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SymBiot’18–A Symposium on Biotechnology

SymBiot 2018 took place on the 19th and 20th of October at the MV Seminar Hall.  Dr K V Venkatesh, Professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering IIT Bombay, was the chief guest at the symposium which was attended by many students and guests from various institutes and organisations.

Day 1
Saharsh Ranjan and Joshika Sachithanand | Staff writers

The event commenced with a short prayer by Nidhi Vinay Dwivedi, the President of IEBT, which was followed by the ceremonial lighting of the lamp by the esteemed guests at the event. Talking about her experience in the field of Biotechnology, Nidhi said, “Develop a passion for learning.” The Convenor of SymBiot 2018, Dr Bharat Rajaguru, then welcomed the students and guests.

Dr K V Venkatesh, the first guest lecturer of the day, spoke on the topic ‘Systems Engineering Perspective of Human Metabolism through a Multiscale Model of Disease Analysis: A Cell of Human Framework’.  His humour quotient and enthusiastic manner of explaining things were very efficient in keeping the gathering spirited throughout the two-hour long session. He talked about how the subject of Biotechnology allows us to apply the principles of physics and chemistry to biological functions of organisms. He emphasised that it is important to study complex lifeforms by creating a manual of their design after studying the diseased state of the organism. The aim of the disease analysis method is to gather information about the organisms and justify clinical data that enables you to make a model, focusing on the metabolism of the body, and then validate it with experiments.

He introduced the audience to his work in the field with his company, Met Flux, which assists pharmaceutical companies in drug production. It runs their clinical data with multistage models and its software helps detect the presence of a disease thereby helping the doctor to understand which drug and the dosage that would be required to control the disease. The students got an opportunity to interact with Dr Venkatesh, who took great interest in talking to them, as they put forth their queries and shared their knowledge on the subject.

After the lunch break, the congregation reassembled as Mr Pankaj Kalita, the project leader at Zydus Cadila, took to the stage. The lecture revolved around the development of a novel antibody cocktail, RabiMabs, that combats the rabies virus, post-bite. Considering the startlingly high death toll that the virus has brought about, he stressed the need for an effective post-bite cure. RabiMabs also satisfies the WHO guidelines for treating a Category Three exposure—a previously unmet requirement.  According to him, the real challenge was overcoming the reluctance of the Indian demographic to accept treatment and participate in studies benefiting them.

The next speaker, Dr Alex Hankey kicked off his lecture on cognitive science and the Western and Vedic approaches to it. He placed emphasis on the superiority of the Vedic approach with an interesting anecdote about how one of his PhD students managed to treat kidney diseases by reducing creatinine levels by a factor of 0.8 using Ayurvedic methods as opposed to a factor of 0.08 by conventional medicine. Elaborating upon his research on the Double Aspect Theory of Information, he explained the underlying unity that connects everyone. Furthermore, it brings about subtle telepathic tendencies, even across species by citing the example of an African Grey Parrot that narrated its owner’s dreams.  Dr Hankey left the audience in splits of laughter with a description of a ‘Pav Bhaji’ Model of Biology, which he later informed was unfortunately invalid.  The session was quite enlightening even though the topic of the lecture strayed away from core biotechnology. The professor ended the lecture with a Vedic chant ‘Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah’ as the audience joined in. Day One of SymBiot ended with a vote of thanks and the guests were presented with mementoes.

Day 2
Shruti Wagle and Harshita Binani | Staff writers

The second day of SymBiot began with the aim to boost the culture of entrepreneurship among students. It also gave them a platform to showcase their studies and research work which would be judged by some of the best professors from this field. Dr Ramesh, the founder of Visint Health Care Pvt Ltd, delivered the opening address. He spoke about the various aspects involved in setting up a startup, from funding to getting a patent and collaborating with other companies. His startup aims at looking for cost-effective methods for identifying and treating eye diseases in rural areas where state of the art facilities are unavailable. Stressing on the collective effort that went into setting up this company, he spoke about how they are constantly looking for ways to better their implementation. Currently, they are looking at ways to incorporate Machine Learning into their devices to make it more user-friendly.

His speech was followed by oral presentations where each team presented their projects and research work. The range of topics covered during this session was astounding. While some focused on cancer studies, another was a study on the role of CTAB as a stabilising agent. The dedication and focus of these final year students were well reflected in the confidence with which they presented their work and answered related questions. The judges for this event were Dr Venkat Rao and Dr Murthi, both having served as Head of Department for Biotechnology formerly. The crowd eagerly awaited the announcement of the results.

The afternoon session began with a talk by Dr Bharath Raja Guru, HOD Biotechnology. He thanked the participants for coming to Manipal and hoped that participation would be even better in the following years. Dr Pankaj appreciated the participants’ presentation skills and the amount of research that they had done. Suraj Prabhu, Vice-President of IE Biotechnology, delivered the vote of thanks. The participants were pleased with their time spent in Manipal and said that they had learned a lot from the event. The event concluded with a vote of thanks from Dr Fayaz, the Faculty Advisor for IEBT.

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