29 Feb

India and Edinburgh – a shared genetic research future?

By Prof Bruce Whitelaw, The Roslin Institute, the University of Edinburgh

Bruce Whitelaw

Following my participation in the excellent brain-storming workshop on Transgenic Livestock, in Bengaluru, organised by the Indian Government’s Department of Biotechnology’s (DBT) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), I attended the Association for the Promotion of DNA FingerPrinting and other DNA Technologies (ADNAT) sponsored MICROHD2016. I am participating in the 19th ADNAT Convention, as I am a member of the Indian ADNAT Society, a linkage facilitated by Dr Satish Kumar who is both the General Secretary of ADNAT and a proud alumnus of the University and Edinburgh.

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This convention was held at the National Institute of Animal Nutrition and Physiology (NIANP) in Bengaluru and therefore gave me the pleasant opportunity to meet again Dr Raghavendra Bhatta, the Director of NIANP. As part of ICAR, NIANP gives India a huge capability across the whole agricultural sector. This sector literally sustains India – and is also the basis for much of Indian life and culture. Agriculture in India is extremely diverse, representing a massive opportunity for genetic science. The University of Edinburgh is very strong in this discipline and it is not surprising that we has such strong relationships with our Indian colleagues across the agricultural and veterinary sciences. This interaction focuses through The Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Sciences at the University’s Easter Bush Campus.

This is the fourth ADNAT Convention I have attended and it was as illuminating as ever, being wonderfully organised by Drs Arindam Dhali and Atul Kolte. This excellent conference focused on the microbiome and the impact that next generation sequencing (NGS) is likely to make. The sequencing revolution is not passing India by and, importantly, India is poised to take a lead role in utilising this technology.

It is timely for significant advances in overall agricultural productively in India. More and more technologies are becoming available and I sense a real enthusiasm to embrace new tools and strategies to maintain food security in this big country. I see huge opportunities here – both academic and commercial. I strongly believe that we at the University of Edinburgh can make valuable contributions to and be part of this growth, through scientific collaboration, training of students and entrepreneurship.

As I return back to wintry Edinburgh, my mind is full of the opportunities that exist in India.