INTERVIEW WITH Dr.M.C.RAJA (CEO, GENOTYPIC TECHNOLOGY)
Dr. Mugasimangalam C. Raja, President & CEO, Genotypic Technology, holds a Masters & Ph.D in Biotechnology from Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, Tamil Nadu. His research career post-Phd involved developing techniques for DNA sequencing (Weizmann Institute, Israel) and mutating specificity of restriction enzymes (Sidney Kimmel cancer center, San Diego, USA).
He worked as a Human Genome Project Scientist at the US Government's Argonne National Lab Argonne II, USA. He has developed two novel methods for constructing cDNA microarrays during his stint at QBI Enterprises Ltd., Israel. His accomplishments include several peer reviewed research articles, inventions reports, and several US patents.
About Genotypic Technology
Genotypic Technology (www.genotypic.co.in) is a privately held Genomics R & D company specializing in microarray technology developing customized genomics and bioinformatics solutions for a wide-range of applications. Established in the year 2000, it is the first major Indian company catering to Academic institutions, Pharma and Biotech companies worldwide in the microarray space. Genotypic has successfully completed Gene Expression, aCGH, Location analysis (ChIP on Chip, Methylation and chromatin modulations projects using Agilent platform. The certification of Genotypic's microarray services by Agilent ensures customers will receive results with the superior sensitivity, quality and reliability of Agilent Microarray Platform. Genotypic is a leading microarray based genomics service and solution provider and trusted partner for academic and pharmaceutical research.
Biotechnology Now & Then
Comparing the biotechnology or biology back in late 80s n early 90s, he recalls that at that time people were doing everything themselves from oligo-synthesis to sequencing and even the production of restriction enzymes etc, both at academic and research level.
Moving to 90s he says that it was the period when beginning of biotech business took place with initiation of a phenomenon namely – Outsourcing. People started to get cheaper and high quality products which made life easier for them. The next era started with the use of public resources in which web services like NIH, PubMed were used to get the annotated data. Hence people started using Public web based tools with people good at something started downloading free softwares Hence people started using someone else’s creation and this made people realize that if they wanted to do good biology they had to take experts’ help and hence they started collaborating. The underlining point here, according to him is the fact that the biology became so complex in itself that no one had all the capabilities to carry on the entire job himself. Capabilities hare imply the necessary softwares, reagents, instruments, technology and techniques. Hence the biologists started concentrating on the biology forgetting about mastering the technology. Then a time arrived when all these things were not enough and everything moved into a new thing called Core Facility. It’s a centralized facility where common instruments are kept, where all faculties can come and use as a ‘pay for use’ a lot of things. Core Facilities however has a major limitation that it can help us with technology and technique but it cannot provide analysis. Hence biology arrived to a next revolution of outsourcing where people not only share technology and technique but things well beyond it like asking someone else to do a part of project. This was previously done only on collaboration where people could not demand anything, so in the next level people started to give a part of project to the companies to get it done in limited amount of time. Hence guaranteed quality, quantity and output was ensured at cheaper cost and in very less time. He says that the same process is followed at Genotypic where guaranteed results ready for publications are determined in a very short duration of time. According to him this is the period of Research Alliances where no body can do biology on his own without collaboration with faculties and companies.
On being asked that when and how he thought of becoming an entrepreneur he says that everybody wants to do something of their own i.e. to initiate something and do it with help of many people. He believes that doing something alone is not possible in companies because their you need a lot of people so initiating something is rather important and then it can be carried out with support of others. Recalling from late nineties and early 2000 he says that he started this company with his wife but at that time very few people had an idea about this technology. But they knew that it was coming so according to him they had a huge early mover advantage. Since no body knew about this technology at that time hence they had to arrange several conferences, workshops and distribute pamphlets. He did all these things with help of Sameer Bhramhachary’s group from IGIB, Bhatnagar awardee and who is now the DG of CSIR. He says that there are 100 microarray units in India now with 12 companies and hence he is proud to initiate the whole thing in India.
On being asked that why genotypic products are better than their counterparts he says it’s partly due to initiation and partly due to the fact that they know the people and the biology well. While others are just bridging the gap between technology and technique Genotypic is bridging the gap between technology, technique, expertise, knowledge & wisdom.
The Bioinfo software Biointerpreter developed by Genotypic, which is provided to every client of Genotypic, helps in analyzing the microarray results and typical example of bridging the gap.
Microarray Technology rarely encountered in labs in India, Why?
On the question of why microarrays are rare in Indian universities lab he seems to be very positive and believes that it will take some time for microarray to hit the labs in the colleges but it will certainly come. He says institutes like IIT, AIIMS etc are already using this technology and Universities like Madurai Kamraj are going to install it very soon, so it will take some time for this technology to be more prevalent. The first major limitation in using this technology is the high cost and second is shortage of expertise in this field. No body can push things to happen ahead of time according to him so slowly by increase in the funds and change of research focus will lead to usage of this technology more commonly.
The biotechnology in 10 to 15 years down the line will be dramastically different. Expertise in any fields will be vital and specialization in any platform will be important. The college curriculum will be changed in order to bring up expertise needed by the industry. The term which he uses for the whole coming scenario is ‘high throughput’
He believes that first thing that people and especially students must learn is to write their Curriculum Vitae properly. He believes that inspite of writing the whole syllabus in their bio-data people must write what is required by the industry. People must understand the importance of covering letter and must emphasis on their specialization and people must know what they are good in. Students must learn much beyond the syllabus because by the time the syllabus is written it is already outdated. So it’s a process of constant upgradation and both for student and teacher which is a constant learning process.
The final message which he wants to convey is that people must look at their career and not just a company. He says people must set their goals like where they want to be but those goals can certainly change in the process of time. First people must choose a line which interests them and then they must fit in a perfect role for themselves in that particular line which suits their capability. For budding entrepreneur he says they must first calculate what people will require in the future, just like what they did at Genotypic. It’s like marrying the requirements of their clients with their capability and what they can create or develop. They must be ready to create something new that they were unfamiliar with. Techno-entrepreneur according to him is someone who makes his own idea and then creates a business plan for it, which is the riskiest part, because people may not need it. The key for success for an entrepreneur can be to match the requirements of their clients. He adds that the first step towards success for any student is to learn to write their resume properly and take career seriously.