The second episode of ‘Talk Biotech on Wednesday’, held on February 29, 2012, was healthy discussion session and real help in understanding the benefits, difficulties and possibilities of use of biotechnology in the medical and public health sector . This episode was focused on the biomedical research, taking into account, the interest of participants of our previous episode.
Dr. Sameer Mani Dixit is a known personality in the public health and research sector,he has been working actively in the public health sector and is involved in various research activities through his organization, Center for Molecular Dynamics – Nepal (CMDN). Dr. Dixit is the Country Director at CMDN and the Founder member of Nepal Biotechnology Association (NBA). He is one of the few academicians who chose Nepal as their permanent work place and help put light unto medical research activities for better future opportunities, here in Nepal. Despite all odds, he, along with his other team members are able to stand out as one of the pioneers in establishing privately owned advanced research facility in Nepal.
Taking his hardships into consideration, he encouraged students to push their ideas forward and involve actively to rectify conventional concepts of people, medical personnel and education institutions for betterment of biomedical research in Nepal. He talked about the benefits of biomedical research in proper surveillance and identification of various diseases.
Though number of people die from diarrheal outbreak and various “unknown” diseases; there has not been any regular assessment of diseases prevalent in Nepal. Sadly, we have not been able to trace out the spread pattern and prevalence of these epidemic diseases. Biomedical research can help to obtain information on status of public health, which in future can assist in tracing the history of any disease. This opens a new platform for biotechnologists, biochemists, microbiologists and researchers to implement their ideas to develop new tools and data and create research based job opportunity for themselves along with the future graduates in the field.
He shared, “Though medical research is also the responsibility of the medical institutions, who also claim to be research centers, tag is only limited to their names so far. Also, instead of making a ‘clever’ use of free resources like samples from patients and labor (medical students), medical schools in Nepal are settled only in the clinical aspect. Biomedical research is not a focal area for medical institutions yet, it is not prioritized due to a lack of vision, self confidence and knowledge. The outbreaks and new ‘clinical’ cases are not studied for ‘the crack of information’, rather they remain ‘unknown’ and many people lose their valuable life just because of the ignorance and wrong prescription to the ‘still-to-be-known’ cases of diseases.” “Our problem lies in not being able to know our diseases which is the major requirement before looking out for medication as we lack in action to find out about them,” he said.
Few research works are being conducted for infectious diseases like HBV, HCV, HIV, Syphilis, Tuberculosis; cervical cancer in women as a joint venture of various national and international NGOs. There are also industries and institutes involved in the research and commercial production of monoclonal Ab’s, extraction and purification of natural products. The Government of Nepal is also supporting research in public health and a few other sectors to address the need of general public, it helps to provide the required permissions when needed and some funding for the research. Though it was a challenge to aware the concerned authorities about importance of biomedical research, with time, improved perspective towards biomedical research are seen. This is encouraging for all the students and researchers who are interested to conduct biomedical or any other research works.
Nepal because of its diversified topography and habitat has been a victim of wide variety of diseases and infections. The problem is elevating, more complicated and unidentified diseases are affecting the population. The only solution to finding exact cause, preventive methods and cure to these can be finding out the prevalence, infection pattern and behavior of disease, which is possible only through proper field based biomedical research.
Dr. Dixit also mentioned some interesting biomedical facts about diseases in Nepal, discussed the loop holes in national system and ways to improve it. He suggested students to be a part of scientific community and move together to disseminate and implement the research ideas. He also encouraged students to start up with something new themselves as entrepreneurs and help introduce new technology in the country.
Q. Why are existing companies based on research only, but not production?
Research is for information and knowledge, we can not go for production until we know our diseases. If a kit has to be developed then it is important to find out all the possible causes, prevalence and pattern of the disease, the study is important to make a reliable technology and it requires a proper research and observation for years. Companies in Nepal are new, therefore they are exploring their opportunities at present, after proper findings they will move towards production as well. Besides, there are biotech companies which are only product based such as Everest Biotech, which produces antibodies; Supra Inventica, R&D unit of Deurali Janata Pharmaceuticals, is also working on isolation and production of natural products.
Q. Your organization, Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal (CMDN) worked on prevalence of HIV in street children in 2010, will this kind of survey continue in 2012 or was it just once?
The project in 2010 for HIV prevalence in street children was conducted in collaboration with UNICEF. The result is going to be published very soon. Currently, we are waiting for feedback after its publication, so we can plan for such kind of surveillance projects in coming days too.