Job openings in Curadev Pharma

Curadev Pharma Pvt. Ltd. is one of India’s fastest emerging pre-clinical research organization located in the Delhi NCR region focused on small molecule drug discovery. We have recently out-licensed one of our advanced assets to a global pharmaceutical company and leader in oncology research.

Curadev is seeking talented scientists for the following positions:

A. Organic/Synthetic Chemist

Qualifications: M.Pharma/M.Sc./Ph.D. with 0-5 years of experience in synthetic organic chemistry

The ideal candidate will have exposure to laboratory experimentation and a strong foundation in synthetic organic chemistry and will be expected to synthesize novel molecules often without literature precedent. The position will also require collation and analysis of experimental data, documentation and literature surveys.

B. In vitro Biologists

Qualifications: M.S.c/M.Tech with 0-5 years of experience in any discipline of the biological science

The ideal candidate will have exposure to laboratory experimentation and a strong foundation in biochemistry and cell biology to execute drug discovery projects. The position will also require collation and analysis of experimental data, documentation and literature surveys.

C. Pharmacologists and Toxicologists

Qualifications: M.V.Sc./M.Pharma with 0-5 years of experience

The ideal candidate will have exposure to work on the development of therapeutic agents using animal models, cell culture and rodent pharmacokinetics. Substantial experience in animal handling is a pre-requisite.

Interested candidates should forward their latest resume to hr@curadev.in.

Check https://curadev.in/ for more details.

Job opening in Biocon

Biocon is hiring for Senior Scientist for Analytical Method Development (Novel Biologics).

Experience: 3+ years of industry experience with Biologics.

Qualification: MSc/MTech in Biotech/Biochemistry/ Microbiology/Chemical engineering.

If you are interested, please share your updated resume to Amrita Ganguly on Linkedin.

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/gangulyamrita_biotech-biotechnology-lifesciences-activity-6722849993226633216-aTRH

A new B.Tech program in Biomedical Engineering from IIT Hyderabad

IIT Hyderabad has announced a new B. Tech. program in Biomedical Engineering. This will be a unique program that trains engineers in next generation healthcare technologies and prepare them to work at the frontiers of healthcare innovation in the deep-tech industry or academia.

As an IITH Biomedical engineer one can expect to be trained to design medical devices, develop 3D tissue imagers, crunch mountains of healthcare data, recognize patterns in health and disease, simulate and predict spread of epidemics, create in-silico brain-spinal systems, move prosthetics with thoughts, 3D print a cornea, bone or skin, develop nanoparticles to fight tumors or burn them down with ultrasound, design implants, regenerate organs from stem cells, create bio sensors on a chip, model impact on body, craft algorithms that mimic our body and brain and much more.

The curriculum of the program is designed around 4 verticals – bio-imaging/sensing, biomechanics, bio-materials & bio-intelligence / AI. They rest on a single horizontal – core training in physiology, anatomy, systems science, mathematics, circuits, instrumentation, mechanics and algorithms. In designing the curriculum, the successful Master’s program in Biomedical Engineering provided the basis, and the depth of our research and industry collaborations.

The X-factor in this novel program is an advanced module on medical product design, entrepreneurship, regulatory affairs and clinical immersion, that brings in a core product design and development focus. A lot of these are the result of learnings from the Center for Healthcare Entrepreneurship which is being run by the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The alumni of Biomedical Engineering department of IIT Hyderabad are spread around the globe in the best of healthcare technology companies and at leading research labs. To explore more, visit https://bme.iith.ac.in/assets/pages/btech.html.

At present, 10 faculty members from diverse backgrounds are part of BME department. Find more details here https://bme.iith.ac.in/assets/pages/faculty.html.

For further details about the program contact

Program Coordinator: mohanr@bme.iith.ac.in

Or

Head, BME renujohn@bme.iith.ac.in

Job opening in Sarsuag Enterprises

Sarsuag Enterprises is conducting a virtual recruitment drive for urgent opening in R&D.

Department: Immunology and Molecular Biology (R&D)

Qualification: B.Pharma, M.Pharma, M.Sc, B.Tech and M.Tech

Experience: 0-1 years

Location: Bangalore

Salary: Negotiable

Job Description: Molecular cloning, Cell culture, ELISA assay development

Employment Type: Full-time

If you are interested, please share your updated resume to: info@sarsuagenterprises.com

Check website for more details https://www.sarsuagenterprises.com/

Bio Patrika interviews Mr. Mittal on his thoughts about “Insect olfactory system”

Mr. Aarush Mohit Mittal’s interview with Bio Patrika hosting “Vigyan Patrika”, a series of author interviews. Mr. Mittal is currently a PhD student in the lab of Prof. Nitin Gupta in the department of Biological Sciences & Bioengineering at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Mr. Mittal completed his B.Tech from IIT Kanpur. He published a paper titled “Multiple network properties overcome random connectivity to enable stereotypic sensory responses” as the first author in Nature Communications journal (2020).

How would you explain your paper’s key results to the non-scientific community?

All organisms show typical behaviors in response to certain stimuli. It could be salivating in response to food, approaching a sweet-smelling flower, or fleeing from a mortal enemy. The brain controls these and all other activities that we perform. Inside our brain are millions of cells, called neurons, that connect and form neural networks, like an electrical circuit wherein different elements connect through wires. In the case of the electrical circuit, we know precisely which part connects to which other part and how they work together to, say, light a bulb; in the case of our brains, we do not. Another difference is that the neural connections that one individual has between parts might be very different from those of another individual. However, both individuals can still show the same behavior in response to the same input. How does this consistency arise despite the randomness inherent in the system? This puzzle inspired us to dig deeper into such neural networks. We used the insect olfactory circuit (the circuit that controls our sense of smell) as a model to try and answer what controls the level of similarity between individuals.

Insects have two antennae which have tiny neurons that sense the odors present in the environment. These neurons all go inside the brain to an area called antennal lobe; let’s call it layer 1.

Figure 1. Odors released from the source (rose) bind to the antennae of the flies. Fly 1 and Fly 2 have completely different connections between Layer 1 and Layer 2 neurons but can still correctly identify the odor source.

Neurons from layer 1 take the odor information, process it, and then relay their information to layer 2, which then conveys it to layer 3, and beyond. Layer 1 to layer 2 connections are random, i.e., two individuals will have very different neural connections. Layer 2 neurons, thus, respond very differently in different individuals. Despite this randomness, layer 3 neurons show very similar responses across individuals. We found that even when individual neurons of layer 2 are not consistent if we sum up the activity of this layer and compare it across individuals, it is very similar. As hundreds of layer 2 neurons connect to one layer 3 neuron, layer 3 neurons also become consistent. How?

We found that the more neurons that a neuron takes input from, i.e., the more the convergence, the better the neuron will be at differentiating between odors. Layer 3 neurons take advantage of the convergence from layer 2 neurons and thus can consistently identify and differentiate between odors. But how does the layer 2 neuron population become consistent? For two different odors, the number of active layer 1 neurons, the range of activity of each neuron, or the total activity of layer 1 is very different. Layer 2 neurons identify these differences as a whole and become consistent across individuals. Also, the more the number of layer 2 neurons that respond to odors, the more consistency there is in their responses.

Most organisms have some capacity for learning from their experiences. These experiences change the connections that we have in our brains so that we can all, say, ride a bicycle subconsciously. Insects also have some capacity for learning from their environment. An earlier study done by a group from researchers from Columbia University had shown that the consistency seen in the olfactory circuit required two different individuals to have a similar learning experience. We disprove this result as, in our model, we did not incorporate any form of learning mechanism but still got consistent responses. In fact, we show that learning makes individuals less consistent.

“[…] there is no need to for identical connectivity between layers; randomness followed by a convergence of neurons makes responses consistent across individuals.”

What are the possible consequences of these findings for your research area?

The multi-layered olfactory circuit seen in insects is very similar to the circuit that is present in mammals, including humans. Thus, it provides an excellent model not only to understand insect behaviors but also to learn about human behavior by proxy. Our results can be extrapolated to understand why everyone likes the smell of a rose or dislikes bad breath. Additionally, all neural circuits built in a similar way will follow the same principles. Random connections between neural layers are commonly seen in many species’ brains and are more prevalent the more the number of neurons there are. We show in our study that there is no need to for identical connectivity between layers; randomness followed by a convergence of neurons makes responses consistent across individuals.

What was the exciting moment (eureka moment) during your research?

One of the exciting moments was when we discovered that even if individual layer 2 neurons were not consistent, their total response was highly consistent. This discovery formed the focal point of all our subsequent insights into the system. The other exciting moment was when our theoretical computations complemented the analytical results. It strengthened the argument that our conclusions were valid for not only the insect olfactory system but also for all circuits with similar architecture.

What do you hope to do next?

Currently, we are working on expanding our knowledge of the insect olfactory circuit. By focusing on each different layer of neurons involved in odor detection, we hope to build a comprehensive map of this system’s capabilities. As the lab studies mosquitoes, we hope to use this map to engineer solutions that will help reduce the spread of diseases like dengue, malaria, etc. I am particularly interested in figuring out the basic principles of computation that drive the brain by studying how it handles multiple sensory inputs like light, sound, odors, and combines them together.

Where do you seek scientific inspiration?

In nature itself. Our brains are excellent at what they do, but how they do it is still a big mystery. We have barely scratched the surface into understanding our own minds. However, we still hope to create artificial intelligence to mimic and surpass us in the future. I believe that goal will only come to fruition once we learn what we, ourselves, are capable of. Researching the intricacies of natural neural networks and learning their secrets inspires me to keep persevering towards my goals.

How do you intend to help Indian science improve?

The work discussed above was done in collaboration with a group that had expertise in working with the fly model system, so I have first-hand experienced the importance of collaborations in the scientific process. And I feel there could be more collaborations across laboratories and institutions in India. Collaborative research facilitates faster discovery and efficient use of resources. It also promotes an environment of healthy discussion amongst peers. I would like to help set up such collaborative spaces to allow the Indian scientific community to be far more productive than we currently are.

Reference

Mittal A M, Gupta D, Singh A, Lin A C, Gupta N. Multiple network properties overcome random connectivity to enable stereotypic sensory responsesNat Commun 2020, 11: 1023.

Email: aarmit@iitk.ac.in, aarush.mohit@gmail.com

Bio Patrika interviews Mr. Duddu on his thoughts about “regulation of cell fate decisions”

Mr. Atchuta Srinivas Duddu’s interview with Bio Patrika hosting “Vigyan Patrika”, a series of author interviews. Mr. Duddu is currently a PhD student in the Cancer Systems Biology Laboratory of Dr. Mohit Kumar Jolly at the Centre for BioSystems Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Science Bangalore. Mr. Duddu completed his M. S. (ECE) from University of California San Diego and B. Tech. (Instrumentation) from IIT Kharagpur. He published a paper titled “Multi-stability in cellular differentiation enabled by a network of three mutually repressing master regulators” as the first author in Journal of the Royal Society Interface (2020).

How would you explain your paper’s key results to the non-scientific community?

Phenotype refers to any of the observable characteristics or traits of an organism. This includes traits we generally see like eye color, face structure and more, traits that may not be visible to the naked eye but measurable like biochemical and physiological properties and various behavioral traits as well. All these phenotypes are coded by genes present in our DNA. The phenotypes are not set in stone and are sometimes subject to external factors resulting in switching phenotypes. One such example is the Epithelial/Mesenchymal transitions where epithelial cells change into mesenchymal cells due to changes in its local environment or by being triggered in a signaling pathway. Regulation among genes coding the phenotypes is required for the switching to happen. Genes regulate signaling via transcription factors (TFs) and proteins. 

Apart from phenotypic switching, gene regulation is indispensable for embryonic development, as a single cell zygote divides and multiplies into a huge number of cells varying in function, structure and behavior (with different phenotypes). During the developmental process, a frequently occurring gene regulatory network for the cell fate decisions is the Toggle Switch (Figure 1A).

Figure 1. A) Toggle Switch network, two mutually repressing transcription factors B) Toggle Triad network, three mutually repressing transcription factors.

The network of mutual repression between transcription factors corresponding to the two cell fates (here A and B) results in a bistable system. The progenitor cell (the cell before committing to a fate) can result in an expression level of either {A-high, B-low} or {A-low, B-high} thus deciding its fate. We have studied a similar network, a Toggle Triad, but with the progenitor cell differentiating possibly into three primary types of cells (here A, B and C, Figure 1B). The outcome qualitatively is not as apparent as for Toggle Switch and motivated the study. Our simulations show that Toggle Triad enables tristability with the most common states being TF of one of the cell fates being expressed more relative to the other two or ‘single positive’ states i.e. {A-high, B-low, C-low} or {A-low, B-high, C-low} or {A-low, B-low, C-high}. Furthermore, three more hybrid states or ‘double-positive’ states were observed with intermediary expression levels of two of the TFs with the other expressed low especially with self-activation for the three cell fates (Figure 2). 

Figure 2. Waddington landscape for a toggle triad. Modified Waddington’s landscape to demonstrate the differentiation of three distinct ‘single positive’ states (states A, B and C), and three putative ‘double positive’ states (hybrid states A/B, A/C and C/B) from a common progenitor. These six states can be obtained from a toggle triad with/without self-activation.

We have extended the network results to the case of CD4+ helper T-cells differentiating into Th1, Th2 or Th17. Experimental investigations have already shown self-activation for Th1 and Th2 along with toggle switch behavior between them as well as the existence of hybrid Th1/Th2 and Th1/Th17 states suggesting toggle switch with self-activation behavior. Our model offers similar toggle switch connecting all three transcription factors, thus forming a toggle triad which explains the tristability of the network and persistence of hybrid states too.

“[…] model offers insights into the dynamics of cell differentiating as well as outlining principles for designing tristable systems synthetically.”

What are the possible consequences of these findings for your research area?

The model presented supports the hypothesis, mixed cellular phenotypes (hybrid states possessing characteristics of two or more cell types) are stable cellular identities with specific functional traits, and not just a transient co-expression of these lineage determining transcription factors, as seen often in common progenitor cells. Our model offers insights into the dynamics of cell differentiating as well as outlining principles for designing tristable systems synthetically. Our work paves the way for further investigation into the dynamics and principles of more gene regulatory networks and possibilities of application in the area like cellular reprogramming, the process of reverting cells into their pluripotent forms and synthetic biology, the creation or redesigning of biological devices or systems.

What was the exciting moment (eureka moment) during your research?

The first exciting moment for me was when I read the first set of papers suggested by my PI. I am from an engineering background and did not have too much of interaction with biology. These papers opened my insight to the mechanisms of genetic coding, cellular reprogramming and understanding diseases as intelligent outcomes and many related concepts. The next such moment came when I started to realize how so many mathematical concepts I have yet to learn and then apply to investigate. I did have a few more moments, and I believe that I will keep on having these moments in plenty whenever I read a new paper, learn a new mathematical method or make my code efficient.

What do you hope to do next?

The phenotypic switching has a regulation on its reversibility or irreversibility else we would see different cells continuously switching their fates, function and structure leading to pandemonium. We are planning to extend the work we have done on the Toggle Triad to include this regulation on reversibility and irreversibility. The mathematical framework is to be developed, which would improve our model and yield a better understanding of the biological scenario. We also plan on extending the model to more extensive networks to find their design principles and topological effects on the system.

Where do you seek scientific inspiration?

Reading different papers and articles, having discussions, debates and solving problems with my lab mates and friends and learning in the process are what drive me and inspire me to continue my research. I like the everyday life that I have right now, and it allows me to keep a good perspective on my career.

How do you intend to help Indian science improve?

I do not know how I can directly do that right now. I think focusing on my research work and completing my PhD would be a step towards contributing to science. I believe active participation in increasing science discussion and awareness in my personal and professional community is how I will be contributing to Indian science. I am an artist and am currently exploring scientific illustration. I think art as a tool would help me towards this goal.

Reference

Duddu AS, Sahoo S, Hati S, Jhunjhunwala S, Jolly MK. Multi-stability in cellular differentiation enabled by a network of three mutually repressing master regulators. J. R. Soc. Interface 2020, 17: 20200631.

Email: atchutaduddu@iisc.ac.in

Job opening in Shilps Sciences

Shilps Sciences is a venture funded deep science company in the Biotechnology space that has developed a microfluidic Single Cell Platform for drug discovery and development. Our proprietary high throughput Nano-Bioreactors on a Chip helps our clients analyze single cells for various therapeutic applications, including Monoclonal antibody production and T Cell Therapy.

We are looking for someone with strong background in Cell based assays. Hands on experience on mammalian cell culture and immune assay development is required for this role. A sound theoretical foundation in cell biology, coupled with exposure to application areas like immunology, proteomics, cancer biology, molecular biology and microbiology would be a big plus.

Designation: Scientist – Biology Applications

Job Location: Bangalore

Educational Qualification and minimal requirements

  • Master or Ph.D. in relevant field with 2+ years of experience.
  • Professional laboratory experience with a deep understanding of laboratory applications.
  • Hands on experience of cell-based assays and mammalian cell culture,
  • Scientific writing and strong communication skills is essential.
  • Exposure to characterization techniques like ELISA, multicolour flowcytometry (FACS) and Fluorescent Microscopy is useful.
  • Exposure to cell therapy, antibody discovery, gene editing (CRISPR) and recombinant proteins expression is an advantage.

Key responsibilities

  • Work with microfluidics engineering team and get a strong grounding in our technology.
  • Set up protocols for conducting various single cell studies in conjunction with various team members and external partners.
  • Demonstration and proof of concept studies along with troubleshooting, data analysis and interpretation.
  • Designing and running single cell based assays for applications that the company is pursuing (antibody discovery, cell therapy).
  • Creation of technical documents and application notes, and contribution to scientific publications, project reports & presentations.

If you are interested, please share your updated resume to careers@shilpssciences.com.

Contact +91-81972 46248 for more details.

Website: http://shilpsciences.com/

Bio Patrika interviews Dr. Sharma on his thoughts about “CRISPR/CAS9 and regulation of flavonoid biosynthesis in plants”

Mr. Ashish Sharma’s interview with Bio Patrika hosting “Vigyan Patrika”, a series of author interviews. Mr. Sharma is currently working as CSIR-Senior Research Fellow at CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. He has completed his PhD under the supervision of Dr. Prabodh Kumar Trivedi, the Director, CSIR-Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Lucknow and is waiting to defend his thesis. Mr. Sharma published paper titled “Primary transcript of miR858 encodes regulatory peptide and controls flavonoid biosynthesis and development in Arabidopsis” as the first author in Nature Plants journal (2020).

How would you explain your paper’s key results to the non-scientific community?

Our research published in Nature Plants reports the identification and functional characterization of microRNA encoding peptide (miPEP858a) in model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Besides, this study also demonstrated the possibility of using CRISPR/Cas9 as an innovative tool for the functional analysis of single members of miRNA families in plants. These peptides have significant potential to control flavonoid biosynthesis. Flavonoids are a class of ubiquitous plant secondary metabolites with numerous health-promoting properties including anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activities. These are the vital components of the human diet.

“[…] CRISPR/Cas9 as an innovative tool for the functional analysis of single members of miRNA families in plants.”

Nobel Prize 2020 in Chemistry for the Discovery of ‘Genetic Scissors’ called CRISPR/Cas9 awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna.

To explore the detailed role of these peptides in plants, we generated mutant plants defective in miPEP858a along with mutants of both the members of miR858 family through the CRISPR/Cas9 approach. Interestingly, hindering miR858a activity by editing miPEP858a resulted in the up-regulation of genes involved in flavonoid (flavonols and anthocyanins) biosynthesis at the cost of lignin production.

We also developed transgenic lines overexpressing miPEP858a, which elucidated that this peptide also promotes plant growth and development in association with auxin. We performed complementation studies using synthetic miPEP858a peptide to gain a more in-depth insight into its function. Exogenous application of this peptide to miPEP mutant plants was able to complement the lost function and rescue the growth phenotypes of the peptide, confirming its vital role in regulating miR858a expression. This study adds a new layer of regulation of miRNA and confirms the role of miPEPs in plant growth and development.

Biogenesis of miPEP. Schematic representation of biogenesis of miPEP, miRNA gene transcribed by RNA pol II to form pri-miRNA, which is subsequently processed to form the mature miRNA. A part of pri-miRNA which have functional ORF, encodes small peptide known as microRNA-encoded peptide (miPEP), which increases the transcription of miRNA gene.

What are the possible consequences of these findings for your research area?

Till recently, the biological roles of miRNAs were explained either by over-expressing the miRNA under the control of a strong promoter like CaMV35S or through down-regulating/sequester the miRNA with RNAi/target mimicry approach and studying the phenotypic and molecular analysis of these transgenic plants.

As miPEPs are anticipated to be functional only in cells where the specific encoding miRNA is expressed, this would avoid non-specific phenotypes associated with ectopic expression of miRNAs, which is one of the major disadvantages of the approaches mentioned above. Thus, the application of synthetic miPEPs or their transgenic overexpression will help in functional analysis of individual members of the miRNA families.

The findings of our study also suggest that the exogenous application of miPEPs can evade the tedious and complicated procedures involved in the production of transgenic plants and is also easy to implement. The possibility to use miPEPs in exogenous treatments owing to their specificity provides a new and powerful tool to study the role of miRNAs and can significantly modulate key plant developmental processes with high agronomical important crops like rice, wheat, maize and tomato etc. These findings provide an additional layer of miRNA regulation.

“[…] the exogenous application of miPEPs can evade the tedious and complicated procedures involved in the production of transgenic plants and is also easy to implement.”

What was the exciting moment (eureka moment) during your research?

Establishment of CRISPR/Cas9 in the lab by mutating AtPDS gene (a carotenoid pathway gene), which upon successful editing displayed striking albino phenotype in leaf and over-all plant, that for me was the most exciting moment. Later, the miR858 family and miPEP858a were mutated, and these edited plants displayed remarkable pinkish/purple colour due to enhanced accumulation of anthocyanin (which has medicinal properties) was the most exciting moment. 

What do you hope to do next?

This study elucidated the in-depth role of non-coding RNAs demonstrating that they are capable of producing regulatory peptides that possess significant biological functions, mostly associated with agronomical traits like plant height, seed size, plant growth and development and synthesis of secondary metabolites (flavonoids and anthocyanin).

Our next big aim is to elucidate the in-depth regulatory mechanisms of miPEPs and its cross-talk with other regulatory molecules to gain further insight into how this small peptide regulates miRNAs as well as the crucial biological processes in plants. We are also looking forward to the identification of newer miPEPs and other regulatory small peptides with high agronomical values. 

Where do you seek scientific inspiration?

After the successful editing of PDS for the establishment of CRISPR/Cas9, I felt that I am moving in the right direction, and later, we edited different members of the miR858 family in Arabidopsis thaliana. During that time, research on discoveries of small plant peptides and the mighty roles they play was the new interest to scientists worldwide. These few amino-acids accounts for a drastic change in plant physiology and adaptation motivated me to look for miRNA encoded peptide for miR858. I was incredibly fortunate to identify a functional miPEP and then carried out its detailed analysis. Throughout my research, I was lucky enough to be continuously inspired by my supervisor, Dr. Prabodh Kumar Trivedi, who always taught me that to conduct adequate research; we ever need to have a good imagination, persistence and patience.

How do you intend to help Indian science improve?

This peptide signifies an additional and excellent example of peptides derived from previously known as non-coding RNA with powerful biological functions whose encoding sequences were previously hidden in the genome. The identification of miPEPs unlocks new means of studying the corresponding miRNA families and therefore, would help in improving desired traits and yields in agronomical crops.

Also, exogenous application of synthetic miPEPs stimulates the expression of the corresponding miRNA owing to its specificity. The miPEPs, in this regard, can be used as an alternative tool to enhance the crucial agronomical traits of crops. However, the application of synthetic peptides in fields would be costly but beneficial for plants, which are way difficult to be manipulated and thus avoiding the need for genetic modifications/ cloning and other complex processes.

Applications and potential of miPEPS in crop improvement. miPEPs could be effectively used in crops to improve traits, such as yield, plant architecture and stress tolerance.

Reference

Sharma A, Badola PK, Bhatia C, Sharma D, Trivedi PK. Primary transcript of miR858 encodes regulatory peptide and controls flavonoid biosynthesis and development in Arabidopsis. Nature Plants. 2020. doi: 10.1038/s41477-020-00769-x.

Ashish Sharma email: sharmaashish23march@gmail.com

Fibroheal offers innovative silk-based biomaterial for wound care

Fibroheal Woundcare Pvt. Ltd founded by Vivek Mishra (Founder, Director & CEO), Bharat Tandon (Co-founder and Director) and Subramanian Shivaraman (Co-founder & Director) in 2017. Based in Bangalore, Fibroheal is a biotechnology oriented healthcare startup with focus on the use of biocompatible silk proteins based biomaterial for advance & active wound care management.

What was the vision and inspiration behind setting up Fibroheal? How did you come upon the technology?

Silk is one of the oldest fibers known to man, it has a history as the richest fabric itself! There are silk sarees which are more than 100 years old and are used for many generations even today; which highlight its excellent fabric and material property. When it comes to exploring its non-textile use, the application of silk in the medical field started in the 19th century when it replaced traditional metal wires as a suture material. 

Today, silk is studied extensively for its biomedical use. It is the most diverse, model biomaterial due to its remarkable properties like high mechanical strength, biocompatible, non-cytotoxic, thermo-stable, low-immunogenic and biodegradable.

India is the second-largest silk-producing country in the world. Karnataka alone produces nearly 70% of the country’s total mulberry silk. Sericulture farming provides jobs for about 10.6 Lakh people in Karnataka directly and indirectly. More than 1.2 Lakh families in Karnataka are depending on sericulture and mulberry cultivation. But a large amount of silk is wasted in the value chain from reeling to weaving which can be utilized to develop products for biomedical use. More than 80 lakh families are dependent directly and indirectly on silk. 

We at FIBROHEAL WOUNDCARE PVT LTD always wanted to bring socio-economic multiplier effect with our innovation and work i.e. from Silk growers (farmers side), surgeons (user side) and patients. Since our facility is situated very close to Silk city of Karnataka, having a largest market of silk cocoons in Asia, the sourcing of good quality silk/raw materials for our manufacturing is like at our doorstep & ease. We work on the non-textile application of silk, utilizing the waste and by-products of silk production to develop innovative, low-cost products for patients. At the same time, we are creating employment for many, enhancing farmers’ income and improving the economics of silk production in India.

Secondly, due to increasing ageing population worldwide and the high prevalence of lifestyle diseases and chronic diseases among the elderly and high cost of treatment, we wanted to work on newer biomaterial which can be cost-effective and affordable for patients and at the same time ease the work of doctors/nursing staff in the hospital.

Vivek Mishra, Bharat Tandon and Subramanian Shivaraman (Left to right).

Additionally, we have on-board, two eminent stalwarts to guide us as co-founders, mentors and advisors. 

Mr. Bharat Tandon – Founder of Vetcare (Animal nutrition and health company) which was acquired by Provimi and later by Cargill.

Mr. Subramanian Shivaraman – Co-founder of the second-largest sutures company in India called Sutures India (having many sutures along with silk sutures) now known as Healthium Medtech.

Thirdly, the need gap which exists in the present market scenario, more than 85% of MD are imported in India. Being the second-largest producer of Silk in the world, second most populated in the world and depending solely on imports to cater to various wound healing requirements initiated the thoughts. Silk being the most versatile, perfectly biocompatible material and its abundant availability in Karnataka made it an ideal candidate for our research. Moreover, a lot of research happened at various institution levels on silk as its biomaterial applications. We saw the economic multiplier potential of silk – farmers, hospitals and patients. All this put together guided us our path to develop a product which can have a substantial economic impact, can bring down imports significantly and product performance is much superior to the existing imported and marketed products while being cost-effective.

“[…] we are creating employment for many, enhancing farmers’ income and improving the economics of silk production in India.”

What were the challenges faced in the initial years? Any competition?

Like any other startup, we also experienced several challenges as mentioned below.

1. Funding: Initially, we have started our operations in 2017 with internal investment. At later stages, we have been successful in raising some small angel investment, government grants and started generating some revenues from sales.

2. Right hiring: Attracting good talent was very difficult as a startup company due to many limitations. Later we started hiring by good references, going back to colleges, using our connects and old colleagues helped us with the right hiring. And right now we have a robust and dynamic team which is our company’s core strength.

Fibroheal Woundcare Team

3. Regulatory clarity: To address this we have identified few professionals who have guided and helped us in getting the regulatory clearance, which was one of our prime most requirements.

4. Maintaining liquidity in the company: We have a committed and experienced sales team having excellent hospital and distribution network to operate at ground level where we started selling our products and generating revenues by getting regular business.

5. Research & Technical guidance: We have collaborated with reputed institutions like IISc Bangalore, IIT Guwahati for technical support and guidance for research and development and Dept. HOD`s of few reputed institutions as medical advisors, mentors and key opinion leaders to guide us on market need, products and its performance. 

Our major competitors are 3M, Smith & Nephew, ConvaTec, Coloplast, KCI, J&J, Mölnlycke Health Care and Hollister. 

We have registered under Startup India, Startup Karnataka, and this helped us in getting benefits in various Govt. tenders to get an exemption for a turnover clause for participation. Since we are registered under Startup India, we listed our company and products on GeM (Govt. e-market place). Additionally, Dept. of Biotech, Govt. of India through BIRAC has supported us in a lot of initiatives. We were also winners of ELEVATE 100, 2019 organised by Startup Karnataka under Dept. of IT, BT & ST, Govt. of Karnataka as one of the most innovative biotech startups and received a R&D grant to support our research. CCAMP under a BIRAC program has supported us through LEAP (Launching Entrepreneurs for Affordable Products) scheme. 

What are its applications? 

We offer a wide range of silk protein derived wound dressings and products to treat different wound types and conditions. 

Value propositions to the customers:

  • Indigenously developed a solution for wound healing (Natural biomaterial, bio-compatible and safe).
  • Aids faster healing & wound closure.
  • Significant reduction in the cost of treatment for patients.
  • Offers scar reduction while participating in active healing.
  • Faster turn-around rates and decreased load on hospitals.
  • Improves the quality of life of people post healing.
  • Affordable and easily accessible.

Describe your product line and production capacity? Any eco certifications?

We are one among the few companies working across the globe on this versatile biomaterial called silk proteins. We have indigenously developed patented technological products in our basket. Our research work is well appreciated by the government and supported by Grants and Awards. We offer affordable and cost-effective solutions for wound management. We have successfully launched nine products in the market, and our products are used by renowned surgeons and doctors in more than top 50 major reputed hospitals (like Government, Private, Medical College, Defense, Railway and Autonomous etc.) across India, to treat the most complicated wounds and are happy with the results.

We aspire to be one of the most comprehensive wound care Indian company catering to the entire wound care continuum. We offer products for active and advanced wound care management. Our Fibroheal range of products are used to treat all types of wounds such as clean wounds, non-infected wounds, infected wounds, challenging to heal and slow or non-healing wounds etc. Our products come in different forms such as film, sheet, mesh, foam, powder, ointment, gel etc. 

We have built a state-of-art facility, which is ISO 13485 compliant and got a CDSCO license for manufacturing. We have installed automated machines to increase the production capacity with a 10x jump in output (approx. 1 Lakh units per month).

We are an environmentally friendly enterprise, manufacturing the completely biodegradable product. The entire operations are managed in such a way so that there is no minimal impact on the local or global environment.

Your insights on the sustainable healthcare product market in India? Has Covid 19 changed the scenario?

Both globally and in India, the Wound care market is growing at a significant pace year after year with increasing population, lifestyle diseases (diabetes), disposable incomes etc. Moreover, in the current market scenario, there is an emerging need gap, with most medical devices being imported into India, resulting in high import costs. We see a huge potential and sustainable business for products which are indigenously developed, cost-effective and fulfilling the needs of the wound care market.

Post COVID, our business is also impacted, and we hope to bounce back once the situation improves. We have received excellent responses from the medical fraternity, and they are optimistic and positive to support research-driven Indian startups who are making meaningful products and solving genuine problems. However, even during the pandemic, lock-down phase and when business conditions are challenging, we stood by our people, supported them by paying them fully without any pay-cuts or lay-offs. We hope to make a lot of difference and aspire to be the most comprehensive wound management company in the coming time.

Do you export your products? If yes, to which countries?

As of now, we are operating in the domestic market. However, we are in the process of getting CE approval to enter the export market by 2021.

What are your future plans?

We are on a growth trajectory, and our products are well accepted in the Indian market, users are satisfied with the performance of the products, and received fantastic response from surgeons as well as patients. Few newer concept-based products are in the pipeline which we are aiming to launch by 2021. Additionally, we are in the process of getting CE approval for our product range. Post CE certification, we are planning to expand our business & hit the international market, including developing and developed countries. 

Address: Fibroheal Woundcare Pvt. Ltd., IS-21 KHB Industrial area, Yelahanka New Town, Bangalore, Karnataka 560064, India. Email: fibroheal@gmail.com. Website: http://www.fibroheal.com/.