What the DBT is about
The Department of Biotechnology.
It is important that we keep in mind that the DBT is part of the Ministry of Science and Technology. Therefore, it is natural that all that we do and try is built on developing a strong foundation and capacity in the Life Sciences. A broad and deep capacity for research in the fundamentals of all of biology ensures that we can grasp new opportunities be they in basic science or it applications.
Today’s possibilities of applications in agriculture, health, energy, biotech all come from yesterday’s investment in basic science. If we are to be truly innovative in applications for our societies, we must develop a culture of fundamental research where we define and work on problems that are truly cutting-edge. Otherwise, we will constantly be borrowing or buying the fruits of basic research done elsewhere. This route, of building on the investment of richer societies in basic research, may be an option if our goal in science is to be a vendor of services, but is a shortsighted option even here. If we are to cater to the legitimate demands of our society, developing our foundations and contributing our share to the world’s intellectual growth, as we interact and collaborate, is the only route. Future posts will elaborate on DBT’s substantial investments in basic biology in a whole range of ways.
Starting by stressing the importance of investment in basic science is not to say that quality applied-research or applications of science and technology will magically happen. Quite the opposite. A vaccine or a drug against a disease that is relevant to the developing world cannot be bought off the shelf. Neglecting to think and act towards developing and applying technology to sustainable agriculture or new bio-fuels or cheaper drugs, is suicidal. If the science to embark on such projects is available now, we must embark on them speedily. These adventures are no less exciting and no less exacting than basic science. Indeed, the requirements of taking the route to seeing your research used places extraordinary demands that those of us in blue-sky research environments often do not appreciate. Here too, the DBT has the whole range of exciting programs that future posts will address. While these posts on the specifics of what we are doing in basic and applied life sciences and biotechnology appear soon, your comments on what aspects of basic and applied-science India should invest and how we should go about it will be much appreciated.