IN its silver jubilee year,the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) has intensified its focus on cancer and infectious diseases. From identifying small compounds in vegetables that can control cancer to understanding how HIV virus hides in the body,NCCS scientists are also actively engaged in talks with hospitals and industry to translate research from bench to bedside.
NCCS director Dr Shekhar Mande said plans are also afoot to develop centres of excellence in the institute that will be hubs of cancer research. The department of biotechnology (DBT) had initiated a programme to augment and strengthen institutional research capacity in areas of biotechnology through support for establishment of centres of excellence. The DBT has set up task forces and expert committees with the involvement of eminent scientists from across the country to identify thrust areas in biotechnology for financial support.
Dr Samit Chattopadhyay a member of the DBT task force on cancer research and a recipient of the J C Bose national fellowship for his work on gene regulation said six to seven scientists at NCCS are in the process of submitting their proposal to develop a centre of excellence. In the course of Chattopadhyays research,his team is actively identifying small compounds from vegetables that can control cancer. Another key area of research is identifying new anti -HIV strategies. We are trying to identify anti-HIV activity in plant and marine bivalve extracts, said Dr Debashis Mitra,scientist and Tata Innovation fellowship recipient.
Apart from its role as a national cell repository and provider of cell lines to researchers across the country,NCCS is also engaged in talks with hospitals,industry and Armed Forces Medical College to take forward research projects for societal cause.
Stem cell research is a promising frontier in biomedical research and therapeutics,which will permanently transform the way medicine is being practised. In fact,in NCCS alone,a number of groups are pursuing investigations on stem cells from hematopoietic,neural,cardiovascular and pancreatic origin with active collaboration with clinicians.
We still have a long way to go,but scientists are exploring techniques like culturing stem cell for therapeutic use among patients, Mande said. A memorandum of understanding has been signed with a few industrial set-ups,he said.
NCCS is also exploring a range of new technologies,including that of proteomic ones that play an important role in drug discovery,diagnostics and molecular medicine as the link between genes,proteins and disease. As researchers study defective proteins that cause particular diseases,their findings will help develop new drugs that either alter the shape of a defective protein or mimic a missing one.
The silver jubilee year celebrations saw several high-profile visitors including Nobel Laureate Prof Jules Hoffman,while several scientists including Dr Sharmila Bapat,Dr Debashis Mitra and Dr Mohan Wani received various awards.