Natco Pharma Ltd.
vs Bayer Corporation. A controversial case for many reasons but one that piqued my interest in theimportance 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, toNatco Pharma Ltd., an Indian generic drug company. Although, the focal point of this case was the issue of compulsorylicensing, it led me to thinking about how the same product can be manufactured in multiple ways, thus alteringconsequences like cost of manufacturing, pricing and accessibility.
As an amateur Biotechnologist, I explored these aspectsfurther and realized the impact of how innovative technologies can help us achieve these objectives, and this is where myfascination 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 recentadvances in biotechnology and bioprocessing. The professor mentioned about concepts and technologies that simply blewmy mind.
To be honest, not that I really understood the ideas he put forth, because it all seemed so impossible to me. It onlymade me more curious to explore the processes that we generally consider mundane, at a cellular level. This propelled meto pursue a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology.As a Biotechnology undergraduate at Savitribai Phule Pune University (formerly University of Pune), I believe the coursework has provided me with a solid foundation in science as well as engineering related subjects and various mathematicalconcepts. 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 practicalsessions from Microbiology have equipped me in handling microbial cultures. Fermentation Technology, Reaction andBiochemical Engineering have provided a profound knowledge about upstream processing and courses on Bioseparationshave given an insight about downstream processing. I was introduced to chemical engineering concepts required indesigning a bioprocess in courses like Fluid Flow & Unit Operations, Heat & Mass Transfer, Stoichiometry andThermodynamics.
Bioprocess Equipment Design and Plant engineering & Project Costing familiarized me to the model ofdesign criteria for manufacturing quality product. I am also convinced that I have successfully implemented my theoreticalknowledge in a laboratory environment, as exemplified by the fact that I have received excellent grades in theInstrumentation & Process Control and Bioprocess Modelling & Simulation lab. In my opinion, my undergraduate coursehas prepared me in all aspects to pursue a master’s degree in Biological & Agricultural Engineering with a major focus inBioprocessing 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 aplethora of applications in the food and health care industry, due to their ability to self-assemble into amphipathicmembranes at an interface. The objective of my research was to isolate and identify hydrophobin producing fungal strainsfrom waste samples of malt processing industry Barmalt Malting India Pvt. Ltd.
Further I worked on the development andoptimization of a bioprocess for the production of hydrophobins from isolated GRAS clearing fungal strains. I was fortunateenough to get a chance to present my results at two international conferences. The experience of conducting a researchthrilled me so much that I would often wait back after classes, especially to see my results. Also, I engaged myself in readingjournals and monthly magazines to explore exciting opportunities in research and upcoming technologies in the developmentand 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 NationalToxicology Centre) under the guidance of Dr. Kishori Apte, during our semester break. Here I was intensively explainedand demonstrated various in-vivo and in-vitro toxicity tests performed in the laboratory, as per the OECD guidelines.
Thisgave me an insight about the drug development process: design of preclinical studies, which also helped me in understandingsome 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. Inmy final year, impressed by my presentation skills, one of my professors gave me the privilege to conduct a session in ajuniors’ 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 encouragedmyself to participate in extra-curricular activities during my undergraduate studies. I have served as a college representativefor inter-college swimming competitions, official campus photographer for cultural fests, photographer for the department’snewsletter 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 DebutFemaleVolunteer’ 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 thefortunate 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 improvebacteriocin production by inducing UV mutation in Bacillus amyloliquefaciens.
The training introduced me to the excitingnature of working in an industrial-level research laboratory. Upon the completion of my training I was absorbed by thecompany and I am currently working here as a Biotechnologist. Praj is one of the most successful companies in India in thefield of bio-based technologies and engineering, a supplier of ethanol plants and provider of sustainable solutions forbioenergy, bioproducts, breweries and industrial wastewater treatment. I am currently working on the fermentativeproduction of an antimicrobial peptide (AMP), the company’s in-house product, produced from a bacterial source. TheAMP due to its significant antimicrobial activity against pathogenic micro-organisms can be used in food preservation andhealth care products.Looking at some of the examples in the past, from the large scale production of bulk products to small and controlledproduction 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 andinnovation in this area. One common bottleneck is experienced while expanding from pilot to manufacturing scale, everystep requires new controls for effective productivity. Another challenge is to find new ways to increase productivity, reducecosts while still ultimately developing new technologies that enhance human life. With a graduate degree in this field I wishto 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 amajor focus in Bioprocessing & Bioproducts Engineering at Washington State University is ideal for what I would like tostudy. I am particularly interested in working in the Bioprocessing & Bioproducts Engineering Laboratory and the researchof Dr. Shulin Chen and Dr. Birgitte K. Ahring. Definitely, my interest in this program is also substantiated by the university’sexcellence in Biological Systems Engineering research and collaboration.
I am confident that the program will augment myabilities 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 bioprocessengineering 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 passionateto pursue this program with utmost sincerity