Monday, November 30, 2015

From laboratories to common man: Journey of drug development

As basic scientists in disease biology, we always strive towards an invention or discovery that can make a positive change in existing clinical scenario. We aim to make the life of at least one patient better. From the molecules appearing before us as signals and bands in our basic science experiments to a practical application in clinics is an immensely long journey.

Drug trials are long tedious and meticulous procedures that ensure efficacy and efficiency of drug formulations before they reach market for public use. The odds of a molecule to reach market as a consumable pharmaceutical preparation are approximately calculated to be one in 5000. It takes an estimated average of twelve years for a molecule to travel the long distance between laboratories to market. Here’s a quick peek into the rigorous grilling a molecule undergoes before it “graduates” to be a marketable medication of clinical acceptance.

Preclinical Evaluation: Once a potential therapeutic molecule is identified by in vitro studies in laboratories, it has to undergo preclinical testing in animals to prove its efficacy as well as to document potential side effects. Such a molecule will be considered for further development only if benefits outweigh risks.
Once the preclinical studies are published in effect and not disproved by peers, the patent holders or their collaborating parties can file an Investigation New Drug Application (INDA) to Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Thirty days are given for FDA to consider the implications of developing the molecule concerned to consumable medication. If FDA does not disapprove or reject the application in thirty days, the applicants can proceed with clinical trials of the drug formulation. The application should specify exactly how the formulation will be prepared, number and inclusion/exclusion criteria of study subjects, expected therapeutic and adverse effects and details of the study design and execution.

Phase 0 Study: Before clinical trials begin, a Phase 0 study is carried out to study the pharmacological properties of drug formulation. 10-15 healthy volunteers are given subtherapeutic doses of the formulation to titrate optimum dosage depending on absorption, distribution, metabolism and clearance of the chemical in human body.

Phase I Trials: Once the IND is approved by FDA, applicant parties by themselves or in collaboration with pharmaceutical industry and clinicians can start using the drug formulation on less than eighty healthy volunteers to document in detail potential adverse effects. This is called the Phase I trial, when drug dosage, safe therapeutic window, effective route of administration etc are fine tuned. Moreover, this period is also utilized to study the pharmacokinetics and dynamics including distribution, storage, metabolism, clearance, duration of effect, half life etc. The execution of study and analysis of results may take up to twelve months usually.

Phase II Trials: Once Phase I trials provide favorable results; the formulation can be used in patients with disease for which the drug is intended. This study requires data analytics from about one to three hundred patients. Lasting for about eighteen to twenty four months, these studies look into the dosing of drug formulation in detail. Precise values of minimum and maximum dosages are determined, thus validating a strict therapeutic window of safety. The efficacy of the drug in humans is studied for the first time at this point. An expert team of molecular biologists, biochemists, biostatisticians, pharmacologists and clinicians are directly involved at this stage of the trial. The study is carried out under extremely controlled settings to contain unforeseen adverse effect.

Phase III Trials: Another thirty six to forty eight months are spent to determine therapeutic benefits and potential side effects of the formulation. A randomized controlled study involving multiple hospitals, clinicians, Institutional Ethical Bodies and medical lawyers is carried out to collect data from nearly 3000 patients as test and control subjects to document effects of the drug. Efficiency of the drug formulation to manage targeted pathology is studied at a community level at this point. Equal or perhaps, more attention is given to find out any potential side effects previously undocumented during Phase II trials. The study results should be published in peer-reviewed journals with no conflict of interests of involved parties as well as no dispute from experts in relevant fields. These results also serve as a basis for FDA to analyze risk versus benefits of the drug formulation.
Once Phase III trials show promising results, the involved parties, usually drug manufacturing pharmaceutical giants at this point, file a New Drug Application (NDA) to FDA with data regarding the drug formulation available till date. A typical NDA may easily go from 100,000 to 150,000 pages. Expert committee formed by FDA will then analyze the application unbiased. An estimated time of thirty months is needed for FDA to meticulously analyze all the aspects of the new drug formulation as this goes into market for widespread use across multiple communities once approved at this point.  Unlike clinical trials under controlled settings, the usage of a drug at community level cannot be steered or supervised. Needless to say, extreme caution is therefore taken before formally approving the drug to be produced in large scale for clinical use.

Phase IV Trials; Even after reaching market, a drug is not dispensed completely uncontrolled. Post-marketing Surveillance, also called Phase IV trials are carried out strictly for up to twenty four months and leniently during the entire lifetime of the drug’s medical use to document therapeutic and adverse consequences of the drug formulation at a community level. At this point, the drug is available only as its original formulation, manufactured and marketed only by the party holding patent and FDA approval. One can easily understand why non-generic drugs are expensive as the patent holding drug manufacturer is trying to win back all its expenses of research and development of the formulation as well as the exuberant expenses of conducting multiple phases of drug trials. Drug developers are given patent protection of an original formulation for twenty years in most of the countries. Under special circumstances, a patent term restoration can be given for an additional five years if manufacturers convince FDA for an extended period for clinical data evaluation. This is the period during which manufacturers market the drugs as a brand and earn their invested capital back. This period is also infamously regarded as the period of huge profits for the manufacturer due to their monopoly in markets.

After the patent protected period, other pharmaceutical companies can file an Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) to FDA demonstrating therapeutic equivalence of their formulation to the original brand product. If approved by FDA, the new formulation will be added to Approved Drug Products with Therapeutics Equivalence Evaluations list. This is endearingly called The Orange Book. This is the official approval for the applicant to manufacture and market its formulation as generic drugs. As the capital investment involved in such drug development is much less, generic drugs bring down the price of drugs by about thirty to eighty percent of that of original brand. Moreover, as more manufacturers get bioequivalence approval for their formulation, competition in markets will get stronger, thus forcing companies to slash their prices to sustain demand. This is one noble reason why good quality medications are available even to countries with poor economy without having to sweat much on pharmaceutical research and development.

As we go through the story of a single therapeutic molecule from laboratory to common man, approximately thirty years “smoothly” went past. That’s is one difficult and eventful journey !!!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Soft Skills Drill: Presentation and Public Speaking

Public speaking is an art and science at the same time. Knowing the right piece of information or most or best of a subject cannot necessarily make a person a good orator. Though it is widely accepted that content is more pertinent than any paraphernalia for presenting it, conveying and convincing listeners with required information is tactful. It requires hard work, practice and of course presence of mind to tackle any hurdle that arises on the way. 


Audience is the king of any presentation. All the activities including content, flow of information, presentation tools and choice of vocabulary should be focused on audience. The aim of any talk is to convince listeners an idea which the speaker believes in. A good talk is one, at the end of which, listeners become as excited about the subject of discussion as the speaker himself. Unlike usual public speeches, scientific presentations are mostly open discussion forums with bilateral flow of information. A successful speaker is one who not only makes listeners informed but also generates interest in them to initiate constructive interactions and productive discussions. It is always a better approach to pass a gaze to the entire gathering while delivering a talk to stay connected and take them along the subject with the speaker as talk progresses.

The speaker

The speaker is the middleman between information in hand and listeners. He has to be extremely careful to be as presentable as possible. The appearance of a speaker is very crucial. A speaker should be dressed with class and elegance. It shows the commitment he puts towards this presentation. At the same time, his clothes should not be flashy or trashy to attract unwanted attention to unwanted details. It is good to bear in mind not to wear shoes that may creak or thud while walking. A well pressed formal ware of neutral colors and a pair of well polished shoes. Neat grooming and pleasant face. (I always remember one of my teachers’ words at this context. “For a speech, your shoes should be polished enough to reflect the entire gathering in front of you at the tip of your shoes when you stand on a dais.” Now, that’s one gentleman’s advice indeed.). One should be always enthusiastic about his talk.  It's a bit stressful and even seasoned speakers get nervous before talks. But the key is to be calm bearing in mind the fact that nobody can intimidate us without our permission. Frantically pacing up and down, fiddling with paraphernalia or a shivering voice can give cues to listeners about relative lack of speaker’s confidence.


Content determines the quality of any talk. Only a few are blessed enough to be eloquent spontaneously. For rest of us, planning ahead is inevitable. The content should be crisp, clear, straightforward and precise. Any presentation is essentially a glorified story-telling process. There are two effective ways of doing it. Personally, I call them the Jigsaw Puzzle approach and the Rubik’s Cube approach. In the former, just like a jigsaw puzzle, without revealing the end result, speaker can put together various pieces of information to build a wholesome picture. Here listeners are expected to be attentive all throughout the talk for complete comprehension. However, in public platforms where limited attention is expected, the latter approach becomes useful. Here, just like a Rubik’s Cube, the listeners are informed of the wholesome picture at first and the speaker gradually discusses various ways of reaching that conclusion. So even if he loses listeners’ attention in between, an essential take-home message still lingers in their minds.

Striking opening and closing lines carrying gist of our talk will make the ideas conveyed linger in the minds of listeners longer. History agrees with it by evergreen rhetoric of leaders like “Quit India” by M K Gandhi at Bombay in 1942, “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” by Patrick Henry in 1775 urging Virginians to ban Stamp Act of 1764 and undoubtedly “I have a dream” by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 at Washington DC during American Civil Rights Movement.

Flow of information

It is tricky to equally convey scientific information to a mixed audience. Not everyone could be an expert in the particular subject of discussion. Visual aids help in bridging the gap between speaker and listener to a great extent. There are many fancy presentation tools available online. Irrespective of the tool used, there are some standard practices to be followed in any academic presentation. The slides should have a neutral plain background with bold dark font not less than thirty point size. Ideas are better conveyed if enlisted as bullet points than long complex sentences. This also can avoid the awkward situation of monotone reading from slides. Visual aids are considered far superior to verbal. Hence pictorial representation of data using relevant, completely labeled graphs, charts and schematic diagrams would add more validity and authenticity. When representing experimental results in graph, proper legends, axis labels, error bars, p-value, proportionate scale and unit of values cannot be compromised. It is better not to include more than two graphs in one slide to avoid illegibility. All kinds of qualitative data should be well supported with a quantitative representation emphasize significance of data. There is no rule that says scientific presentations should be long, serious and boring. It is wise to break down the gravity of data through simple, straightforward summaries at required intervals, thus making a wholesome story out of the subject discussed.

Presentation interphase

Academic presentations are exclusively supported by visual aids these days. Though most of us rely on Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote for presentation, it is worthwhile to look into other options available, relevant to subjects discussed and kind of audience addressed. For instance, younger audience would mostly enjoy a lighter way of conveying scientific ideas through visual effects and animations. Online tools like PowToon Studio or Sparkol can be utilized to customize and create our own cartoons and animated videos. Nevertheless, mature audience might appreciate a more conventional approach. Prezi and SlideRocket may help to make a sober presentation more interesting through improved dynamicity. When the prepared slides are to be shared with different people, SlideShare or Google Slides will come handy. Standard scientific talks of thirty minutes demand not more than twenty slides thus giving the speaker at least ninety seconds to discuss each slide. When using a laser pointing device, it is a healthy practice to point to the picture or word that needs attention rather than repeatedly circling it while talking, as a rapidly moving bright light immediately takes the attention of listeners away from speaker’s words.


One doesn’t have to sound like a literary wizard to communicate properly. But the right choice of words, right tone of voice and fluency in medium of speech are inevitable components of a good presentation. The best tool to impress listeners is grammatically clean and well constructed sentences delivered in a moderate tempo with confidence. Since academic presentations are almost exclusively delivered in English, a good command in the language becomes essential. But, unfortunately, we have a tendency to overlook that and stutter and stumble during our presentation. Ill-structured expressions not only diminish our personal credibility questioning our authority over the subject we talk about but also make it difficult for listeners to fully comprehend what we wish to communicate. If we are not confident about our presenting skills, there are only three ways of overcoming it; Practice, practice and practice. 

Footnote: A great speech is one which is concise yet impactful.

It is said that when asked to address the nation, dedicating Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg during American Civil War in 1863, the then United States President Abraham Lincoln, sick in the prodrome of an impending smallpox, jotted down just a few lines on the back of an envelope during his train journey to Pennsylvania. During the official ceremony, American politician and renowned orator Edward Everett delivered a two hour long pre-written oration. Lincoln followed this with his three and a half minute and 271 word long speech that later became a milestone in history as the famous Gettysburg Address. Everett’s Oration, with no disrespect, hasn’t found much light or citations after that day.

How many times in our childhood have we pretended ourselves to be influential leaders and reenacted in front of our personal mirrors his famous opening lines, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”?  And quoted his universal definition of democracy, “…..government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

It is a matter of my secret pride that I hold one of the few original hard copies of Lincoln’s manuscript of Gettysburg Address in its bona fide stationery. It is undoubtedly one of my most prized possessions.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Five reasons why we could and should love our research

Scientific Research. The term itself is widely associated with boredom, long sleepless nights, stress and aimlessness. With all negative factors attributed to it, here we are, swimming against odds in scientific research stream to make our own mark. Keeping all convictions apart, thinking with an unbiased mind can actually give us quite a few good reasons to love scientific research, which has become a part of our lives. 

From mentee to mentor

As we enter the cutthroat competitive world of scientific research, we are na├»ve and fresh. Research, being a time consuming process, gives us ample time to get mentored, polished and trained by those experienced intellectuals around us, who struggled through these same paths and made it to the top. Learning is an active process in research. We learn by observing, reading, comprehending, proactively participating, contributing, critically analyzing as well as getting evaluated and constantly appraised. The development occurs in varying realms of human character including academic, intellectual, personal, social and interpersonal levels. Our professional and personal lives evolve in unison to a state where we become equipped enough to mentor the younger generations exactly from the point where we started. That is a beautiful and fulfilling journey. We have come a long way from the periods of self-taught geniuses and taboos linked to science. Today, each of us can choose how and from whom to learn and eventually how and to whom to propagate that wholesome knowledge. 

The pleasure of discovery

To be honest, most of us got into research in the first place because we did not clearly know what to do after earning a master's degree. Whatever glorified reasons we convinced ourselves, interview boards and potential mentors, there was one small part of our brain which was honest enough to admit that we really didn't have any idea what to do with life. As we move forward in our snail pace scientific journey in graduate school and initial years of post doctoral training, our aims may still not be clear to most of us. But as we progress, co-evolving with science, influencing each other, we find ourselves in a unique spot where we actually enjoy the very prospect of finding something new and useful. We get excited at the prospect that our small but significant finding can actually be a stepping stone to a greater good of humanity. It's a matter of immense pride and pleasure to know that our efforts could unravel the mysteries of universe a tiny bit more and help man understand life a tiny bit better.

A noble reason to gain knowledge

Knowledge has never come free of cost. We pay right from our schooling years to gain knowledge. How many times have we thought not to vest time in gaining knowledge in a particular subject just because we couldn't find time to learn or afford to pay for it? Moreover, as we move forward in our respective careers, we have to take time off from our professional lives to get time and energy for gaining additional knowledge. That's where we become lucky. Here we are, officially assigned in a profession where we get paid to seek and gain knowledge. No other profession on earth gives more scope and space to feed our inner hunger for knowledge. This is, in fact, one of the few professions in life where random thoughts and haphazard voyages of our forebrain can be polished and sharpened to any level of sensible information. And the best of all, we get returns in the form of remuneration, accolades and potential betterment of mankind for our commitment. Albert Einstein believed that if he had a full time real job instead of his boring and monotonous job in a patent office, he would have never had adequate time to think and explore and he wouldn't even have thought of the Theory of Relativity. We are all bestowed with a rare opportunity of endlessly seeking knowledge which many can only dream about. So buckle up and make the most out of our time, energy and efforts. 

The allowance of failure

As we walk into an Emergency Room of any hospital, how many times have we sincerely wished not to fall a prey in the hands of a training intern? How many times have we told a handyman not to learn how to fix something by tinkering on our expensive electronic device? How many times have we called an after sales maintenance team asking them to send in an expert and not a trainee to fix our appliances? The gist is, no profession allows us the room to fail. A failure is always regarded an equivalent of inefficiency in all strata of professional ladder. Scientific research is, in fact, the only stream on this planet where failures are counted as alternate strategies to success. No experiment is useless, irrespective of the end result. The peculiarity of scientific research is that even a negative finding, absence of a finding or the failure of a technique by itself is an achievement. It brings us closer to the right path and our failures are in a way justified as learning curve. Isn't it a wonderful opportunity for each of us to have the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them?

Gain a foothold 

There is a stark contrast between passion and profession. Passion, if not of monetary gain, becomes a burden in the long run whereas profession, if not exciting enough, eventually becomes monotony. There's no denying that how much ever passionate we are in our profession, unless it consistently helps us win bread for our family and secures our social existence, the quality of our work gets compromised. For all the above mentioned good reasons, if research becomes our passion, that is the best reason to make it our profession. A respectable scientific person gets peer acceptance, financial security and social esteem which only a few other professions provide. Isn't that, indeed, the most selfish yet pleasant reason to love our research?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

RGCB News: Foundation Day

Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology has undergone molting many times during its various stages of metamorphosis. Starting as a charitable society named Centre for Development of Education, Science and Technology (C-DEST) in 1990, the institution was later named after the honorable former Prime Minister of India, Shri Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. Untiring efforts of the founders of this scientific venture paved way to the institution being taken up by Government of Kerala under its administrative control in 1993. It was on November 18, 1995 the then Honorable Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narasimha Rao laid the foundation stone for Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology where its Main Campus has developed over past two decades. The day has been observed as the RGCB Foundation Day since 1995. Various academic activities are usually conducted as part of this. Today, RGCB is an autonomous institution of scientific research and academia under the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and flourishes over three campuses in Kerala.

This year, RGCB Foundation Day lecture was held on November 17, 2015. Renowned Virologist, Robert G Webster PhD, who is currently an Emeritus Faculty at the Department of Infectious Diseases in St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee delivered the Foundation Day Lecture. He has a research career of more than five decades and about 650 peer reviewed publications to his credit. A pioneer in the field of influenza, he spoke about 'Avian Influenza and the need for strict surveillance in India' to all scientists and students of RGCB at MR Das Convention Center. The hour-long lecture covered fundamentals of influenza virus variants, susceptibility of transmission, worldwide picture of epidemics and pandemics with additional stress on the nature of epidemics in India and its increased risk owing to proximity to China. Answering all queries from molecular to epidemiology level raised by listeners, he gave a very insightful talk on the subject. This lecture is to be followed by a public lecture on November 18, 2015 at Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapauram on 'Enigma of Avian Influenza'. The lecture is being organized by RGCB commemorating thirty incredible years of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. 

The RGCB Student Merit Awards were presented on this occasion. Mr. Sajith R under the guidance of R Ajay Kumar, PhD from Mycobacterium Research Group and Ms. Subashini C under the guidance of Jackson James PhD of Molecular Neurobiology & Genetics Group shared the award. RGCB Blog appreciates the hard work and dedication of students and their mentors towards fruitful research and wishes them greater productivity in future.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

In the wake of Paris attacks

It's rather very unusual to write about a social issue in a scientific blog. But, as a fellow human being, it becomes a right as well as responsibility for each of us think beyond the superficiality of events. 

I was awakened by a phone call in the middle of last Friday night. I am always skeptical and a bit apprehensive when my phone rings breaking the deadly silence of late night. It was one of my best friends living in France. My first response was to let him know my displeasure for such a late night call. As I reproached him in my sleepy voice, he replied in a voice that was unusually trembling and panicky. First he assured me he was quite safe, but went on to describe that it was chaos on Parisian streets that night. There were sounds of explosions and shootouts, people screaming and vehicles honking. Though he had no idea what was going on, from what he described, both of us thought France was at war. It was only in the following morning, when news channels across the globe started pouring in information about multiple attacks in Paris did I understand the real gravity of that situation and immense danger my friend was in being couple of blocks away from the Bataclan Concert Hall the previous night. At this juncture, I thought it would be interesting to write my pondering in this regard. 

I was fortunate to attend a lecture on evolutionary psychology by celebrated psychoanalyst Philip Zimbardo during one of my visits to Stanford University a few years back. He was explaining about the ‘Lucifer effect’ on why good people turn evil. Human behavior, being incredibly pliable, is known to change according to situational influences. The infamous Prison Experiment of Zimbardo in 1971 drew attention of the world to this aspect. In his experiment, volunteers were randomly assigned the roles of prisoners and guards and were taken into a makeshift dungeon set up in Zimbardo's lab. The experimenters were surprised to see the extent to which guards tortured the prisoners to make them obey authorities and bring them under control. Though the ethical standards of this experiment were questioned worldwide, this was an eye opener to the psychology behind how and why normal people derive sadistic pleasure through situational influences.

A decade before carrying out Prison Experiment, Zimbado's high school friend and renowned social psychologist and behavioral analyst Stanley Milgram had conducted another experiment at Yale University to study compulsive obedience of human beings. Milgram experiment also gained quite a lot of controversy and criticism over its ethical standards. The experimenters assigned ordinary people as teachers and prepared actors as learners. Upon strict instructions from the experimenter, the teacher was to teach the learner a set of words. Each time a learner made a mistake, the corresponding teacher would induce a shock to learner. The voltage of the shock was serially increased as learner made mistakes through the experiment. Even though teacher would give shock, the experiment was so set up that learner did not actually receive any shock but only pretended to receive shock. Though both of them wouldn't see each other, they could hear each other. Teacher could clearly hear learner crying out in pain as shock was inflicted on him each time. At one point, the actor pretending to be learner would go listless after high voltage shock. If teacher stopped teaching and punishing and wanted to stop experiment, he was forced by the experimenter to continue. The results of Milgram experiment, when published in Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology in 1963, were received with awe and shock by the whole world as it unraveled the darker side of human behavior. In simple terms, the study results showed that any human being, when forced by an authority, was willing to undertake extreme corporal punishment to fellow human beings without contemplating the logic behind it. The response from the tortured in the form of painful cries and listlessness didn't change the behavior of torturer much, but definitely took them through extreme stress and anxiety. 

The astounding facts that unveil through various studies across the world show how malleable and credulous human beings are. They succumb to authority and situational influences in ways that cannot probably be explained by sensible logical reasoning of average human intelligence. The ways man resort to when forced by an authority is the basic strategy of antisocial organizations worldwide in mobilizing rather ordinary people towards extremism. Declaring solidarity to the victims of extremist activities around the world, we need to look into the relative lack of scientific research in the field of evolutionary psychology and human behavioral studies. And take initiatives to bridge the gap between theoretical and experimental psychology.  This could not only cast light into the primary reason for generation of extremism but could also answer many unresolved issues in handling situations endangering basic security to humanity. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

RGCB News: Student Merit Award Presentation

Every year RGCB conducts a competitive event where all the graduate students who have completed at least two years of their research studies in RGCB can compete against each other through a transparent and fair evaluation for the much-valued Student Merit Award that comprises a citation and cash award of Rs. 20,000. This will be awarded on RGCB Foundation Day, which falls on 18th of November every year.

Eleven graduate students from various laboratories of RGCB presented their work before a packed hall of scientists and students in the M R Das Convention Centre on Friday, the 6th of November. The panel of judges comprised two eminent Indian scientists.

Professor Tapas Kumar Kundu is the Silver Jubilee Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore. He holds a doctoral degree in Biochemistry from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He earned his postdoctoral experience from the Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of The Rockefeller University in New York. He started his scientific career as a Faculty Fellow at the Transcription and Disease Laboratory of JNCASR in 1994. Currently, he heads the Laboratory and has 117 publications to his credit. With an aggregate of more than 5500 citations, his works on transcription and chromatin are of high regard in the scientific community.

Dr. Jomon Joseph is currently Scientist E at National Centre for Cell Science, Pune. Earning a doctoral degree in Biochemistry from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, he worked as the Fogarty International Research fellow at National Institutes of Health, Bethesda for five years after which he joined NCCS in 2005. He works extensively on inter-cellular communications, cellular polarizations and nucleoporins.

Akhilandeswarre D, Amritha Vijayan, Aneesh B, Deivendran S, Lekshmi.R.Nath, Mantosh Kumar, Mudaliar Prashant Pandurang, Sajith R, S. Satheesh Kumar, Subashini C and Swathy B of RGCB presented their works. The areas of interest varied from cerebellar development, neuronal protection from neurotoxins, molecular signatures of infectious agents like Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Vibrio cholera and Chikungunya Virus to signaling pathways in carcinogenesis and metastasis, anticancer effects of herbal extracts, pharmacoepigenomics, hybrid scaffolds and natural biopolymers. It was both interesting and informative at various levels.

The judges acknowledged the commendable efforts of each of the students and the support of each of the mentors. They were quite impressed by the very thought that went behind the implementation of a platform for nurturing healthy competition among graduate scholars and identified this program in RGCB to be the first of its kind in the entire nation. They urged all the students of RGCB to keep up the spirit of the program by both participating and supporting. With great words of wisdom from both the judges on simple life hacks in science laboratories, it was a very productive day for all the students of RGCB.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

RGCB News: Farewell Reception to Dr. Sathish Mundayoor

The senior Scientist and Dean of RGCB, Dr. Sathish Mundayoor has completed his tenure in RGCB on 31st of October 2015. A farewell reception was held at M R Das Convention Center of RGCB on Friday, the 30th of October. Professor M Radhakrishna Pillai, the Director of RGCB, welcomed a rather unusually packed hall of staff and students. He expressed his heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Mundayoor for his guidance, support, constructive criticisms and expert suggestions that have helped him to dispense his duties as the Director of RGCB right from day one of his assigning the office. He acknowledged Dr. Mundayoor for managing and supervising the Purchase Department of RGCB from its day of conception and earning the unique credibility of maintaining a transparent, conflict-free, accountable official track record.

Dr. K Santhosh Kumar, Scientist F in the Chemical and Environmental Laboratories of RGCB spoke about his experience working with Dr. Mundayoor. Joining in RGCB shortly after its inception in 1996, Dr. Kumar has been a colleague of Dr. Mundayoor for nearly two decades. He reminisced how Dr. Mundayoor painstakingly framed and materialized collaborating projects to bring in funds and skills into RGCB during its budding years. He appreciated the commendable efforts of the current Director Professor Pillai and the former Controller of Administration, Mr. Rajan Panicker whose efforts led to a secured pension scheme for all the employees of RGCB, thereby ensuring financial security and quality of retirement life for scientists and staff.

Dr. R Ajay Kumar, Scientist E II in the Mycobacterium Research Group (MRG) of RGCB shared his experiences to the audience with mixed feelings. He expressed his high regard to Dr. Mundayoor with whom he had been working shoulder to shoulder in MRG. He narrated how both of them reached a juncture in their respective career paths where mutual understanding and respect helped them to work together as a team towards better productivity. He despondently expressed his concern in single handedly leading MRG in the days to come.

Dr. Mundayoor thanked all his colleagues and students. Though on one hand, he was sad to leave the institution, on the other hand he seemed optimistic to be a part of the Kerala Start-up Mission of Government of Kerala to kick start setting up of biotech companies.  He was presented with a memento by RGCB on this occasion. Staff and students enjoyed a sumptuous meal at the in-house cafeteria as part of the farewell reception.

Dr. Mundayoor holds a master’s degree in Microbiology from University of Bombay. He obtained his doctoral degree from All India Institute of Medical Sciences in 1984. His area of research interest had always been Mycobacterium. He has worked with many highly esteemed microbiology groups specializing in leprosy and tuberculosis including Schieffelin Leprosy Research and Training Centre, Karigiri, Tuberculosis Research Centre, Madras; Washington University in St Louis, USA; Forschungs Institut Borstel, Germany and Hansen’s Disease Laboratory, CDC, Atlanta. He joined RGCB in 1995. Though his initial works were on immunological and genetic aspects of Mycobacterium in general, he has been focusing on pathology, pathogenesis and immunogenesis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis specific to the local population of Kerala in the latter years of his career, collaborating with Dr. R Ajay Kumar.

He has mentored graduate students, post doctoral fellows and research assistants in his lab. He also held the Office of the Dean of the RGCB Graduate  School and has always been an indispensible part of the scientific and administrative proceedings of the institute.  He is well known among staff and students for his down-to-earth personality, quick-wittedness and words of wisdom. Being the most senior scientist of RGCB, he was always approachable to every member of RGCB family; may it be for a piece of advice, a practical suggestion, a personal anecdote to cheer up or scientific troubleshooting.

RGCB team will definitely cherish the contributions of Dr. Mundayoor in the uphill journey of the institution over these years. RGCB Blog wishes him a peaceful, healthy and contented retired life. It is hoped that his expertise and experience will be available to RGCB in future too.