Scope of Biotechnology in Pakistan

Khushi Khan

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 It is said that Twenty first century is the “century of Biotechnology”. In the view of that Pakistan first realized the importance of Biotechnology in 1959 in Pakistan’s first commission on science and technology when they set up research institutes and organizations to cope up with the increasing demands of development in science and to meet the challenges of the modern world. The scope of biotechnology in Pakistan is bright as there are many educational institutions which are offering biotechnology as a course and providing research opportunities for students. Further, there is a huge list of institutions which are providing platform to emerging and senior biotechnologists to utilize their research skills in diverse areas of biotechnology. Some institutions which are doing research in various field of biotechnology in Pakistan are follows.

NARC is an old research center, located in Islamabad (capital of Pakistan) which is well known for its research activities relevant to agriculture. They hire many university graduates as interns to train them. Few years back, Pakistan suffered from cotton crisis. This institution contributed greatly in developing BT cotton and also aided in its awareness in farmers.

NIBGE (National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering) located in Faisalabad, is another most prominent and important organization solely contributed for researches in genetic engineering and biotechnology using advanced and high through put technologies. They are presently doing research on environmental, medical and plant biotechnology. This institution was the first to identify Cotton Leaf Curl Virus and finding its solution to save the country from the economical loses caused by the failure of cotton crops due to this virus pathogenesis. Further, a credit goes to this institution for converting 11 million acres of saline land into a fertilized land by using the methods of biotechnology. This research centre is also developing methods through which energy could be produced by extracting minerals and fossil fuels. They have used bacteria extract uranium and copper. The development of the technique using bacteria has potential applications in the development of mines of Saindak. These mines are the biggest copper mines of Pakistan and are found in Balochistan, a province of Pakistan.

Institute of Molecular Genetics Islamabad is one more important research center where work regarding biomedicine and genetic engineering is done. Researchers here have identified a gene, responsible for a hereditary degenerative disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa which results in the loss of eyesight. Scientists of Pakistan have also prepared more than 3,000 lympho-blastoid cell lines. They even have the credit of preparing largest amount of human cells in the whole world. These cell lines have been banked at France, Biochemistry department at Oxford University in the duplicate form.

Punjab University is another bright educational institute where research on vast areas is being conducted. Around 45 new restriction enzymes have been discovered in its Center of Advanced Molecular Biology. Here, scientists have also developed techniques to identify tuberculosis, breast cancer and hepatitis A and C. It’s another department “Center of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Biology” is well known for its work on plants, animals and humans.

KRL, PEAC and NORI are other institutes which are providing platform for research on cancer related studies, genetic aspects of human diseases and hereditary associated diseases. These are few institutes and there is a lot more like NIAB, Quaid-e-Azam University, University of agricultural and veterinary sciences, LUMS Lahore, Arid Agriculture university, University of Karachi, PCSIR Laboratories Lahore, University of Peshawar, IBGE, University of Balochistan, University of Sindh, Central cotton research center and many others whose details might cause tedium.

There is scope for biotechnologists in food and pharmaceutical industries in Pakistan. Food related industries hire biotechnologists for food analysis and testing and for quality check. Medicine industry hire for quantitative and qualitative analysis of drugs, to test potential of various lead compounds and to analyze the drug pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. Biotechnologists are being hired in hospitals in pathological labs. Biotech Pakistan Private Limited in Karachi is a leading agent in Pakistan for the supply of medical and scientific equipment all over the country. Santa Cruz Biotechnology is another one such international distributors whose branch in Pakistan is in Lahore and provides great opportunity for biotechnologists for job with business point of view.

The opportunities for biotechnology graduates and Ph.Ds are tremendous in Pakistan and with high determination and positive spirit, one can establish good career here. There are ample opportunities for research in Pakistan. There are institutions like USAid, European Union and commonwealth which support educational and research promotion in this green region of the world and even provide scholarship for ambitious students to learn skills from the world outside. Higher education commission now has taken steps to restore conditions to the earlier times by collaborating with more then 100+ laboratories and research centers from Germany, US, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, England, Switzerland, Sweden and many others. In the end, there are a lot of institutes in Pakistan that are working on diverse aspects of biotechnology and people associated with this field can build for themselves a successful career with little awareness, enthusiasm and hard work.


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