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The international symposium, Bioprocess Industry-Academia Interaction, was hosted July 24–27, 2011 by the Centre for Bio-Separation Technology (CBST), Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), located in Vellore in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, India. It brought together 150 delegates, including students as well as industrial and academic scientists from India and other countries.

The symposium started on the 24th with inaugural speeches by the chief guest, Dr. Leena Pishe Thomas (European Business and Technology Centre); VIT Vice President, Mr. Sankar Viswanathan; VIT Vice Chancellor, Prof. V. Raju; and by CBST Director and Symposium Chair, Prof. M. A. Vijayalakshmi. The opening addresses stressed the need for bridging developmental needs of the European Union and India in biotechnology by promoting collaboration between academia and industry.

Bridging developmental needs through collaboration between academia and industry

Following the opening presentations, Dr. Manfred Schuster (chief operating officer (COO), Apeiron Biologics,Vienna, Austria), in a keynote lecture, shared with the delegates the entrepreneurial journey of the development of an angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2)-based enzyme substitution therapy up to its licensing to the pharmaceutical giant, Glaxo Smith-Kline.

The next three days featured talks by various participants covering different themes: expression systems for the production of high-value therapeutics, bioreactors and scale-up of expression, downstream processing and chromatography, biomolecule characterization, validation and proteomics, and regulatory requirements and intellectual property rights (IPR) issues. In keeping with the ethos of the symposium, the speakers included scientists from academia and industry as well as research scholars being trained for these two sectors. Some of the plenary lectures are described below.

Prof. Alois Jungbauer (Department of Biotechnology at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria) spoke about the NPro expression and purification platform for recombinant proteins and also gave an overview about the research opportunities offered by the Austrian Centre for Industrial Biotechnology to researchers from all over the world. A lecture by Dr. Annie George (Vice President, Actis Biologics Pvt Ltd, Mumbai, India) covered different expression systems for the production of high-value therapeutic molecules.

Prof. K. Dharmalingam, an eminent biotechnologist from Madurai Kamaraj University in Madurai, India, gave a very interesting overview and a description of his own work in the field of clinical biomarkers. Prof. Ashok Kumar from the Department of Biological Sciences and Bioengineering in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, India described his work with cryogel polymeric bioreactors for therapeutic protein production. This was well complemented by the lectures Dr. Aleš Podgornik (BIA Separations, Slovenia), who discussed monolithic chromatographic media, and that presented by Prof. E. K. Lee (College of Biotechnology, Kyungwon University, Korea), who discussed the use of solid-phase technology for the processing of biopharmaceutical proteins.

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Downstream processing was discussed in the lectures by Prof. Shuichi Yamamoto (Department of Chemical Engineering, Yamaguchi University, Japan) about high-throughput process development methods for chromatography of biopharmaceuticals, and by Dr. Uwe Gottschalk (Vice President, Sartorium Stedim Biotech, Germany), on the current best practices in biomanufacturing and the critical role of innovation. Dr. Olivier Pitiot (Sanofi Pasteur, Director Bioprocess R&D, France), discussed the downstream processing challenges during viral vaccine purification and inactivation process development, while Dr. C. N. Ramchand of Laila Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd, Chennai, described the use of magnetic nanoparticles in the bioseparation of proteins, DNA and mRNA.

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Besides the process development aspects of biopharmaceuticals, Dr. Sriram Akundi (Head of Quality and Regulatory Affairs, Biocon Ltd, Bangalore, India) also discussed the regulatory requirements of bioprocessing of therapeutic proteins. Various scientists from sponsoring companies such as Dr. C. V. Babu (Agilent Technologies India Pvt. Ltd), Dr. K. S. Rakesh (Waters India Pvt. Ltd), Dr. D. Muruganand (Eppendorf India Ltd) and Dr. Masilamani Selladurai (Pall Life Sciences) spoke about the technologies offered by their companies for the production or analysis and characterization of therapeutic biomolecules.

The field of natural products research was covered by Prof. Paturu Kondaiah (IISc, Bangalore, India) Prof. Vinay Sheel Bansal (CBST, VIT University, India) and Dr. M. Deepak (Natural Remedies Pvt. Ltd, Bangalore, India). Dr. V. G. Pal, (iFAST Learning Pvt. Ltd, India), gave a lecture describing the need for focused training of biotechnology graduates that would allow them to meet industry's needs. Students and postdoctoral researchers also participated in the program through both oral presentations and poster presentations.

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A cultural program featuring classical instrumental, vocal music as well as Indian classical and folk dance performances was held on July 26. These were performed by students of a performing arts academy in Vellore (one of whom is also a Ph.D. scholar in CBST) and there was also a classical instrumental music performance by the CBST Director, Prof. M. A. Vijayalakshmi. The program was much enjoyed by both Indian and foreign members of the audience. A valedictory function was held on the final day of the symposium in which the VIT Chancellor, Dr. G. Viswanathan presented the awards for best poster and best oral presentation to Mr. Mahendiravarman (Anna University, Chennai, India) and Mr. Nithin Sanghe (IIT Madras, Chennai, India), respectively. The symposium closed on the forward-looking note that the future of biotechnology lay in the collaborative interactions between academia and industry, wherein each partner could tap into the strengths of the other.

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