The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Ministry of Science & Technology, has taken many steps to brings about a paradigm shift in biotechnology in the country’s North-East Region (NER). Eyeing an inclusive growth, DBT has announced a series of new programs and missions to turn this into a reality. DBT has established a dedicated ‘North Eastern Region Biotechnology Programme Management Cell (NER-BPMC)’, with an annual investment of Rs. 180 crores, to evolve, implement and foster biotechnology research in the north east states.
On the occasion of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Birth Centenary, the Minister of S&T, Earth Sciences and Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Dr. Harshvardhan announced three major new initiatives for the North East. These new initiatives are in congruence to the Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s philosophy of “Integral Humanism” which is a synthesis of the material and the spiritual, the individual and the collective, which the world is now calling as “One Health” embodying the health of human, animal and environment as one.
1) Phyto-Pharma Plant Mission: This is a Rs 50 crore Mission aimed at conservation and cultivation of endangered and threatened endemic medicinal plants, and discovery of new botanical drugs for unmet medical needs using the rich traditional ethno-botanical knowledge and biodiversity of these states and at the same time also improve availability of authentic and quality botanical raw material on sustainable basis for a boom in the phyto-pharmaceutical industry. Through this Mission, it is expected to enable farmers from NE states and phyto-pharmaceutical industry to become global leaders in production and export of some quality botanical drugs for unmet medical needs. For this Mission, DBT will be the nodal coordinating and implementing department and work closely with Ministry of DONER and other identified institutions. DBT has announced launch of the Phyto-pharmaceutical Mission in NER with three major objectives:
- Captive cultivation of selected medicinal plants of NER, which have great demand to ensure supply of authentic and quality botanical raw material to the user industries in the country.
- Development of technology packages for production of GMP grade medicinal plant extracts for export markets.
- Production of safe and efficacious phytopharmaceuticals from medicinal plants of NER for unmet medical needs using modern scientific tools and following global standards.
2) Brahmaputra Biodiversity and Biology Boat (B4) on the Brahmaputra River, a major ecology hotspot, in NER, in collaboration with DONER, B4 will establish a large barge on the river with a well-equipped laboratory for analysis of all components of the entire ecosystem of the river and surroundings. The B4 will link to all the local research institutions along the river, as well as national and international laboratories.
B4 will have capability to analyse soil, water, environment, plant and animal life, human health and agriculture and an equal component that involves local citizens in the experimental process of science in data generation and management. B4 will also have a teaching laboratory for school/college children. It is also proposed to have mobile satellite boat labs which will run along the tributaries of Brahmaputra to feed in data to the main B4.
3) Frugal microscopy through the Foldscope: a frugal microscope assembled from simple components, including a sheet of paper and a lens, is acting as a tool connecting students and science from the region, with the rest of the country.
A total 525 applications from schools, colleges have been received: 112 from schools, 357 from colleges and 56 from citizen scientists. All applicants will receive a micro grant between Rs 4 lakhs to 8 Lakhs as well as a supply of Foldscopes while being linked with NER.