NEW DELHI: The Central government has announced a Rs.100-crore special grant to the Thiruvananthapuram-based Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) which was taken over by the Department of Biotechnology on April 1, 2007. The money is to be spent over three years. Orders have been issued to release Rs.25 crore this year as the first instalment.
The announcement was made by Union Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal at a conference of State Science and Technology Ministers here on Monday.
G. Mahadevan adds from Thiruvananthapuram:
RGCB Director Radhakrishna Pillai told The Hindu that the grant was a recognition to the institution’s efforts on the biotechnology front. The fund will be used to expand its research activities and these include the setting up of specialty centres for nanosciences and engineering, cancer research, and infectious diseases biology and spices improvement through genetic engineering. There will also be an incubation facility for start-up biotech industries. “The sanctioning of this large a grant for the centre has enormous implications for Kerala as we now plan to do research on cancer and on infectious diseases such as chikungunya,” he said.
The RGCB has requested the Kerala government to provide 50 acres of land for setting up a second campus. It has identified two sites: one at Vithura, close to the land allocated to the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (ISER) and another one at the cashew plantations near the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) complex at Valiamala.
“The RGCB also plans to set up a comprehensive animal research facility, a Bio-safety Level 3, and BSL-4 facility on the new campus,” Dr. Pillai added.
While the proposed specialty centre on infectious diseases will focus on development of vaccine candidates for dengue and chikungunya, among others, the centre for spice genomics will seek to develop stress-resistant ginger, pepper and cardamom and will prospect for disease-resistant and stress-resistant genes. The specialty centre for nanoscience will work on developing quantum dots-based diagnostics for cancer, infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases and on developing nanodrug delivery systems.