Updated: August 13, 2021 9:03:27 pm
The head of the department of Microbial Biotechnology, Panjab University, and BioNEST-PU have recently been granted patents for two innovations made by his team in two consecutive days. The first patent, titled, “Nitrile hydrolyzing microbes for industrial use”, was granted on August 10, while the second patent for novel anti-carcinogenic extracts was granted the following day.
Dr Rohit Sharma, the head of Microbial Biotechnology and BioBEST-PU, said that with the changes in conventional academic culture, researchers and innovators are now inclined towards protecting and commercialising their intellectual property.
“My team and I are well-versed with extremophilic enzymes ie., the enzymes from microbial sources which are capable of functioning in extreme environmental conditions and thus have a wide range of industrial and biotechnological applications. One such enzyme is the nitrile-hydrolizing enzyme which is of use for major application in biodegradation of toxic and recalcitrant industrial wastes,” said Sharma.
The team includes two students of PU, who are now placed in MNCs and are living overseas, along with a startup company which collaborated with them to further this technology into the market.
While further explaining his project to The Indian Express, Sharma said that the patent has been awarded to them for a “method developed to process industrial waste and related toxic materials so they can be transformed into non-toxic by products and high value commercials. Against the currently existing processes of breakdown of toxic materials, the new method does not release any harmful chemicals in the environment.”
The process is undertaken by the use of bio-catalyzing micro-organisms, which too have been patented.
The second patent was awarded to the second team comprising three faculty members from Panjab University — Dr Rohit Sharma from the Department of Microbial Biotechnology, PU, and Professor Jasdeep Kaur and Dr Monika Sharma from the Department of Biotechnology, PU — who had been working on the anti-cancer properties of plant extracts, mainly from a wild plant commonly known as ‘Jangli jalebi’ (Pithecellobium dulce).
The team had successfully prepared plant extracts with anti-carcinogenic properties back in 2011 and a patent was thus filed for protection of the IP. Summarizing the importance of such extracts, Sharma further explained how bio-active compounds from various natural sources, mainly plants, are being researched upon. He emphasised that the medical world today is looking for alternative cancer treatments and the need to replace or at least reduce the use of chemical compounds is the need of the hour. The targeted cancer for this technology has been breast cancer, of which more than 1 million cases are reported every year in India alone.
Sharma, along with Dr Monika, had also received the Pfizer- IIT Delhi Innovation and IP Program (PIIP) for the patent of these anti-carcinogenic extracts in 2020. Additionally Sharma stated that such awards and recognition not only bring credit for the research and innovation, but also help the university go up a few miles on annual rankings’ charts.
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