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`More bioseparation training centres will benefit industry'

By P.V.V. Murthi



M.A. Vijayalakshmi

VELLORE, MARCH 14 . Bio-separation technology is the "cutting edge and limiting factor" in biotechnology, particularly when it comes to exploiting biotechnology for producing value-added products, says M.A. Vijayalakshmi, Director, Vellore Institute of Technology-Centre for Bioseparation Technology (VIT-CBST).

If one does want not to just remain happy with basic research, but exploit biotechnology for public benefit, making useful products in pharmacy and cosmetology, he needs bioseparation technology.

But that is becoming a limiting factor making it expensive, as 80 per cent of the product cost goes into the application of this technology, says Prof. Vijayalakshmi.

There is no public sector institution or research centre dedicated to the field. The non-existence of this facility in the government is even more critical in the Indian situation.

Bioseparation technology got a boost with the establishment of the Vellore Institute of Technology-Centre for Bio-Separation Technology (VIT-CBST) — the first of its kind in India — with Rs. 3 crores granted from the Department of Science and Technology. Kapil Sibal, Union Minister of State for Science and Technology and Ocean Development, inaugurated it recently.

"If India could set up more centres to train young scientists with hands-on experience, probably our industries will benefit and India could become globally competitive," she says.

Prof. Vijayalakshmi does not envisage a boom in biotechnology as in information technology. The development is going to be slow, steady and stable. India could reduce the cost of pharmaceutical products, developing shorter and quicker methods of bioseparation — a process for recovery of high value-added molecules, particularly therapeutic molecules such as proteins and DNA. This technology will help to develop therapeutic antibodies that could cure virtually all diseases, especially arthritis, hepatitis and diabetes.

"If we develop the field, India is going to be the number 1 biotechnology outsourcing destination for industrialised and developed countries because of its skilled labour force and tremendous human resource potential."

The VIT-CBST will establish a network with other institutions such as the Mumbai University Institute of Chemical Technology and the Institute of Genomics and Integrated Biology, New Delhi, pharmaceutical centres and industries.

Born at Batlagundu in Madurai district, Ms. Vijayalakshmi had her schooling and college education in Chennai.

During her stint in the King Institute, Guindy, she obtained her M.Sc. from the All-India Institute of Chemists, Kolkata. She obtained her Ph.D. in Pectine Chemistry in Dijon University, Burgundy, France, in 1971, and D.Sc. in Biochemistry from Universite de Technologie (Technological University), Compiegne, where in 1980, she established the first laboratory dedicated to bio-separation.

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