KOLKATA: The National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG) in Kalyani, West Bengal, is a one-of-its-kind institute in India that offers students a lot of scope for cancer research. But that’s just one aspect of NIBMG. It was set up in 2009 by the union government to study genes and their functions and understand how they affect our health.
All for research
“We want to promote cutting-edge research in biomedical genomics for better understanding and to reduce the burden on public health care schemes in India,” says Partha P Majumder, the institute’s director. “There is no other institute in the country that is solely devoted to genetic medicine.”
Genomics deals with understanding the structure of the genome, including mapping of genes and DNA sequencing. It also examines the molecular mechanisms and the interplay of genetic and environmental factors in diseases.
The institute is currently functioning from a temporary place. The government has sanctioned Rs 210 crore to establish a campus. It will shift to a permanent place in two years. The 30-acre campus will have academic blocks, hostels, guest houses and a conference centre.
Though NIBMG does not offer any courses, it allows PhD students to do research at the institute. At present, 12 students are participating in various researches –– from biomedical genomics to population genomics. The students are paid a stipend by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Univeristy Grants Commission (UGC) and other government organisations. Ten faculty members are guiding these scholars. “This institute will be a landmark in the field of genetic epidemiological research in identifying the candidate loci for several important diseases,” says Debodipta Das, a research scholar. His batchmate, Nidhan Kumar Biswas, concurs and adds, “I got an opportunity to do cutting edge genomic research here.”
The institute plans to offer MSc courses on genetic epidemiology, human genetics and statistical genetics in the coming years. “One of the main objectives is to facilitate early participation in research among young graduates and translate their services for promotion of genetics-based health care,” says the director.
NIBMG has been selected by the Indian government for implementing a project of the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC)-India. The institute is working with Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC), Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai.
“This is one of the few prestigious projects we’re now executing. It is an achievement given the fact that we started functioning only a year ago,” says Dr Arindam Moitra, manager of the ICGC project.
Taking on cancer
ICGC, comprising about 20 countries, is engaged in generating comprehensive analysis of genomic changes to study important types of cancer found across the planet. India is a founder-member of the consortium and is carrying out research on oral cancer. The scholars have been conducting various researches to generate information on genomic abnormalities like somatic mutation, and epigenetic modifications and also tumours from 50 different cancer types.
“Here we conduct research on the blood and tumour samples sent by ACTREC, Mumbai,” says Moitra. “The research findings will help the scientific community to understand, treat and prevent different types of cancer.” The findings will be used for preparing a database to navigate on cancer and related issues.
Interested candidates must have a PG degree (first-class or equivalent) in a relevant discipline like biochemistry, biotechnology, molecular biology, genetics, microbiology, statistics and bioinformatics or professional degrees like MBBS/MTech/MPharm. Candidate should have written the National Eligibility Test conducted by UGC within the last year and should have been awarded a valid Junior Research Fellowship from CSIR, DST (INSPIRE), ICMR, DBT or equivalent. Admissions are held twice a year. For details, visit www.nibmg.ac.in.