Its great to see one of the leading engineering universities in the region diversifying into life sciences and it’s a privilege indeed to be leading that effort. Biotechnology is fast becoming an area of science that is set to revolutionize many different sectors of the global economy. With the ever decreasing cost of DNA sequencing, followed now by a similar trend in the cost of DNA synthesis, the technology to read and write DNA is going through a revolutionizing phase similar, according to many, to the one personal computer brought about in the 1980s. This is significant both in terms of scale and impact, socially and economically.
We all know many countries have developed multi-billion dollar worth biotech sectors and have significant chunks of their GDPs attributed to the bio-economy, but unfortunately this remains to be seen in Pakistan. Our biggest question is that have we, as a society and an economy, benefited from the biotech revolution? Or have we missed the boat already? In that case are we ready to ride the next wave of breakthrough technologies, lets say, synthetic biology? The answers are not very encouraging.
At the Institute of Integrative Biosciences, we intend to produce the next generation of scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs and the leaders of tomorrow in the both the national and the global bio-economy. We intend to do this by addressing some core challenges life sciences education in Pakistan has been facing so far. Our students will benefit from an up-to-date curriculum, which will give them a solid foundation in the basic principles of biology and gradually familiarize them to the most cutting-edge technologies in advanced subjects. One challenge Pakistani graduates have been facing is the very early bifurcation of subjects like mathematics and biology during high school. Our curriculum’s emphasis on mathematics and computer science will mean our graduates will never face such challenges in the job market.
Another core focus of both our curriculum and our research themes is the strong cross-disciplinary and entrepreneurial components. Boundaries between different fields are clearly blurring as science progresses and the interfaces between different fields are some of the hottest areas of research. One reason for this is the birth of new ideas as a result of cross talk between different fields. IIB values this alot and encourages the flow of ideas, knowledge and experience, not just across departments within CECOS but with other universities as well. More importantly, for creative thought and meaningful research to happen, academics and students alike, need a healthy and independent environment, which enables such activities. IIB appreciates the institutional and cultural challenges we face down this lane in nascent higher education sectors like our’s, and promises its faculty members and students a professional environment with full academic liberty. Finally some of the daring ones, if not all of our graduates, should be able to weave each product of our applied and translational research, or any of their idea for that matter, into a competitive startup company with thorough knowledge of its business model, competitive landscape, customer base and financial needs – to be able to successfully bring the fruits of our research out of the lab.
No doubt we are a very young institute, but we are backed by decades worth of cumulative experience in the field and motivated by an equally long vision. With a mission to bring Pakistan on the map of biotechnology, we are on the hunt for the best brains out there amongst our youth to make our first batch of scientists, innovators and bio-entrepreneurs. Are you ready to take on the challenge?
Dr. Faisal F. Khan,
Institute of Integrative Biosciences
firstname.lastname@example.org | @esepzai