The Indian Institute of Chemical Biology conducts basic research on infectious diseases, and develops technologies for diagnosis.

This is an age where the boundaries of different disciplines in science fade away, rendering science as a monolith. This does not in anyway bring down the significance of specialisation, even in microscopic areas of scientific knowledge.

There were times when phrases like chemical biology were not considered fashionable. But we had an institution that was to bear that as part of its name long back. The Institute of Medical Research, which was established in 1935, carried the name till 1956. It was renamed as the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology. It works under the aegis of CSIR. The Institute is “poised to make an impact in understanding the chemistry of life, finally removing the veil of mystery around the life.” The spin-offs are bound to have a major impact on the health scenario of our country (Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB), 4, Raja S.C. Mullick Road, Kolkata-700 032; Web site: www.iicb.res.in ).

IICB is engaged in research on diseases of national importance. It keeps step with global trends in life science research. The key factor in the work of the institute is its multidisciplinary concerted efforts.

It maintains expertise in a wide variety of areas like chemistry, biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, neurobiology, and immunology. Among other things, it conducts basic research on infectious diseases, and develops technologies for diagnosis, immuno-prophylaxis, and chemotherapy. Focused studies are made in gastric hyperacidity and ulcer, muscular dystrophy and related disorders, development of targeted drug delivery systems, sperm biology, protein chemistry, and enzymology. The institute has developed an oral vaccine for cholera, herbal products for controlling gastric ulcer, a device for early detection of Parkinson's disease, and empirical treatment for vitiligo (a skin disorder manifested by smooth white spots).

R&D divisions

For the sake of convenience research work in the institute is divided into seven divisions.

Cell Biology and Physiology

Chemistry

Molecular & Human Genetics

Infectious Diseases and Immunology

Structural Biology and Bioinformatics

Drug Development / Diagnostics & Biotechnology

Cancer Biology and Immunology

Cell Biology and Physiology Division

This division deals with systems and cell biology. Major interests are in the area of neurological diseases, reproductive physiology, cardiac hypertrophy, diabetes and certain metabolic and parasitic diseases.

The endocrinology section investigates mechanisms of cardiac dysfunction. Molecular mechanism of insulin resistance and defects in insulin signalling in diabetes type 2 are also studied. The reproductive biology section deals with biochemical basis of sperm motility, reproductive malfunctions, and development of a contraceptive modality with anti-HIV hallmark. The causes, manifestation, and management of anaemia are also studied in this division.

Chemistry division

The chemistry division aims at the study of chemical and biological problems embracing discovery of new molecules from plants and development of synthetic strategies for complex molecules. There are studies on nanoscopic materials and reactions, and biophysical study of the interaction of biological macromolecules. Further, the division plays a creative role in the development of drugs and other important bio-molecules through active collaboration with industrial and institutional partners.

Some of the other objectives are indicated below:

Developing and commercialising herbal medicines and other bioactive molecules.

Synthesising heterocyclic compounds for screening biological activities.

Designing and synthesising anti-cancer and antimicrobial agents.

Studying nanoscopic materials such as stabilised nanoparticles and nanofibers.

Molecular and human genetics division

The division aims at understanding the molecular genetic basis of diseases common in Indian populations. Efforts are made for developing transgenic plants with improved characteristics. Other studies include identifying tumour suppressor genes involved in the development of head and neck cancer; understanding the molecular genetics of haemophilia, glaucoma,

Wilson's disease (genetic disorder involving copper accumulation in tissues), and albinism assessing the health effects, genetic damage and genetic variants in populations exposed to arsenic through drinking water.

Infectious diseases and immunology division

The emergence of drug-resistant newer clones has complicated the health problems caused by infectious diseases. Controlling or eradicating infectious diseases are a significant component of the international health agenda. IICB has several research programmes with this in mind. Some of the strategies employed are:

Prevention of host-parasite interaction

Identification of new trans-membrane proteins

Development of therapeutic agents derived from indigenous plants

Development of vaccines and diagnostics