Natco Pharma Ltd. vs Bayer Corporation. A controversial case for many reasons but one that piqued my interest in the
importance of bioprocessing. It was on the 19th of March 2012 that I was going through an article from a scientific magazine.
The Indian Government had granted its first compulsory license against Bayer’s patent on Nexavar, an anticancer drug, to
Natco Pharma Ltd., an Indian generic drug company. Although, the focal point of this case was the issue of compulsory
licensing, it led me to thinking about how the same product can be manufactured in multiple ways, thus altering
consequences like cost of manufacturing, pricing and accessibility. As an amateur Biotechnologist, I explored these aspects
further and realized the impact of how innovative technologies can help us achieve these objectives, and this is where my
fascination with the field of Bioprocess Engineering started.
Biology has always been my subject of interest. Back in college, I vividly remember attending a seminar on the recent
advances in biotechnology and bioprocessing. The professor mentioned about concepts and technologies that simply blew
my mind. To be honest, not that I really understood the ideas he put forth, because it all seemed so impossible to me. It only
made me more curious to explore the processes that we generally consider mundane, at a cellular level. This propelled me
to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology.
As a Biotechnology undergraduate at Savitribai Phule Pune University (formerly University of Pune), I believe the course
work has provided me with a solid foundation in science as well as engineering related subjects and various mathematical
concepts. Courses like Applied Chemistry and Biochemistry have helped me gain good knowledge about biomolecules,
their importance in metabolic and biological processes, functions and their interactions with other molecules. The practical
sessions from Microbiology have equipped me in handling microbial cultures. Fermentation Technology, Reaction and
Biochemical Engineering have provided a profound knowledge about upstream processing and courses on Bioseparations
have given an insight about downstream processing. I was introduced to chemical engineering concepts required in
designing a bioprocess in courses like Fluid Flow & Unit Operations, Heat & Mass Transfer, Stoichiometry and
Thermodynamics. Bioprocess Equipment Design and Plant engineering & Project Costing familiarized me to the model of
design criteria for manufacturing quality product. I am also convinced that I have successfully implemented my theoretical
knowledge in a laboratory environment, as exemplified by the fact that I have received excellent grades in the
Instrumentation & Process Control and Bioprocess Modelling & Simulation lab. In my opinion, my undergraduate course
has prepared me in all aspects to pursue a master’s degree in Biological & Agricultural Engineering with a major focus in
Bioprocessing and Bioproducts Engineering.
Further, I worked on my undergraduate thesis entitled, ‘Bioprospecting for Hydrophobins’ under the direction of Asst. Prof.
Shraddha Kulkarni. Hydrophobins are small cysteine rich surface active proteins produced by filamentous fungi, having a
plethora of applications in the food and health care industry, due to their ability to self-assemble into amphipathic
membranes at an interface. The objective of my research was to isolate and identify hydrophobin producing fungal strains
from waste samples of malt processing industry Barmalt Malting India Pvt. Ltd. Further I worked on the development and
optimization of a bioprocess for the production of hydrophobins from isolated GRAS clearing fungal strains. I was fortunate
enough to get a chance to present my results at two international conferences. The experience of conducting a research
thrilled me so much that I would often wait back after classes, especially to see my results. Also, I engaged myself in reading
journals and monthly magazines to explore exciting opportunities in research and upcoming technologies in the development
and manufacture of bioproducts. This eventually burgeoned my interested in the subject.
My propensity for applied learning resulted in my fifteen days training at APT Research Foundation (formerly National
Toxicology Centre) under the guidance of Dr. Kishori Apte, during our semester break. Here I was intensively explained
and demonstrated various in-vivo and in-vitro toxicity tests performed in the laboratory, as per the OECD guidelines. This
gave me an insight about the drug development process: design of preclinical studies, which also helped me in understanding
some basic concepts from a final year course: Biotherapeutics Technology.
Seminars and presentations were always an integral part of my undergraduate coursework. I had presented a seminar on
‘Anticancer Drugs from Marine Source’, in my third year, with a thorough literature review about the FDA approved anticancer drugs and potential drugs in clinical and preclinical pipeline, their source, biosynthesis and mode of action. In
my final year, impressed by my presentation skills, one of my professors gave me the privilege to conduct a session in a
juniors’ class on ‘Embryonic Stem Cells and Clinical Applications’.
In order to maintain a high regard for an all-round development of my personality, apart from academics I encouraged
myself to participate in extra-curricular activities during my undergraduate studies. I have served as a college representative
for inter-college swimming competitions, official campus photographer for cultural fests, photographer for the department’s
newsletter and member of the organizing committee for technical fests. I have also been associated with CRY since 2016,
which is an NGO in India working towards the upliftment of underprivileged children and was awarded as the ‘Best DebutFemale
Volunteer’ for my contribution in Pune’s Public Action Group (PAG).
After the completion of my undergraduate degree, my inclination towards bioprocessing strengthened when I had the
fortunate opportunity of being selected for the competitive Biotech Industrial Training Programme 2016-17 at Praj Matrix
– R&D Centre (Division of Praj Industries Ltd.) Pune. The training was sponsored by the Department of Biotechnology,
Govt. of India. I worked under the guidance of Dr. Yasmin Mirza. The emphasis of my individual project was to improve
bacteriocin production by inducing UV mutation in Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. The training introduced me to the exciting
nature of working in an industrial-level research laboratory. Upon the completion of my training I was absorbed by the
company and I am currently working here as a Biotechnologist. Praj is one of the most successful companies in India in the
field of bio-based technologies and engineering, a supplier of ethanol plants and provider of sustainable solutions for
bioenergy, bioproducts, breweries and industrial wastewater treatment. I am currently working on the fermentative
production of an antimicrobial peptide (AMP), the company’s in-house product, produced from a bacterial source. The
AMP due to its significant antimicrobial activity against pathogenic micro-organisms can be used in food preservation and
health care products.
Looking at some of the examples in the past, from the large scale production of bulk products to small and controlled
production of high value products, it is evident that bioprocessing has entered major bio-based sectors and improved them.
Moreover, today the bioprocess industry is facing some bottlenecks that gives a tremendous scope for research and
innovation in this area. One common bottleneck is experienced while expanding from pilot to manufacturing scale, every
step requires new controls for effective productivity. Another challenge is to find new ways to increase productivity, reduce
costs while still ultimately developing new technologies that enhance human life. With a graduate degree in this field I wish
to expand the horizons of my skills so as to be able to solve these challenging real world problems.
In accordance with my current research interests, I think that the Biological & Agricultural Engineering Program with a
major focus in Bioprocessing & Bioproducts Engineering at Washington State University is ideal for what I would like to
study. I am particularly interested in working in the Bioprocessing & Bioproducts Engineering Laboratory and the research
of Dr. Shulin Chen and Dr. Birgitte K. Ahring. Definitely, my interest in this program is also substantiated by the university’s
excellence in Biological Systems Engineering research and collaboration. I am confident that the program will augment my
abilities to integrate my technical knowledge with practical applications.
After completing the graduate program, I hope to obtain a doctoral position at an institute specifically examining bioprocess
engineering and creating effective solutions to practical problems. I then hope to obtain a virtuous position in the industry,
with an aim to develop robust revenue-saving manufacturing processes for bioproducts beneficial to mankind.
To put in a nutshell, I would regard my admission to Washington State University as a matter of great honor. I am passionate
to pursue this program with utmost sincerity