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High level recognition, participation and discussions mark the 2nd Annual Convention by the Sankara Nethralaya ONGC Genetics & Molecular Biology Department

The Sankara Nethralaya ONGC Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology a key research department in the Kamalnayan Bajaj Institute for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the research arm of Sankara Nethralaya, engaged in the in-depth study of genes and their influence, for better diagnosis of ocular ailments by providing preventive/curative Medicare through gene mapping and candidate screen screening conducted its 2nd annual convention, as a symposium on ‘Sanger to Next Generation Sequencing- The Genomics Era”. The two day symposium enlightened students, research scholars, scientists, clinicians and counselors involved in healthcare on why ‘genome analysis’ as a process is vital in clinical decision making, prognosis and personalized medicine. The symposium offered an in-depth coverage of the areas of mapping and candidate gene screening, current trends of molecular diagnosis and the clinical significance of gene testing, through the gold standard ‘Sanger sequencing’ to the most robust Next Generation Sequencing platforms, through in-depth lectures by eminent scholars and experts in the field.

The significance of this high power event could be gauged by the fact that it was sponsored by the nation’s major research regulating bodies namely the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and was attended by legends from the scientific and research community like Professor T.Ramasami, Former Secretary, Department of Science and Technology and Professor Samir. K.Brahmachari, Founder- Director, CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology.

The two day symposium got off to an auspicious start with an invocation by Dr. Srividya. Extending a warm welcome to the dignitaries and participants Dr Sripriya of the SN ONGC Department observed that the field of genetics may be classified into three defined time frames namely ‘Classic Era’ ‘DNA Era’ and the ‘Transition to genomics era’. She hailed the advent of newer technologies in the form of Next Generation Sequencing platform and described that the two day symposium would be a feast on genomics impact. Giving an overview of the symposium Dr A.Jayamuruga Pandian, Reader & Head SN ONGC Dept. of Genetics and Molecular Biology started off by reading a felicitation and greeting message from Prof. Vishwa Mohan Khatoch, Secretary, Department of Health and Director General of ICMR who was unable to attend the function owing to unavoidable and pressing commitments. Dr. Pandian highlighted the relevance and progress made by the SN ONGC department through its role in pre and post genetic rehabilitation, counseling/Diagnosis and migration to Sanger to Next generation sequencing the gold standard in genetic research. He listed the milestone publications from the dept, collaborations with leading educational universities and affiliations. Dr. Pandian ended his talk with the observation that the future plan of the department is to start a Post Graduate course in genetic counseling and Gene Therapy.

Dr. Ronnie George, Director Research, Kamalnayan Bajaj Institute for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology gave a most absorbing account of the in-depth research being carried out in each of the eight research departments in the premises including the enchanting basic and clinical research using MOOKP which enabled tissues from the tooth to be used to treat ocular surface disorders. Speaking on the occasion Dr. SS.Badrinath, Founder & Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya expressed that he is a clinician and not a basic scientist, he welcomed and thanked Dr. S.Ramasami, Prof. Samir Brahmachari, Shri. Arul Ramanathan from ONGC, Shri. Muthu Karuppan from Singapore and all the distinguished participants gathered on the occasion, he gave a brief overview of the activities of the KNBIRVO and how the support from the government, NGO’s and philanthropic individuals and corporate bodies helped to carry out its research activities in a sustained and focused manner.

Guest of Honour Professor Ramasami, a long time friend and well wisher of Sankara Nethralaya started his address on a lighter vein that he had to cancel his scheduled engagement at the Leather Exhibition being organized in the city on the same day, to be present at the function with his comment ‘You cannot say no when Dr. SS.Badrinath invites you’ a fact which the hosts of the function, the organizers of the leather fair agreed too, he added. He observed that his presence along with Prof. Samir Brahmachari symbolized the title of the symposium ‘from Sanger to NGS’ as he belonged to the Sanger era and Prof Brahmachari belonged to the New Generation Sequencing era, he credited the latter with not only ushering the NGS era but better research and clinical care through it. Dr. Ramasami observed that India with a very diverse gene pool, population density and a high number of health ailments provided the ideal platform for genetic study; he closed his talk with best wishes for the success of the two day symposium, adding that every year the event should aim towards bringing people together, working together and finding solutions together.

The two day symposium witnessed in-depth and well researched speeches on the various facets of genetics and what it holds for the future by experts in the field. A highlight of the session was a most touching and entertaining cultural program by ‘Comaganin Ragapriya’ an orchestra by the differently abled which helped participants to unwind and relax in the midst of the hectic proceedings.

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