Biological 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

Topic 3 : Metabolic engineering of heterotrophic bacteria (Sugar to chemicals).

-  After the biofuel revolution, there is a need to develop robust technologies for the conversion of sugars to value-added chemicals.

-  The pathway typically involves 3-5 new genes and may additionally require knocking out of a few genes.

Topic 2 : Synthetic biology and metabolic engineering of cyanobacteria (CO2 to chemicals).

-  Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic prokaryotes.

-  We have isolated fast-growing and robust cyanobacteria from Powai lake.

-  We are developing these cyanobacteria as hosts for metabolic engineering.  This involves:

Topic 1 : Global metabolomics to identify markers for pre-diabetes and severity markers for diabetes.

- Diabetes develops over a period of 2-5 years.  Patients benefit immensely if they get a warning sign during this period.

Once developed, diabetes may result in complications.  Currently, available markers do not talk about the severity of the disease.

Development of polymeric implant for nanoparticle mediated drug delivery in pancreatic cancer

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.