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GUIDANCE PLUS

Opening new vistas of research in biology

B.S. WARRIER

The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, is a major research institute that focuses on frontier and multi-disciplinary areas of modern biology.

— File Photo

Research institute: Students at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad, a full-fledged national laboratory.

Some of the most fascinating areas of scientific research are in the emerging fields of biology and its offshoots. There is much more than what is traditionally done in botany or zoology. Genomics and proteomics are in the frontier areas of biology. We study not only the origins and characteristics of living organisms, but scale great heights through the captivating branches of biology and find new techniques of medical diagnosis, prevention of diseases, therapy, cloning, agriculture, and animal husbandry.

The new fields of genomics and proteomics have ushered in a paradigm shift towards a massively parallel approach to research in biology and medicine. New technologies enable the simultaneous monitoring of thousands of genes or proteins, their interactions, and their assembly into complex functional networks.

In-depth knowledge of the molecular nature of biological system leads to possibilities of system-level understanding. One of the important centres of study and research in the expanding fields of biology is the CCMB at Hyderabad.

Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Habsiguda, Uppal Road, Hyderabad

CCMB is a premier organisation in research focusing on frontier and multi-disciplinary areas of modern biology. It maintains a healthy philosophy of tuning itself to societal needs. During its formation in 1977 the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (the then Regional Research Laboratory) was the nucleus. In 1981-82, the CCMB was accorded the status of a full-fledged national laboratory. It has developed as one of the best centres in the country for research in its areas of specialisation. Web site: www.ccmb.res.in.

Apart from its main campus, it has two units:

Annexe one: LaCONES (Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species), 30 km away. It carries out research on endangered animal species. Also, it has R&D activities that focus on producing specific animals with the help of sperm, egg, cell, and tissue banks.

Annexe two: Clinical Research Laboratory, two km away. It carries out basic research on cell-based therapies and tissue engineering with specific applications for human diseases.

The areas of research stand classified into three segments:

Basic research

Application oriented research

Technology development

Let us look into the elements under each of these three segments.

Basic research

Biomedicine and biotechnology: tumour biology, cataract and other eye diseases,

applications of DNA fingerprinting, conservation of endangered species, molecular approaches in animal breeding, aquaculture, infectious diseases, and applied processes and products.

Genetics and evolution: molecular basis of sex determination, evolution of sex chromosomes, human genome diversity, microbial/fungal genetics, extremophiles. 

Genomic and proteomics: Molecular analysis of human genetic disorders, repromics and chromosome biology, genome analysis, functional genomic using transgenic mice, and cancer proteomics. 

Cell biology and development: Molecular basis of capacitation of spermatozoa, membrane receptor biology, molecular basis of development, hormone regulation, and

chromatin structure and function. 

Molecular biology: Signal transduction, Eukaryotic transcription mechanisms, nuclear organisation, host-guest interactions in plants, enzyme structure, function and regulation, RNA interference and gene silencing. 

Biochemistry and biophysics: Intracellular transport of proteins, membrane-active molecules and membrane organisation, protein structure and conformation, mathematical modelling of biological processes, and structural biology. 

Bioinformatics: protein secondary structure prediction, informatics of biological sequences.

Application oriented research

Wildlife management: Based on the DNA and reproductive biology studies, the Centre is setting up a satellite facility for the conservation of endangered species with a view to creating germplasm (sperm and egg) and tissue banks, and carry out research in the areas of in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, cloning and molecular breeding of endangered species, such as tigers, lions and leopards. There is collaboration with the Chief Conservator of Forests, Andhra Pradesh and the Nehru Zoological Park, Hyderabad.

Molecular characterisation of scented rice germplasm of India: Studies on different varieties of aromatic fine quality rice (Basmati). The bulk of Basmati produced in our country is exported earning about Rs.15 billion annually. This shows the relevance of this research.

Tumour biology

Cataract

Technology development

DNA fingerprinting of coffee germplasm for conservation, management and development of molecular map: CCMB, in collaboration with the Central Coffee Research Institute, conducts studies for the molecular characterisation of the coffee germplasm for developing molecular (DNA) markers based coffee breeding programme.

Gene delivery and drug delivery systems: CCMB has developed several cationic lipid formulations for efficient gene delivery. Also, new lipids with several hydroxyl moieties in the head group were synthesised.

Mutagenesis mechanisms in bacteria

International collaboration

The Centre collaborates with international agencies such as the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (U.K.), the Volkswagen Foundation (Germany), The India Japan Science Council and the University of Ryukyus, Okinawa (Japan), The National Institutes of Health (USA) and the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the Pasteur Institute (France), Cambridge University (UK), and Harvard Medical School (USA). CCNB has collaboration with several Indian industries engaged in the areas related to the research work in its units.

Services

The Centre offers services in molecular / chromosomal diagnosis, genetic counselling, and DNA fingerprinting.

Ph.D. programmes

CNB imparts training to doctoral students in an academic program linked to the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. The projects offered for Ph.D. cover specialised areas of biotechnology and biomedicine, genetics and evolution, cell biology and development, molecular biology, biochemistry and biophysics, infectious diseases, bioinformatics, and theoretical biology. 

Apart from this, the centre also trains post-doctoral fellows though training programmes sponsored by CSIR, Department of Biotechnology (DBT), and the Department of Science and Technology (DST). On an average at any given point of time there are over 100 such researchers at the centre. Further, CCMB also conducts regular workshops, and several technology awareness programmes, every year. The centre also offers project training for final year M.Sc./ M.Tech./ M.Pharm. / BE (biotechnology)/ B.Tech. (biotechnology) students.

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