Combining biotechnology with traditional forms of healing perfected over centuries in Kerala can lead to a better understanding of diseases and pave way for breakthrough in the course of treatments, observed UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, after laying the foundation stone for a Bio-Innovation Centre (BIC) being set up by the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) at its Akkulam campus here on Monday.
“IT and Biotechnology are the two engines of future growth in Kerala which lacks land and resources needed for massive industrial units,’’ she noted and said, ‘’but there is an abundance of highly educated and skilled people who can power a knowledge economy.’’
Sonia also said that the dreams of the late Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi decades ago was adapted in Kerala in the areas of technology and IT sectors and the Technopark established here was the first one in the country.
Union Minister for Science & Technology S Jaipal Reddy lauded RGCB’s multi-faceted approach and said that the Central Government was committed to provide all support for its future activities. ‘’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. The BIC has been envisaged after the State Government announced a pioneering new digital project in partnership with the RCGB to document diseases, predict outbreaks and monitor healthcare delivery.
The BIC is being set up with a Rs 100-crore grant from the Prime Minister’s Office. Chief Minister 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 crore, free of cost, the Chief Minister said. ‘’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,’’ he said. Chandy also requested the Centre to provide RGCB the status of a ‘degree-granting institution’ for multi-disciplinary science degrees.
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.
A 1,50,000-sq ft building proposed in BIC phase I is expected to be commissioned by 2016. Once operational, it will house research laboratories, state-of-the-art instrumentation facilities and animal testing labs. 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.