AMR biobanking is the need of the hour

December 6, 2019 0 By FM

India’s research programme on tackling antimicrobial resistance has just started, with the government announcing that it will set up a biorepository for drug-resistant microbes at National Centre for Microbial Resource (NCMR), Pune. Though India has several biorepositories, a dedicated initiative such as this is the first of its kind. This biobank will be a part of one of Union Science and Technology Ministry’s mission programmes to develop indigenous and cost-effective methods in the fight against AMR. A biobank is a collection and storage of biological materials such as blood, urine, saliva, tissue, cells, DNA, RNA and proteins from humans. Such biobanks or biorepositories aid scientific investigations. Several healthcare reports suggest that India’s condition is alarming as far as AMR is concerned due to the improper use of antibiotics. Several critical units of tertiary care centers showed 7% of patients as resistant to antibiotics. It also results in 598,000 neonatal deaths each year. 

Considering the vast impact and scale of AMR, a single initiative may not be sufficient to evaluate the ground realities and develop better diagnostics and therapeutic strategies. Therefore, there is an urgent need for hospitals, both private and public, to engage in AMR bio-banking and research. However, the major roadblock in this direction is that the investment required for setting up the infrastructure and the maintenance of biorepositories is very high. Important technological needs where costs are being incurred are collection, processing, shipping and storage, where there is a need for class 3 or 4 bio-security due to the pathogenicity of microbes in the samples. Bio-specimen collection systems do not denature the microbes, thus making them very dangerous to handle. Thus, bio-banking that uses present technologies is embedded with huge infrastructure and storage facilities, and also consume a lot of power (storage in -80oC or in liquid Nitrogen). 

A new technology developed by Centre for Biology, Informatics and Technology (C-BIT) and a unit of Institute for Applied Research and Innovation (InARI) could really add value in these circumstances. C-BIT has developed a new formulation of preservative called Insta-Preserve RT, which denatures all microbes instantly and can be stored at room temperature or at ambient temperature of 15-30oC. This technology transforms the way bio-banking has been done so far and also makes it cost-effective. Insta-Preserve RT can bring down the costs of large-scale genomics studies using nextgen sequencing (NGS) platforms for understanding the molecular mechanisms of pathogenicity, developing novel diagnostic panels and drug discovery. Alleviation of the need for huge investments in infrastructure, processing and storage makes Insta-Preserve RT the best technology suitable for Indian research community. Therefore, this technology can now enable the majority of hospitals to develop their own biorepositories, along with national bio-banking. 

The author is the Scientific Chairman of InARI and Director, Centre for Biology, Informatics and Technology (C-BIT)