March 15, 2009
Amrita Center for Nanosciences, Kochi
When the Amrita Center for Nanosciences in Kochi obtained an electron microscope, a key piece of equipment to be used for research work, the very first object examined was the wing of a butterfly. A simple wing, when seen at nano-levels, exhibits astonishing arrays of nano-structures; scientists learn from these structures and copy them when assembling nano-materials. A presentation of those beautiful images opened NanoBio, the international conference recently organized in Kochi by the center. Tissue engineering and stem cell research using nanomaterials — this is the major area of research at the center; this was also the theme of the conference.
Tissue engineering involves biology, medicine, engineering and related disciplines. As the nation’s first nanotechnology center in the biomedical area, a number of projects in tissue engineering are ongoing at the center. The center has also had promising results with developing new nano-materials for cancer diagnosis and therapy. Only two years old, the center has nevertheless begun to attract global attention. “We have been able to assemble a talented team of faculty and students,” explains Dr. Shanti Nair, director of the center. The center offers PhD and M Tech in Nanomedical Sciences, and is currently the only such educational institution in India to do so.
Delegates from top universities in the US including Columbia, Rice and Stanford among others joined their colleagues from countries such as Canada, Japan and Switzerland in addition to India for paper presentations and workshop sessions at the three-day conference. Dr. Antonios Mikos from Rice University, USA, one of the world’s foremost leaders in tissue engineering, was the International Chair of the conference. “Tissue engineering is no longer science fiction,” he explained. “It is beginning to result in products that have the potential to revolutionize medicine.” Dr. Mikos applauded Amrita’s vision in organizing the first international conference in tissue engineering and stem cell research using nanomaterials.
Indian research institutions working in this field were all represented including IIT Madras, CCMB in Hyderabad and SCTIMST in Trivandrum. The conference had support from the Departments of Science and Technology and Biotechnology of the Government of India. Prof. V L Chopra, Member of the Planning Commission for Science and Technology, delivered the inaugural address. “I would like to inform this august audience that investment for science and technology in the 11th plan is Rs. 75000 crores, three times the amount in the 10th plan,” he said. He explained that a crore equaled 10 million rupees, for the benefit of the international delegates.
Dr. Arabindra Mitra, Executive Director of the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum which had also provided support to the conference was at the inaugural ceremony. “Amrita, as an institution, has been so dynamic and growing at such a fast pace. Its my privilege to be associated with this great institution. I look forward for our continued interaction through the US Science and Technology Forum,” he stated. Dr. CNR Rao, Chair of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Indian Prime Minister and one of India’s fore-most scientists, delivered the key-note address on the second day. “This entire institution has the blessing of Amma,” he said.
In his benedictory address on the previous day, Sampujya Swami Poornamritananda Puri had explained, “In our lives, we may put forth a lot of effort and achieve great things. But life can become effortless when there is love. This institution is not an ordinary institution. We can easily see the love that drives all efforts here. This is the reason why, within a short amount of time, this institution has become one of the best in the country. I feel very happy to welcome you to this temple of love.”
Over the three days, delagates learned about nanogels, multi-scale materials, protein engineered scaffolds, hybrid interfaces and polyoxometalates. There were separate sessions on stem cells, nanomedicine and applications. “The conference successfully brought together all the latest advances in the field,” stated a participating delegate. An independent committee evaluated the paper and poster presentations. The best paper award was won by Amrita’s PhD student Binulal NS for his paper titled — Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells Mineralized Poly(Caprolactone) Nano Fibrous Synthetic Polymeric Scaffolds for Bone Tissue Engineering. We congratulate him as well as the entire Amrita team for the success of the conference.