The culture of use of computers in biology and importance of quantization in biology in India was the result of this network. The BTISnet covers institutions under DST, CSIR, ICMR, ICAR, Universities and Institutes under Human Resource Ministry.
Today an extensive Bioinformatics Network, covering 120 institutions, spread geographically all over the country, has been established. The Network is creating human resource in Bioinformatics and carrying out research in different areas of Bioinformatics. Scientists of this network have published more than 1000 bioinformatics research papers in peer reviewed journals in last five years and helped in publishing more than 3000 research papers in biology/biotechnology. The network has also helped directly or indirectly several Bioinformatics companies in India. The scientists from the network have participated in major national millennium technology initiative projects of CSIR such as Biosuite of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) or software packages for visualization of bioinformatics data by Strand Genomics. The BTISnet is the first network which established BioGrid India of large bandwidth and high speed connectivity among various institutions in the country and also high performance national computing facility. Thus, this unique network has showed that India can work in network consortium mode.
1) Bioinformatics facility (BIF) for Biology Teaching through Bio Informatics (BTBI):
Innovation is required not only in research but also in teaching activities of Biology and allied areas. Towards this, the department has evolved a new program, namely biology teaching though bioinformatics (BTBI) by establishing bioinformatics facilities at teaching institutions. The scheme was widely advertised in newspapers, journals, websites, E-mail list servers etc. A total of 165 applications were received out of which 52 institutions were selected and extended grants-in-aid for setting up of bioinformatics facilities. The facility will be a centralized resource of an individual institution to support bioinformatics tools and resources for the enhancement of learning capabilities. A list of these 52 BIF facilities is given at Annexure-I, Appendix D.
2)Establishment of New Sub-DICs:
During this year, two new centres at the level of Sub-DICs have been established under the BTISnet. These centres have been established at 1) NCPGR, New Delhi and 2) IIAR, Gandhi Nagar, Gujarat.
R & D Programs in Bioinformatics:
The department has started receiving good quality projects proposals in the area of bioinformatics. During this year 10 R&D projects have been supported, with specific applications towards medical biotechnology like design of inhibitors for cholera toxin and proteomics with special reference to hepatitis, plant sciences, algorithm design for sequence classification and e-learning in bioiformatics. The department is now focusing on multi-institutional consortium projects to address specific problems through bioinformatics approach. Bioinformatics and experimental biology collaborative projects are being considered so as to improve the contribution of bioinformatics in wet lab biotechnology research. Demand analysis of particular information resources will be the important criteria for supporting database and software development projects.
Human Resource Development
Bioinformatics is an emerging interdisciplinary area of science and technology encompassing systematic development and application of IT solutions to handle biological research problems. The area requires highly trained human resource to understand molecular biology issues vis-a-vis application of computer and software tools. The present crisis is non availability of sufficient manpower for teaching as well as for perusing R&D activities in bioinformatics in combination with Experimental Biology. The department had realized this problem and therefore introduced several long-term and short term educational activities to address this gap. The details are as follows.
1) Up gradation of Bioinformatics courses:
Five Universities namely 1) JNU, 2) Pune University, 3) Calcutta University, 4) Pondicherry University, and 5) MKU are running an one year advanced post graduate diploma course in Bioinformatics. A total of 100 candidates are being produced per annum through these courses. The first two universities mentioned above namely JNU and University of Pune have upgraded their diploma courses as Post graduate courses namely M.Tech. in computational and systematic biology and M.Sc. in Bioinformatics respectively. The candidates for these courses are being selected through entrance examination carried out by the respective universities. The MKU and Ponidicharry University along with Anna University are also planning to start M.Sc in Bioinformatics through consortium basis so as to share the faculty and resources through video Conferencing and virtual class room approaches.
2)Ph.D. Programs in Bioinformatics
The COEs of BTISnet including the super computing facilities are running Ph.D. programs in Bioinformatics since the demand for skilled human resource is very high. The first batch of Ph.D. students of JNU and Pune University shall be coming out this year.
3)Short Term Training Programs:
It is important for the researchers, faculty and students to have an exposure about Bioinformatics tools and resources so that they can be better equipped for their professional activities. The DBT organized 85 short-term training programs at various institutions of BTISnet and over 2000 personal have been trained during this year.
4)Bioinformatics National Certification (BINC) Examination:
The department of biotechnology has conducted a national level Bioinformatics Certification Examination through University of Pune, Pune. The purpose of this examination is to ensure high standard in Bioinformatics. Besides this would also help in identifying outstanding Bioinformatics professionals in the country. This type of examination was first time conducted in India and has been well received across the country and outside the country as well. Several ASEAN countries have requested India to offer this model for their use. Without diluting the standard the examination, it is now being conducted for the year 2007 by the Pune University in association with JNU, West Bengal University, Anna University, IBAB etc. For further details please visit http:/bioinfo.ernet.in./BINC/.
Independent Review of BITSnet:
An independent review committee constituted by DBT has reviewed the BITSnet activities of 10th plan period. The committee comprises of members from academia, industry and NGOs. It has reviewed various activities undertaken during the 10th plan period and appreciated DBT’s effort in executing various important activities such as bioinformatics capacity building, human resource development, R&D activities, networking of various institutions and bringing the remote institutions in the main stream of activities etc. Review committee also recommended benchmarking of various databases and software packages developed through this program. The Sub-DICs of BITSnet requires close review to improve some of the center’s activities.
Overall Impact of the 10th plan
Bioinformatics applications in various areas of biotechnology is growing constantly. 1000 publications have been published in various peer reviewed journals by the BTIS centers during the last 4 years. Besides this 3000 research publications were published through the support of the BTISnet resources. 200 databases have been developed and over 100 software programs have been developed by the centers. More than 10, 000 personal have been trained in Bioinformatics and 30, 000 users are interacting with the BTISnet centres for information resources and are getting other bioinformatics support. The Bioinformatics resources both hardware & software products are helping drivingj the biotech research bioinformatics industry and developmental activities very effectively. The quality of research papers published from India is growing as the software packages are helping to analyze the data effectively. The small institutes have greatly benefited due to establishment of bioinformatics centres. The Bioinformatics Centres in the bigger institutions have carried out R&D and human resources development besides providing Bioinformatics support to the host institution and the other networking institutions.
Training Calendar for the year 2006-2007 was published during this year, which has been circulated to various institutions. A total of 85 training programs were included in this publication in 6 different areas of bioinformatics. These include bioinformatics analysis in biotechnology, bioinformatics in animal and agriculture biotechnology, bioinformatics and biodiversity/environment, bioinformatics in genomics, proteomics & in-silico drug design, computational systems biology and general topics and International conferences on Bioinformatics. The training calendar is also made available thorough bioinformatics website of DBT (www.btisnet.gov.in).
BIOBYTES Open Access News Letter:
An open access newsletter BIOBYTES of BITSnet has been published this year. This was released during the inauguration InCoB2006 on 18th December 2006. The newsletter has been compiled by COE/ MKU Madurai. BIOBYTES is meant to serve as a medium of continuous update of ideas and information. It will also provide news, views, and information regarding the current scenario in the areas related to bioinformatics and biotechnology both at the national and international level. The BIOBYTES is accessible through URL (http://biobytes.bicmku.in)
1)International Conference on Bioinformatics (InCoB 2006):
The department organized a 3 day International Conference on Bioinformatics through IIT, Delhi and JNU during 18th to 20th December 2006 at New Delhi. Over thousand participants from all over the world had participated in the Conference, which was conducted in three parallel sessions for three days with four sessions each day, besides there were also poster sessions. Several leading scientists in this area delivered keynote addresses and plenary talks. The InCoB 2006 was inaugurated by Hon’ble Minister for S&T and Earth Sciences on 18th December 2006.
2)ASEAN – INDIA 2nd Workshop on Bioinformatics:
ASEAN India Bioinformatics Workshop , jointly supported by DBT and MEA was organized through Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi, during December 14-16, 2006 at Hotel Samrat New Delhi. The workshop was inaugurated by Shri Anand Sharma, Hon. Minister of State, Ministry of External Affairs. The focus of the workshop was to impart an awareness of Bioinformatics among the 20 delegates from 10 ASEAN member countries namely Brunei, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and India by way of introducing the basics as well as current technologies in Bioinformatics. The goal of the workshop was to serve as a basis for developing a strong team of collaborating networks of Bioinformaticians in the ASEAN-India region. The workshop witnessed lectures by eminent scientists from all over India working in the area of Genomics, Proteomics and Drug Design. The workshop also had a special session on Bioinformatics Industrial presence from India showcasing the latest developments in technology. In addition, there were discussions on ASEAN-INDIA Bioinformatics Master plan where policy issues and collaborative framework pertaining to manpower training, educational curriculum reform, sharing of computational hardware and software resources, strategic research collaborations and scientific exchanges between ASEAN countries and India were taken up.
Websites of DBT:i. DBT website:
The DBT website is now receiving in an average of 60,000 hits in a month. The site has been reengineered by using the latest web tools, which provide much more clarity for access to information easily from the site. The URL of the site is http://www. dbtindia.gov.inii. Bioinformatics website:
The bioinformatics website is also reengineered with library and publication web portal of the BTISnet. The site is updated regularly with latest information about the BTISnet. The soft copy of the BTISnet coordinators meet proceedings is also published on the website.