India And 21st Century Modern Biology: Global Standards Education Imperatives For Innovation In Drug Discovery And Development


While travelling on a train in rural India, I was struck by the fact, the clouds that I saw overarching the skies up and above were representations of some self-similar repetition. My high school teacher once asked, (an English language teacher in Tamil Medium (local Indian state language medium of instruction) why do you see the trees that are seen from far away places appear to be moving when you travel on a fast-moving train during your seated travel in that train. 

Brian Cox a UK-based Physics legendary professor has written in his book, the concept of SPIN AXIS.The earth in the solar system does face lots of intruders on the way, and they smash them, some get accommodated in this elliptical journey of a great planet of ours. But, the spin axis is something post Newtonian Euclid geometry and Einstein’s Time space theories reinforced that allows Sun and Earth to travel in their respective tracks without collision. The clouds that we see, are a great view from the spacecraft Voyager and Apollo. Looking down from the aircraft, another astronomy legend quoted What a splendid planet, without any divisions of human beings inhabiting the fantastic earth, the snowflakes.

The Fractal, self-similar representation of both Clouds and snowflakes are reminiscent of what we will find in Purkinje cells and Lungs. Humans are Mutifractal with symmetry. I take the fractals as examples of Indian prowess in mathematics. Our standing-tall temple Gopuras are the best examples of Fractal Geometry. 

What led to the degradation of scientific temper in the country after CV Raman,  Saha, Bose and Vikram Sarabhai? Gary Pisano, the great Harvard author of the Book Science Business, writes that he has never seen such brilliant people as those are involved in the Biotech business in the United States. In India, highly skilled students work in IT, CS etc., and marginal students choose Biology and science careers. Engineering and medicine with IT as the focus remains favourite to young students and parents. In India, biology is still looked down upon such as Botany and Zoology, although some good students enter the science track. During the ealry 1946s, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, popularly used the phrase “scientific temper” to further propagate the notion. He gave a descriptive explanation in The Discovery of India. The scientific temper points out the way along which man should travel. It is the temper of a free man. We live in a scientific age, so we are told, but there is little evidence of this temper in people anywhere or even their leaders. What is needed is the scientific approach, the adventurous and yet critical temper of science, the search for truth and new knowledge, the refusal to accept anything without testing and trial, the capacity to change previous conclusions in the face of new evidence, the reliance on observed fact and not on preconceived theory, the hard discipline of the mind—all this is necessary, not merely for the application of science but for life itself and the solution of its many problems. (Quoted from Wikipedia, public domain material). 

The introduction that I gave her, as a student in Tamil medium, in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, at the age of 15, I read Genes Book by Benjamin Lewin provided by Joseph Clement my Botany Professor. India is poor in the Discovery and Development of new drugs due to certain implicit reasons. Poor students enter the science track, a quality workforce is not available and students who are trained in the West are not returning to serve their country. Pharma and Biotech have to train their students after their BSc MSc or the so Called BE biotech. It is disheartening to understand that more students opt for foreign education as Indian PhDs are not viewed favourably even Premier institute PhDs end up doing long post-docs in USA and EU. How to set this right? What is the course of remedy that is so imperative asap? First, as Dr James Hageman of Emeritus Prof of New Mexico State Univ, who is a PhD student of Dr Dan Atkinson and Dr Paul D Boyer, a Nobel, writes an early introduction to scientific minds at the age of 10,12 and 15. Science shows early promise in these years of curriculum, as their book in ACS published.Early Promising careers explain. He happens to be my mentor in the United States. Later at an undergraduate level, we have to introduce students to hands-on training like that of the USA. Students in their final year should be encouraged to do a project hand-getting wet lab or dry lab experience. MS PhD programs should have qualifier exams, wherein you should qualify for the master’s or PhD program, even if it is an Integrated program. PhD degrees should be awarded after taking cumulative exams and passing a successful proposal defence along with the original research thesis defence. This model has proven to be working in the United States. Just research without exams and courses is preparing students with shallow knowledge.In addition, finishing school should not concentrate on just finding them employment, but offer depth in the subject research experience. Shortcuts are no answer to success in R&D in Academia or Industry. Industry jobs are much different these days expecting people to have translational sciences experience. Our students are hardly equipped with these novel modern techniques passing out of BE Biotech Colleges or MSc colleges. Students can aspire for a PhD in USA or West but in the USA the PhD degree in the top 25 universities is awarded after stringent adherence to excellence in education and original idea-based research. If you award thesis-based research PhD then the course contents and rigorous exams-based evaluations are missing and students are poorly qualified to meet industry expectations Students are advised to get a good mentor, as once it was said the world loved JBS Haldane but his technician feared to enter his room. I was blessed to have great mentors in the United States, so could stay a good many years in the USA gain education and Industry experience, and also visit a dozen countries, and obtain experience. It has to be brought to the notice of students of the present day, India is emerging as a knowledge economy soon. So quick fixes into Engineering services, IT or ITES are poor choices, and early choice, the early scientific enterprise is the best option. Also, it should be noted that our students who are studying in the USA should be encouraged to return to Industry jobs in India, but our industry needs discovery research for that to happen quickly. The ecosystem that is existing in the USA is University Industry and Industrial economic zones and funding agencies should be nurtured in India to incentivise students entering the science track. We cannot have better medicines of tomorrow combatting pandemics if we do not qualified workforce in the sector of Pharma and Biotech. Modern Biology is a cross-disciplinary subject, context-dependent, and very hard to master with the flows of IT and computers. One needs to be trained for a very long time, to profess knowledge in these areas and qualify to become a principal investigator. In my experience, I have seen many people without the requisite PhD have to spend long years researching to get there. But a PhD is an entry form, not a given authorization. We have to perform over years to gain a reputation.Indian industry as I have written before is in cross-section figuring out whether to enter discovery. I strictly don’t understand the dilemma that is in the minds of Pharma honchos in India, asking myself how long generics is going to offer them a choice of growth. This very fact is that US-educated PhDs are finding it hard to return to India, as many are met to industries. They trained and qualified. PhDs in the West are finding it hard to find jobs in India in discovery, while Indian students are poorly equipped in advanced Multi-Omics or Omits led discovery. Be it small molecule or large molecule biology is woven into these scientific tracks. My sincere advice to the younger minds career-seeking students in Biology is Early Promise. If you are keen to enter science, India welcomes you. It is just a matter of time, our industry will feel margin pressures in Generics and start doing Discovery. This is the only path that they can take, no shortcuts are left out in innovation. If you don’t innovate you perish.As Dr Nirmalya Kumar and Dr Phanish Puranam, point out in their research. Many patents out of India are forward-cited. How many in Biology are being forward cited, or even improving the citation quality to that rank 3 or 4 in the International arena after the US and China? Even countries like South Korea are advancing science education at phenomenal rates, investing monies in Research. India should immediately invest a sizable amount of GDP percentage in Science Education and Research. 

As President Barack Obama puts it, the US invests in research and development like no other without expecting fruits in 50 years. He said this in the Key Note to National Academies. India should emerge as a leader in Biotechnology and Science streams. Priority investing is keen to boost productivity in research, new drugs, and medicines for the poor at affordable costs. Having said, students can choose a science career for better prospects particularly, Multi-Omics and Multi-Scale Biology are taking shape in the USA, India is well-poised to catapult into the next 25 years by initiating training programs and incentives to attract students in the science stream and industry plus academia.

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