PIB Year End Review 2020: Department of Biotechnology (DBT)

The Department of Biotechnology has made tremendous efforts in promoting Bioscience research, translational education and entrepreneurship.

The Department has contributed through its various programmes to the National Missions launched by the Prime Minister- Swasth Bharat, Swatch Bharat, Start-up India, Make in India and Digital India.

The Department has also risen to the challenge for mitigation of COVID Pandemic by supporting vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, genomics, bioreporsitories and a National Platform (NBRIC) for achievement of Atmanirbharta.

UNATI Atal Jai Anusandhan Mission Programmes

UNATI Atal Jai Anusandhan Mission has been implemented by DBT with a major focus on improved agriculture, affordable healthcare, clean energy and cutting-edge frontier science.

GARBH-ini (interdisciplinary Group for Advanced Research in BirtH outcomes- DBT India Initiative) study aim to discover molecular risk-markers and generate a risk-prediction algorithm for preterm birth which will facilitate timely referral and care for at-risk mothers, thus saving children’s lives and reducing morbidity.

This programme has established a unique pregnancy cohort comprising of more than 8000 women to study Pre Term Birth (PTB).

The GARBH-ini platform comprises of a bio-repository (Rakshita) of well characterized clinical phenotypes which has now expanded to include 750,000 bio-specimens and 450,000 ultrasound images.

The frequency of preterm birth has been found to be around 13%, which is higher than those reported from economically developed (8.6%) or the low-income countries in Northern (7.3%) or Sub-Saharan Africa (12.3%).

In addition to the well-known risk factors such as history of preterm birth, short Inter-pregnancy interval and short cervix at 3rd trimester, some less reported factors such as biomass fuel use and exposure to passive smoking as risk factors of PTB have been identified.

With respect to BMI at enrolment, both underweight and overweight/obese women were found to have a higher risk of PTB. A first trimester dating formula (called Garbhini-1) has been developed from the biometry of the foetus from mothers enrolled in the cohort which is more sensitive & accurate than global formulae.

AMR Mission 

AMR Mission will focus on development of new antibiotics, alternatives to antibiotics and diagnostics. Some of the achievements include:

  • National Centre for Microbial Resource (NCMR), National Centre of Cell Sciences, Pune (an Autonomous Institute of DBT), a National Facility to function as a Bio-repository for resistant microbes/infective agents (Bacteria and Fungi)” and to carry out collection, storage, maintenance, preservation and characterization of these microbes across the country.A National AMR-specific Pathogen priority list for India to prioritize R&D work in AMR was developed in collaboration with WHO, Country Office, New Delhi.
  • To address the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) with a holistic and multi-sectoral (One Health) approach, “India’s One Health Initiative” to combat problems associated with AMR was launched.
  • India has partnered with Global AMR R&D Hub as a member of Board of Members. By partnering, with the Global AMR R&D Hub, the Department will work with all partners to leverage their existing capabilities, resources and collectively focus on new R&D intervention to address drug resistant infections.

Ind-CEPI MISSION

  • Ind-CEPI MISSION is an India centric collaborative mission of DBT aligned to the global initiatives of CEPI (Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations).
  • DBT is supporting the implementation of the Ind-CEPIs mission “Epidemic preparedness through rapid vaccine development: Support of Indian vaccine development is aligned with the global initiative of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)”, at BIRAC, PSU of DBT.
  • Ind-CEPI Mission initiated the eCourse Series entitled “Strengthening Clinical Trial Research Capacity in Neighbouring Countries” primarily aimed towards skill development, capacity building and regional networking and coordination.
  • A total of 4-Program 10 sessions series were conducted via online platform with total engagement of more than 750 participants from neighbouring countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal and Srilanka.

UNATI Mission Clean Technologies for Swachh Bharat: 

  • DBT has developed various technology platforms designed to convert different solid, liquid and gaseous wastes into renewable fuels, energy and useful products such as food, feed, polymers and chemicals.
  • Under the UNATI Mission, 10 promising clean technologies have been identified for demonstration with DBT support at different sites across India, in collaboration with local stakeholders such as municipalities and other urban local bodies.
  • The identified technologies include bio-methanation, constructed wetland, bio-toilets, chemical & membrane free water purification etc.
  • The first five projects under this initiative were formally launched on 01st Oct 2020, on the eve of Gandhi Jayanti, with an aim to achieve “Swachh Bharat”.

Fortified Wheat Nutritional Improvement

  • Anthocyanin rich biofortified coloured wheat lines have been developed by National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI), Mohali.
  • NABI has signed 18 MoUs with companies from 9 states and Non-Disclosure agreement with 9 companies from 4 States involved in contract farming and making food products. 
  • The program will be addressing micronutrient malnutrition problem and also help the progressive farmers to grow improved wheat lines and encourage entrepreneurship and start-ups. 

Unique Methods of Management of Inherited Disorders (UMMID) Initiative

The Department launched ‘UMMID’ initiative to tackle inherited genetic diseases in newborns.

Under the pilot phase of the UMMID initiative, the Department has supported the establishment of 5 genetic laboratories, 7 training centres for training clinicians in diagnosis and management of genetic diseases and screening of pregnant women and neonates in seven aspirational districts.

Seven Aspirational Districts namely Mewat, Haryana; Yadgir, Karnataka; Haridwar, Uttarakhand; Washim & Nandurbar, Maharashtra; Ranchi, Jharkhand; Shrawasti, Uttar Pradesh have been identified for screening of pregnant women and newborn babies for diagnostics of inherited genetic diseases to provide comprehensive clinical care.

Pan India Genome India

Pan India Genome India was initiated a pan India 20 institutions consortium for cataloguing the genetic variation in Indian population with a goal for whole genome sequencing and subsequent data analysis of 10,000 individuals representing the country’s diverse population to help build an exhaustive catalogue of genetic variations in Indian population, and to aid in the design of a genome wide association chip for Indian population. 

As on 8th Jan 2021, 6165 individuals were contacted for probable recruitment in study, 2720 individuals have been enrolled for recruitment as study participants into the project. 549 samples have undergone WGS and genome wide high-throughput genotyping. Analysis of genetic variants calling in these genomes is in progress.

Agriculture Biotechnology

  • Mission mode programme on “Minor Oilseeds of India Origin” in various crops was launched which is aimed at sequencing/re-sequencing and phenotypic characterization of available germplasm resources of Minor Oilseeds (Sesame, Linseed, Safflower and Niger) in the country along with exotic lines from diverse agro climatic regions & elite lines of International Institutes.
  • Mission mode programme on “Characterization of Genetic Resources” in various crops was initiated for sequencing/re-sequencing and phenotypic characterization of available germplasm resources of Chickpea in country along with exotic lines from diverse agro climatic regions & elite lines of International Institutes has been supported.
  • “India-UK crop science fellowship (INcrops)” was launched to create a skill set of trained manpower in cutting edge technologies in crop sciences. It is aimed to send ten (10) post-doctoral fellows per year to the UK institutions.
  • DBT-NGGF “National Genotyping and Genomics Facility” (NGGF) a “single-window service system” for advanced genomics technology services was established to offer affordable and competitive genotyping and genomics services to Public and Private Institutions. Crop breeding companies and seed companies (205) involved in regular breeding process and activities will be a source of revenue for this facility.
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