Theoretical and Computational Biology (Bioinformatics,AI & Big Data)

Introduction/Genesis of Programme:

Department of Biotechnology started the Bioinformatics in 1987 as one of the thrust areas of Biotechnology and the sustained support has given impetus to the development of Bioinformatics in the country through establishing the necessary infrastructure including the ‘Supercomputer’. Over the time being, Bioinformatics has grown world over through contribution from various areas like Physics, Mathematics, Pharma sector and with the advent of new frontier area in Biotechnology like Genomics, Proteomics etc. As a result R&D activities in the relevant areas leads to massive inflow of data, which widens the scope of Bioinformatics, therefore, considering the international developments, the scope of the Bioinformatics is broadened and with wider scope, Department of Biotechnology has designated ‘Bioinformatics’ as ‘Theoretical and Computational Biology (TCB)’.

Bioinformatics in India is being used effectively for biology prospecting, conservation and management of bioresources, evaluation of products and processes and raw materials, managing complex data required to plan and monitor major national programmes and meeting the growing need of contract services and business outsourcing in Pharma and Biotechnology sectors. One of the major challenges in optimum exploration of Bioinformatics for solving life science issues is the formulation of appropriate computational biology problems that can be addressed through the IT tools. This requires adequate appreciation of the scope and strength of Bioinformatics by the biologist and basic understanding of the biological sciences by the computer and other information scientists. The solution lies in having adequate leaders with expertise both in life sciences and information technology as well as string institutional network tie-up between specialists from both the fields.

The need for Bioinformatics tools and expertise has increased as genome sequencing projects have resulted in an exponential growth of sequence databases. Data mining or Knowledge Discovery from Data (KDD) is a branch of Bioinformatics, Big data analysis for searching trends in data, helping to extract interesting, nontrivial, implicit, previously unknown and potentially useful information from data. The Biotechnology Information System Network (BTISnet) of this department has made several achievements towards Bioinformatics advancements in the country.

Aim/Objectives of the Programme

  • To provide a national bioinformation network designed to bridge the inter disciplinary gaps on Biotechnology information and establish link among scientists in organisations involved in R&D and manufacturing activities in the country.
  • To build up information resources, prepare databases on Biotechnology and to develop relevant information handling tools and techniques.
  • To continuously assess information requirements, organise creation of necessary infrastructure and to provide information and computer support services to the national community of users working in Biotechnology and allied areas.
  • To coordinate efforts to access Biotechnology information worldwide including establishing linkages with some of the international resources of Biotechnology information (e.g. Databanks on genetic materials, published literature, patents, and other information of scientific and commercial value.
  • Perform research into advanced methods of computer based information processing for analysing the structure and function of biologically important molecules.
  • To evolve and implement programmes on education of users and training of information scientists responsible for handling of Biotechnology information and its applications to Biotechnology research and development.

Outcome of last three years

No. of Publications- 1280

No. of patents filed/granted - 56

No. of manpower trained- 8998

Major facilities/Programmes supported/created:

  • Indian Biological Data Centre (IBDC)
  • Biotechnology Information System Network (BTISNet)
  • MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative
  • Indo-Japan DAICENTER Programme
  • DBT Apex BTIC
  • North Western Himalayan Bioinformatics Grid

Biotechnology Information System Network (BTISNet):

Department of Biotechnology has supported Biotechnology Information System Network (BTISNet) for more than three decades. The entire network has emerged as a very sophisticated scientific infrastructure for Bioinformatics involving state-of-the-art computational and communication facilities. Under this programme more than150 Bioinformatics Centres were established in various Universities and Research Institutions spread across the country. The network centres were at various levels viz Centres of Excellence (CoEs), Distributed Information Centres (DICs), Distributed Information Sub-Centres (Sub-DICs) and Bioinformatics Infrastructure Facilities (BIFs).

However, due to paradigm shift in information technology and biological research due to generation of large scale biological data by high-throughput platforms particularly with the advent of cost effective next generation sequencing platforms, DBT has revamped thisBTISNet for establishment of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Centres involving data driven research, applications of artificial intelligence, machine learning, high-throughput data related informatics etc. in various sectors of life sciences. This revamping of BTISNet of DBT has been planned with a focused attempt to engage best expertise in network mode in development of advanced computational tools and technologies from various institutions in NNPs in various areas of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology; apart from the core theme of the centre.

Bioinformatics

Figure.1: Distribution of DBT supported BTISNet

DBT Apex BTIC, ICGEB, New Delhi:

DBT Apex Biotechnology Information Centre (BTIC) is a centre of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) located at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi. The primary objective of centre is to assist DBT in the coordination with Biotechnology Information System Network (BTISNet) centres situated across India. DBT Apex staff has developed software to monitor the progress of BTISNet centres by DBT and thus, help in the decision making about the future funding and directions of research and development in Bioinformatics. To ensure the continuous functionality and regular updation of all the resources developed by BTISNet centres (through DBT funding), these resources are being hosted at a centralized server (at DBT Apex, ICGEB, New Delhi) by the DBT Apex BTIC staff. Also, the centre staff holds the responsibility to update the BTISNet coordinators and staff about the recent technologies in Bioinformatics research through regular workshops. The Apex BTIC also develops software for measureing the performace indicators of various DBT initiatives, for example NidanKendras and Unique Methods of Management and treatment of Inherited Disorders, or UMMID project. Scientists at the Apex BTIC are also participates in various bioinformatics related research activities. DBT Apex BTIC staff members are also involved in public outreach activities by delivering lectures at various institutes, universities, school, and by arranging students and faculties (from outside) visits.

Indian Biological Data Centre (Pilot Phase)

A wealth of information, representing scientific disciplines in the healthcare, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, microbiomes, protein structures, natural compounds, agriculture and population genetics, is being generated in India. However, in the absence of any central data repository for national biotechnology data, both sharing and data-dependent research are restricted. Therefore, it is imperative that India puts the right infrastructure to store, manage, archive and distribute all biological data (Figure 2). DBT is in process of establishing Indian Biological Data Centre (IBDC) for deposition, storage, annotation and sharing of biological data generated in the country through extensive funding from various Government Organizations. However, initially to access the modalities and assessing the amount of data generated and developing methodologies, standards, procedures, SoPs, required formats, terms and conditions of data deposition etc., department is supporting pilot phase-I proposal for setting up Indian Biological Data Centre for a period of two years.

Bioinformatics

Figure 2: Impact of “Indian Biological Data Centre”

R&D in Bioinformatics

The Department is supporting many conceptualized project proposals for carrying out research in the field of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. It has been witnessed that the generation of primary data have increased in the country with the support of several Government Departments like DBT. Sharing a wide range of large scale data advances the understanding of the molecular and biological processes thus contributing to human health on agriculture, animal husbandry, fundamental research and thus will extend to societal benefits. Some of the major projects being supported by the Department in terms of scientific utility and data advancement are highlighted below:

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) aims to mimic human cognitive functions. It is bringing a paradigm shift to healthcare, powered by increasing availability of healthcare data and rapid progress of analytics techniques. Considering the importance of AI, a call for proposal on Artificial Intelligence Applications for Affordable and Accessible Healthcare - Big Data and Genomics was issued. Projects are being supported in the areas of cancer, tuberculosis and pulmonary diseases, diabetic & cardiovascular diseases, ophthalmological diseases, neurological disorders and methods/ drug development. A project on Imaging BioBank for Cancer is also being supported at Tata Memorial Centre Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (TMC-ACTREC), Mumbai, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay & Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre (RGCIRC), a Unit of Indraprastha Cancer Research Society, Delhi with an intent to develop AI tools and database for advance research in cancer and will also be aimed at cancer diagnosis/ prognosis and cancer care (Figure-3).

Bioinformatics

Figure 3: Imaging BioBank for Cancer

Manav: Human Atlas Initiative Programme:

Department has supported ‘”MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative programme” for construction of world’s most comprehensive human atlas till date by assimilating all the known macro-level and micro-level information from scientific literature and public databases (Figure-4). The proposed human map refers to a computational representation, which will provide knowledge in holistic fashion from inter-organ dependencies to intra-organ, tissue level, cell and sub-cellular level biological reactions. MANAV can serve as analogous to the 'human reference genome’ and will have applications such as patient-specific support for medical/treatment decisions, understanding of pre-clinical and clinical assessment of healthcare products and personal health forecasting. MANAV will also help to identify gaps in the current biological knowledge. A pan-country initiative are being organized to reach out to student community through various approaches viz. science festivals (India International Science Festival, Kolkata and India Science Festival, Pune), institutional visits (college-DBT Star Colleges/universities/ medical colleges), beta testing workshops, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn) and mass communication (Newspaper and television). So far, 1708 students, 64 faculty and 61 reviewers have been enrolled across 58 cities in 20 states of India. On boarding of educational institution associated with UGC and AICTE has also been initiated. For more details, please visit Manav webpage: https://manav.gov.in/

Bioinformatics

Figure-4: MANAV: Development of most comprehensive and integrated human map from scientific literature & databases

Indo-Japan DAICENTER Programme

Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) Japan, have initiated a programme ‘DBT-AIST International Centre for Translational and Environment Research (DAICENTER)’. The DAICENTER was established at AIST, Japan, Tsukuba Campus and conducting advanced biomedicine, translational and environmental research in collaboration with Indian Research Institutions IIT, Delhi, RCB, Faridabad, Sikkim University, Sikkim and IIT, Guwahati.

 

Salient Objectives of the Project are:

  1. BIG DATA analytics for cancer and traditional home medicine - Bioinformatics, molecular dynamics and computational analyses for protein targets for anticancer activity of selected components from Ashwagandha and honeybee propolis.
  2. Development of NEW (Natural Efficient and Welfare) cancer preventive and therapeutic drugs-Molecular studies on anti-stress, anticancer activities using cell culture models: Validation of the selected compounds, targets and their mechanism of action as predicted by bioinformatics and library screening assays.
  3. Focus on improving quality of life of patients and elderly populations by new diagnostics – Molecular interventional studies with special focus on hypoxia, neurodegeneration and viral infections.
    1. Screening for new hypoxia- and neurodifferentiation- modulating compounds by screening and validation in cell culture and small animal models.
    2. Functional characterization of ethnic fermented food from North-East region of India with focus on search of new compounds with functional food potentials
    3. Screening and identification of natural inhibitors of Chikungunya virus by unique cell culture-based assays.
  4. Integration of strengths from India and Japan to develop future Open Innovation HUB for research and training on highly united bioinformatics & biotechnologies for next generation bio-diagnostics and biomedicine.

North Western Himalayan Bioinformatics Grid

This is unique project for development of Bioinformatics tools and databases for data mining and annotation of ecologically and economically important resources of Himalayan region. The project has three major Objectives:

  1. Sequencing and re-sequencing of adopted Amaranth genotypes for identification of hidden superiority and values in the important genomic resources of Himalayan region.
  2. Identification and mining of available genomic resources of medicinally important plant Kasni (Chicory intybus) from Uttarakhand hills by sequencing and resequencing approach.
  3. Comparative genome sequencing for identification of valuable genes in indigenous Badri cow (Hill cattle) of Uttarakhand.

DeLCON:

The DBT’s Electronic Library Consortium (DeLCON) is a significant initiative of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt. of India, to enhance information resources in its research Institution. It was launched in January, 2009 with the ten DBT member-Institutions with large number prominent handpicked online journals. It is a topical endeavor for providing access to scholarly electronic resources including full-text and bibliographic databases in all the life science subject disciplines to the DBT Institutional community across the country. It facilitates access to high quality e-resources to research Institutions to enhance research, teaching and learning.

DeLCON provides current as well as archival access to more than 1000+ core peer-reviewed Biology and Biotechnology journals and a bibliographic database (SCOPUS) in different disciplines from 22 overseas publishers and aggregators. Presently there are 35 member institutes in this consortium.The Faculties, Scientists, Research Scholars, Students and Project Assistants of Institutions covered under DeLCON are the primary beneficiaries. DBT sponsors the entire expenses for DBT organizations for providing e-Journals access through 'DeLCON Consortium'. This consortium has given value addition to the member scientific institutions in terms of access to more number of journals and saving of time as compared to the print version. 

For more details log on to http://www.delcon.gov.in.

Concerned Officer for more information

Programme HeadDr. Suchita Ninawe,Scientist G
Emailsninawe[at]dbt[dot]nic[dot]in
Phone No.011-24363722
Programme Scientist Dr. Shahaj Uddin Ahmed, Scientist 'E'
Emailshahaj[dot]ahmed[at]nic[dot]in
Phone No.011-24364065
Attached Scientist Dr. Richi V Mahajan, Scientist 'C’
Emailrv[dot]mahajan[at]dbt[dot]nic[dot]in
Phone No.011-24360295/td>