A 3D rendering of a chain of amino acid or biomolecules called protein. Photo by Christoph Burgstedt, Adobe.
Since 2016, the Mittal Institute’s Building Bharat-Boston Biosciences (B4) program has connected institutions in India and Boston to promote scientific research and build new knowledge in the field of biosciences. The program holds annual workshops in India that introduce talented Indian university students to important current issues in the life sciences through lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on learning opportunities.
Last week, the program held a workshop to provide training for 25 students from universities across India with experts on a variety of topics, including Linux OS, biostatistics and “R” programming, genomic data analysis, machine learning, and analysis of biological images. Although these workshops have been organized as a two-week residential program in the past, this year’s schedule was adapted to take place as a rigorous seven-day virtual workshop.
The B4 workshop explored themes around the advent of big data and its impact on personalized medicine and healthcare services, specifically electronic health records and evidence-based medicine. The B4 workshop focused on the need to train researchers at the interface of data science, computing, and life sciences. Efficient computing platforms and tools, sophisticated measurement technologies, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence have transformed the fields of life sciences and healthcare, enabling unprecedented research and clinical outcomes. During the workshop, the students attended lectures and research talks given by eminent scientists from Harvard and peer institutes, and renowned researchers from Indian academia and industry.
The B4 Workshop on Big Data in Life Sciences and Healthcare gave me the exposure I require at this crucial time in my academic career. The structure and content of the course was well suited to my needs and it was a joy to work with a class of motivated peers.
“The B4 Workshop on Big Data in Life Sciences and Healthcare gave me the exposure I require at this crucial time in my academic career. The structure and content of the course was well suited to my needs and it was a joy to work with a class of motivated peers,” said Soundharya, a postgraduate student in Biotechnology from the National Institute of Technology, Warangal.
“The diverse topics and their hands-on sessions gave me a real flavour of big data analysis in life sciences research. I am now well-equipped with the tools and resources to conquer those,” said Badeer Hassan U, a BS-MS student of Biology at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune. “I’d like to thank Professor Srivatsan for the beautiful hands-on session in ‘R’ programming and Sagar and Vairavan for taking us through the realm of NGS analysis.”
During the session on “Harnessing the Big Data for Healthcare: Applications and Challenges”, students were connected directly with stakeholders in academia and industry for a panel discussion around the use of big data in life sciences and healthcare. The panelists included Rajgopal Srinivasan (Chief Scientist and Head, Life Sciences Research), Ramanathan Sethuraman (Architect, New Product Innovation, Data Platform Group, Intel Corporation), Radhika Madhavan (Senior Scientist, GE Global Research, New York), Anirban Bhaduri (Head, Biocomputing and Data Analytics R&D, Tata Chemicals, Pune), Smita Agrawal (Senior Director, Product Management, Symphony AI, Bangalore), and Shesha Shah (Co-founder, Analytics Quad4 and eRx Solutions, Bangalore).
The panelists emphasized the need for an interdisciplinary approach to analyze and utilize the enormous amount of data that is generated in healthcare, acknowledging that contextualization of the domain knowledge can ensure better utilization of data. They discussed the role of industry in combining different technologies to evolve simple screening methods and big data applications that can be used in healthcare.
The B4 Program is funded by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) within the Government of India and is a collaboration between the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University; IISER, Pune; and IBAB, Bengaluru.
This B4 “Young Scientist” cohort included 25 students from universities and institutions across India.