Harold Varmus, Nobel Laureate and Director of the US National Cancer Institute (NCI), visited the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) on 21st January 2014. Varmus interacted with scientists working at NCBS and other Indian institutes to assess the status of cancer research in the country and draw out priorities in research. Based on these interactions, Varmus hopes to determine ways in which India and the United States can work towards boosting cancer research.
"The meeting with Varmus was to mainly give him a perspective of what is going on: in cancer research as well as others that can connect to cancer research in some way," says Satyajit Mayor, Director of NCBS and InStem. "Varmus was chiefly interested in exploring how to link up cancer research in India with research going on outside the country."
Three Grade 12 students from the Central School for Tibetans at Mundgod in Karnataka are currently interning at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS). Following an agreement with their school and the NCBS, Tenzin Tsetan, Tenzin Phentok and Tenzin Zomkey began their internship on 6th May with Professors Uma Ramakrishnan, Vatsala Thirumalai and Axel Brockmann.
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.
Music is a curious thing. At face value, it seems to be an abstract concept, one that does not seem to be essential to human survival. Yet music is arguably as old or older than language itself, and ubiquitous in human culture. Indeed, it is an aspect of culture that seems to be ingrained in our species. Music has a profound effect on the human mind and emotion. However, for something that has such a powerful effect on us, we understand so little about it.
Alternative healing systems have always been part of Indian tradition: from local medicine men to the vaidyas or physicians of the more classical unani and ayurveda. The popularity of these remedies took a beating with the advent of allopathic medicine. But traditional medical systems are coming to the fore once again and enjoying renewed interest.
With the Annual Talks finishing two days back, I sent out an email to our student, junior research felllow and postdoc mailing lists asking for comments. I have compiled the responses to date, while things are still fresh in our memory. One question focused on the new conference-style format: instead of every PI giving a talk, about half the faculty did, and there were also outside speakers. Please use the comment section below this article to add any further thoughts! All photos are by me, and are from the final day's poster session.
What were you favourite talks?
* I found Benny Shilo's talk good mainly because I could relate it to my research work. I also found Nicolas' talk and work very interesting though I don't do anything related.
* Favourite talks: Nicolas Gompel (really interesting work), Jayant (introduced comments which made his talk lively), Krushnamegh (hearing him for the first time) and Pedro (very different work and model system, also highly organized presentation) in that order.
One of the most important events on NCBS's calendar, this year's Annual Meeting will be held from the 3rd to 5th January 2013. Over the three days, fourteen of NCBS's principal investigators will speak about their recent work, focusing on different aspects of "Control in Biological Systems" - the theme for this year's talks. All seminars will be held at Dasheri (the NCBS Auditorium) in the new Southern Laboratories complex within the NCBS campus. The event also involves afternoon poster sessions where NCBS's research scholars will throw light upon their recent projects at the institute. The poster sessions will be dispersed between talks on all days.
One of the most prestigious awards in science, the 2012 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, was announced yesterday, and all three recipients - Jim Spudich, Ron Vale and Michael Sheetz - have strong links to NCBS, and India generally.
Jim Spudich, from Stanford, has had a long association with NCBS and is currently adjunct faculty here. Like Vale and Sheetz, Spudich's work has focused on 'molecular motors' - intracellular molecules that can harvest chemical energy to generate force. Spudich's group has been at the forefront of discovering how the motors that power muscle and other intracellular movements -myosins- do their jobs. In particular, his laboratory has developed in vitro assays that measure the speed and force produced by myosins -and are exemplars of experimental elegance. The assays allow researchers to determine the movements and forces produced by single myosin molecules. At inStem, Spudich is now leading a team investigating the role of myosin and other proteins in inherited cardiomyopathies, visiting inStem/NCBS three to four times per year.
Daniel Louvard, Director of the Curie Institute in Paris, visited NCBS last month to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Curie and NCBS. We managed to 'steal' him away from the commotion and badgered him with questions about the MoU, the new opportunities it might give to the students of NCBS and his views on current cancer research.
Supriya: How did this collaboration come about?
Daniel: Ludger Johannes had a number of interactions with several groups here, from your institute, NCBS, and they came to the idea we should formalize our interaction. So, a year ago, a year and half ago, Ludger came to my office and said it would be good if we can formalize that by a document that really reinforces our interaction, and I say, that's a good idea. So this is how the collaboration came about. This is a document that really confirms formally an existing collaboration between groups and so there's a clear understanding of what we are doing together.
NCBS microscopists are invited to submit several of your images and/or digital video clips to the 2012 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition. As indicated by its title, the compettion will honour extraordinary microscope images of life science subjects. Up to five images, videos or image sequences can be entered per person, and you do not have to be a user of Olympus equipment to join in the fun. Entries for the contest can be uploaded through a web browser directly to the Olympus servers at the following URL:
You have exactly one month to hunt through your archives, or capture some dazzling new images. The deadline for new entries is Tuesday, October 2, 2012.
The winning photos of the competition are tentatively scheduled to be published in Scientific American and the photographers will receive substantial material rewards. First prize will be Olympus microscope or camera equipment valued at $5,000. Nine additional winners will also receive valuable prizes from Olympus. Winners will be notified in late October, and publicly announced in December, 2012.
The Master's course in Wildlife Biology and Conservation is an unusual place. In a literal squeeze of blood, sweat, and tears, students undertake a large part of their learning while scrambling over hill tops, slashing through scrub forests, wading through streams, and walking many sweaty miles looking for animals and plants. Leading from the front, or sometimes whipping tired rears into action, is Ajith Kumar, the director of this wildlife course offered by National Centre for Biological Sciences and Wildlife Conservation Society-India Programme. For over 25 years, Ajith has been mentoring students in the field of wildlife biology and conservation.
The Science Journalism Course is back at NCBS, now accepting applications for its 2012 batch. But what was it like to be part of the first course held in 2011? What are its alumni doing now? That's something this year's prospective participants will be curious to know.
Anup B. Prakash has been awarded this year's K. Ullas Karanth - J. Paul Getty fellowship. George Schaller, one of the world's preeminent field biologists and Vice President of Panthera (http://www.panthera.org/?splash=off ), presented the trophy and certificate to him on 22nd November 2011. Schaller was at NCBS to give a talk about his five decades of work in ecology and conservation.
With basic scientific help from NCBS's Navneet Rai and Mukund Thattai, a team of students guided by Yashas Shetty from the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology at Bangalore have done it yet again: an award at the famed International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at Cambridge, Massachusetts in the United States of America.
Ashtavaidya Ayurveda is a unique medical tradition prevalent in Kerala. It is thought to be an amalgamation of text-based Ayurvedic practices and regional folk medical practices of the south Indian state. Scholars Annamma Spudich and Indudharan Menon had interviewed the last remaining practitioners of the tradition as part of the "Living History of Indian Scientific Traditions" archive initiated by NCBS.
Now, the Science and Society programme at NCBS presents "A Scientific Approach to Traditional Medicine" - a dramatic exploration of Ayurveda and Ashtavaidya medicine. The play will be presented by the students of NCBS and is directed by Jeff Teare, co-director, TheatreScience (UK).
"Just the workshop on Wikipedia editing," I told myself at the start of the conference. It would come in handy to start and edit NCBS wikipages, part of my work at the NCBS News team. "And maybe just the first plenary talk too". At the end of the three-day Student Conference on Conservation Science (SCCS), I realised I had attended almost every session: plenaries, student talks, workshops, poster rounds and discussions. What had made it so engaging?