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Envisioning growth
19 June 2015

Stem cells have been grabbing massive attention recently. For those who aren’t aware, these are the cells that are preserved under the temperature of nearly 180 degrees for a long period of time, and years later, the same cells are taken out, thawed and brought back to life.

This isn’t a scientific fabrication, in fact, it is a developing field of science and is in fact the “future of modern medicine”. Who does not dream of working for the technology of the future? Well, with the emergence of stem cell research as one of the viable career options for youngsters, this dream seems possible for those willing to take on the challenge. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently urged the Indian biologists to motivate schoolchildren for pursuing a career in the field of stem cell research.

So, what exactly does it involve involve? It is an advanced level of biological research to find new therapies for various ailments. Found in the body&’s organs, tissues, blood and immune system, stem cells have the ability to regenerate into additional stem cells or differentiate into specialised cells, such as nerve or blood cells. The therapy promotes the reparative response of diseased, dysfunctional or injured tissue using stem cells or their derivatives

The therapy involves the introduction of new adult stem cells into the damaged tissue to treat a particular type of disease. For instance, stem cells from the bone marrow, adipose tissue and umbilical cord (embryonic stem cells) have been used to treat many chronic diseases. Stem cell therapy carries the potential to treat a variety of other serious ailments like Type 1 diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson&’s disease and a variety of cancerous conditions. Key areas where this therapy can result in effective treatment are neurological conditions, orthopedics, chronic kidney diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other lung diseases, liver diseases, cardiology, autoimmune disorders, ophthalmology diseases, infertility and cosmetic procedures. No wonder, the field of stem cell research and therapy recommends rewarding career options for people who are longing to bring a revolution in the field of medical science.

Talking about eligibility, there is a general misconception that only medical professionals or people with a medical background are eligible for a successful career in research and therapy space, which is not true. Students who have the qualification of basic biology too can find jobs in stem cell research and therapy. BSc graduates with at least one subject of biological sciences, MBBS or BPharma or BDS or BVSc or BE Biotechnology students, hold the eligibility to find themselves jobs in the stem cell research domain.

A latest report by Netscribes pegged the value of the stem cell therapy market in India to reach Rs 2 billion by the year 2018. This will be followed by a steep rise in the number of stem cell banks and stem cell depositors in the near future. Liberalisation of stem cell research and the Modi government&’s support due to the rise in the incidence of chronic diseases are the major factors aiding this growth gradient. Stem cell banking which was unheard of a few years ago has all of a sudden picked up pace in the recent past in terms of popularity, fairly as a less traumatic alternative to treat neurological conditions.

India is a major biotech player in the Asia Pacific region and takes its position next to Japan and South Korea. Karnataka and Bangalore in particular, is a major hub when it comes to the research related to stem cells. This emerging division of regenerative medicine calls for qualified, experienced and skilled manpower. With the global market expected to touch $40 billion by 2016, excellent career opportunities await the postgraduate students from diverse fields. Students have the opportunity to pursue their research career in developmental biology, tissue engineering, embryology, medical biotechnology, molecular biology, cell biology, nanotechnology, clinical research and stem cell biology. It provides multiple options to the students to even pursue higher studies in basic biology and applicative translational fields. One can choose to start one&’s career in quality, research and developmnt, production, clinical research, supply chain, and human resources besides finance and other administrative functions. There are several opportunities for science graduates to pursue a career in stem cell research and therapy in India. From a doctor to a lab assistant, the opportunities are several and highly rewarding. In this field, an eligible post-graduate student can earn up to Rs 30,000 per month as a beginner and after obtaining a PhD one can earn more than Rs 50,000 per month. PhD holders, if recruited abroad as postdoctoral fellows, tend to earn somewhere between $35,000-40,000 annually. There are now several institutions that offer training in this field, some of which are:

Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

National Centre for Biological Science, Bangalore.

National Centre for Cell Science, Pune

National institute for Research in Reproductive Health, Mumbai

Manipal Institute of Regenerative Medicine, Bangalore.

Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.

Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad.

National Institute of Immunology, Delhi.

Stem cell research is among the most dynamic fields of modern medicine in India as several institutes are delving into newer therapies. In India, stem cell biology is emerging in both basic science and clinical applications. Even the government of India, through its agencies like Department of Biotechnology, Department of Science and Technology and Indian Council of Medical Research has started investing in this field to support basic and translational research. It is estimated that the investment in stem cell research in India is more than Rs 1,000 crores. Even though the stem cell therapeutic procedure is at a very nascent stage and advancements in the field of regenerative medicine and stem cell research are associated with complicated ethical, social and legal issues, the recently announced guidelines prepared jointly by the Department of Biotechnology and Indian Council of Medical Research ensure that scientifically designed and responsible research on stem cells remains unhindered and the opportunities for students are massive.

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