One and a half million: The estimated number of deaths caused by mosquito-borne diseases every year across the world. Prevention is fundamental to curbing these diseases, and doctors recommend the use of nets and vaccines, as well as repellants, which deter mosquitoes by interfering with their sense of smell. Scientists at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) have now discovered 110 new proteins in three mosquito species - proteins belonging to a group critical to mosquito olfaction. Repellants targetting this larger group of proteins may function better than existing ones, decreasing instances of dreaded diseases such as dengue and malaria.
A Bachelors degree in Botany and then a Masters in Wildlife Sciences: not many botanists are wildlife biologists. What drew you to wildlife biology?
I always liked plants, although wildlife sciences was definitely my first love. Professor Madhav Pendse, then the head of the Botany Department at Sir Parashurambhau College, was always supportive and encouraging of all my work on wildlife. I would say I finished my Bachelors degree and have come to appreciate plants much more than before, thanks to him. And the second person who influenced me is Milind Watve, currently professor at IISER Pune: because of him, I would say I finished my education and am into research. Looking back, I think the degree in Botany was one of the best things that happened to me in college. I started pursuing work on butterflies much more seriously during that time, though I did not dream that I would study butterflies for a living. Because I had a background in botany, learning about butterflies, their host plants and the forests where they fly became much easier. I put this knowledge to use in my butterfly studies now.
The international Human Science Frontier Program awarded a Young Investigator research grant to NCBS principal investigator Madhusudhan Venkadesan and his collaborators, Mahesh Bandi (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, Japan) and Shreyas Mandre (School of Engineering, Brown University, USA) last month. They received the three-year grant (of $350,000 per year), for a project titled "Foot in Motion: Materials, Mechanics and Control" which proposes to study how the human foot helps in stable, energy efficient locomotion.
In solidarity with biologist Sydney Brenner, a 2002 Nobel prize awardee in Physiology or Medicine, who believes that the experimental animal of the 21st century is man, researchers the world over, have been developing initiatives to bring the concept of translational medicine - 'from bench to bedside' - closer to reality.
Along these lines, the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (InStem), the National Center for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and the University of Edinburgh have recently set up a collaborative Center for Brain Development and Repair, to foster clinical research on brain disorders. The center will be based at inStem and directed by Sumantra Chattarji, with Siddharthan Chandran and Peter Kind from the University of Edinburgh as its Associate Directors. With an initial thrust on Autism Spectrum Disorders/Intellectual Disabilities (ASD/ID), the center will later expand its focus to develop novel therapeutic interventions for other degenerative brain disorders, such as dementia.
Sir John Savill, Vice-principal and Head of the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and Chief Executive of the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) was recently at NCBS, in connection with the collaboration and also to deliver a talk titled '100 years of the MRC'.
Aristotle's maxim holds especially true when it comes to scientific research - where the diversity of disciplines adds so much more to forge the gigantic whole. And collaborations are key to the multi-disciplinary approaches that have fostered many contemporary science successes today. Now, after nearly ten years of ongoing collaborations between NCBS and the RIKEN Kobe Institute in Japan, the Bangalore Bio-Cluster comprising NCBS, inStem and C-CAMP has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with RIKEN Japan. The MoU will strengthen ongoing collaborations, now extending to all RIKEN institutes across Japan, promote graduate and post-doctoral exchange programs between the organizations involved and potentially also set up a new research center in the premises of the Bangalore Bio-Cluster.
On Sunday, Jan 20 I joined a couple of friends from inStem and NCBS to play as Team NCBS in the football tournament of the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce at the SPT sports academy. Mr. Loeffler from the German Consulate had told me about the tournament. NCBS supplied the vehicle to get there.
The picturesque pond at NCBS was originally a low lying area close to the students' hostel Parijatha. It formed the south western part of the space allotted to NCBS by GKVK. NCBS moved to its present campus from the premises of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in 1998-99. By then, the Academic Research building (now named the Eastern Laboratories), the Housing and Hostel buildings, the Sub-Station and Chiller plant as well as the Stores building (which was the first building to be constructed at NCBS and used as its site office) were constructed. Subsequently, the stores moved to its present location in the year 2002-03, making way for housing the computational services.
The phrase "intellectual property" is often used in the Indian media as synonymous with "patents". In fact, patents are only one form of intellectual property. Other forms of intellectual property include trademarks, copyright, design rights, plant variety protection, etc. Of these, trademarks are used in business for the purpose of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others.