Biotechnology & Bio-Systems Engineering

Research in Biosystems Engineering is primarily focused on five themes, namely, (i) Disease and Health, (ii) Biomaterials, (iii) Development of Tools for Bioengineering, (iv) Bioenergy,  and (v) Data/Systems Analysis. In the area of disease and health, our research focuses on understanding signaling pathways in cancer, whole body human metabolism towards  disease characterization, cell culture engineering, study of cellular migration in responses to multiple cues, and antibiotic resistance and stress response in pathogens. In the area of biomaterials, the group has been focusing on development and characterization of nano-structured materials, their structure and their applications to health care and manufacturing  processes. Particular areas of interest include: (a) micro-devices for cardiac use, (b) nano-composites for dental use, (c) drug delivery with nano-particles, (d) nano-structured hollow  particles for dialysis, (e) stem-cell bioreactors and scaffolds, and (f) nanoparticles in alternate and traditional medicine. Work in the area of cell engineering and drug delivery focuses on  measuring bio-membrane properties, liposomal drug delivery systems and stem cell expansion. A group of faculty are working towards development of tools to facilitate use of  microorganisms as a platform for use as cell factories – these include design and characterization of cellular components to control transcription and translation. In the area of bioenergy,  the group is working towards development of bacterial and algal strains and tools to yield high value chemicals and biofuels. Finally, in the area of Data/Systems Analysis, a group of  faculty are working towards analysis and integration of large amounts of data generated from cells, and use a systems perspective to better understand the design principles employed by biological systems and organisms.

Sub Research areas

Multitask machine learning and feature selection for biomarker discovery from big biological data.

Proteins and metabolites, the new class of biomarkers are expected to bring a paradigm shift in the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of human disease and will make personalized medicine a reality in near future.  Moreover, the next generation biomarkers are likely to be based on the inference drawn from multiple metabolite or protein molecules rather than single measurements such as the blood glucose level that is currently used for the diagnosis of diabetes.

Synthetic biology and metabolic engineering of cyanobacteria

Cyanobacteria or blue-green algae are a group of prokaryotes well known for their ability to carry out oxygenic photosynthesis. These photoautotrophs show greater photosynthetic efficiency, simpler genetic structures and faster growth compared to terrestrial plants and green algae.  Moreover, cyanobacteria can be engineered genetically and can grow on non-arable land, waste-water and seawater.  These properties make cyanobacteria an interesting host for biotechnological applications.

Human metabolomics for precision medicine.

Metabolomics, or the study of all cellular metabolites, promises to be a new cornerstone in disease diagnosis and precision medicine.  Several recent reports demonstrate that metabolite profiles are excellent indicators of the health status of individuals.  In addition, metabolomics monitoring is likely to be included in the clinical trials on a routine basis.  Most of these reports are with Caucasian patients with almost no data available for the Indian population.  Furthermore, the field of metabolomics is not nearly as developed as proteomics or transcriptom

Pancreas on a chip to understand nanoparticle mediated drug delivery for killing of pancreatic cancer-cells

Pancreatic cancer is one of the cancers having the lowest 5-year survival rate, because of its late diagnosis and availability of only a couple of known drugs with very moderate increase in patient’s survival. Based on our earlier work, we have shown that, nanoparticle mediated delivery of existing drugs can enhance the cytotoxicity in cancer cells.

Developing improved CHO host cells for production of monoclonal antibodies

Recombinant proteins such as monoclonal antibodies form a major part of the therapeutics used to treat various diseases. Mammalian cells, specifically CHO cells, are preferred as hosts for the production of recombinant therapeutics due to their ability to post-translationally modify and secrete functionally active proteins. In this project, we aim to develop a CHO host cell that is engineered to enhance its protein secretion capacity to improve the productivity of recombinant proteins. 

Tracking emergence of resistance in Mycobacteria.

Evolution of Mycobacteria smegmatis, a model organism for understanding drug-resistant Tb, consistently results in mutations in a regulatory gene. Interestingly, the mutations are at different locations of the gene. In this project, we will track the emergence of these mutations in a population of bacteria subject to various antibiotic pressures.