Earlier this month, Dr. Bodo Eickhoff, Senior Vice-President of Sales & Marketing at Molecular Diagnostics, a large multi-national pharmaceutical company, visited the Amrita Vishwa Viyapeetham, Amritapuri campus, and addressed the students, faculty, and staff in a seminar titled “Integrating Sciences from a Holistic Perspective: How Human Microbiome and Soil Food Web Might Work Together”. An expert in many fields, Dr. Eickhoff initially focused on research, working on HIV co-receptors and cancer therapy, but then moving on to an industry which revolved around producing novel biotechnology products and getting patents. He took an even larger step away from his starting point when he went into manufacturing. Dr. Eickhoff explained that these radical changes in his career provided him a chance to view situations from different perspectives. Science was more complex and based on rationality and logic, whereas business was linear and required an aspect of socially interacting with people. Through these changes, Dr. Eickhoff understood that the biotechnology industry is not solely about making a product, but is also about customers who are human beings.

Just as Dr. Eickhoff had a mixed background, the audience at his seminar was also an ensemble of students of different departments – BiotechnologyMBA, and Engineering students of the Amritapuri campus.

“In order to achieve a goal, you have to go deep and go broad”, said Dr. Eickhoff. He explained that in order to accomplish something we must be able to understand the task at hand and gain insight into how things work in human nature. Dr. Eickhoff spoke about the VUCA world, a concept that revolves around the ever-changing nature of the world we live in. VUCA stand for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. Once we understand that we cannot predict anything in life, we can work towards a goal with a right mindset.

Dr. Eickhoff then switched gears back to biology, questioning whether the human microbiome and soil food web may work together. The human microbiome is vast with various functions including protection from pathogens, digestion, energy production, and production of beneficial compounds such as vitamins and antibiotics. The soil food web concerns the large number of bacteria that grow at the roots of plants. These bacteria, surprisingly, serve many similar functions in plants when compared to the microbiome in humans. Therefore, there is a high chance that these bacteria are connected. This is evident from other common observations – for example it is well known that organic, healthy food produces a healthy microbiome within the body which results in healthy people. This concept could be further applied; by ingesting specific plants with their own soil food web, it may be possible in the future to gain immunity to certain pathogens. 

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