Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Coverage in pharmabiz.com

US expert challenges doctor brothers in Kerala to prove nano invention
Monday, April 04, 2005 08:00 IST
PB Jayakumar, Chennai

The US expert who initiated the controversy surrounding the credibility of the promoters of the proposed nano technology centre in Thiruvananthapuram, has alleged the claims and inventions of the doctor brothers are trivial and the State Government should form a scientific committee of experts to look into the proposal before giving nod for the project.
According to Dr Joshy Joseph, Post-doctoral Fellow at the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology, USA, the doctor brothers' claim of inventing a DNA sequencing system named DNA Braidgeneseq with a Nanochip (NC) and the Spiral Laser Scanner (SLS) is a pirated invention with cosmetic modifications.
In a series of e-mail communications with Pharmabiz in the last two weeks, Dr Joshy elaborated that their idea of the 'nano chip' for the sequencing of human genome is the direct copy of a 'silicon nano chip' invented by Professor Craighead's group at Cornell University, New York, which was published in the Journal 'Science' in 2000.
Also, the idea of DNA Braidgeneseq human genome sequencing system is a copy from a Harvard dropout boy's (Eugene chan) concept of making a gene machine. Eugene Chan in fact had started a company named US Genomics for fulfilling his dreams and miserably failed after wasting 60-70 million dollars. Dr Joshy alleged the doctors might have copied the idea from the Internet and would have presented the ideas as their own.
From the available material published by the media (including Pharmabiz) related to the so-called inventions, it could be possible for the experts in the field to understand that the doctors lack even basic knowledge about the real task of DNA sequencing. In reality, before separation of the DNA using electrophoresis, a lot more time and money consuming steps are involved in the process. Also the labelling with fluorescent dyes and subsequent discussion is not that simple.
He said nano technology research involves elaborate R&D requirements like 'class zero' type clean labs and advanced equipments such as Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) and Tunnelling Electron Microscope (TEM). It is mysterious to accept that that the doctors conducted elaborate research in their home based 'R&D centre' and developed advanced technologies without even basic equipments, paraphernalia and scientific support. The patent authorities are yet to grant patents for their invention, and they would have applied for the patents with the ideas.The so-called DNA Braidgeneseq system could be still at the concept level. If the doctors have developed the product as they claim, at least a working demonstration model, its efficiency and capabilities should be proved before a scientific forum of experts, before roping in public and private money to commercialize their 'dreams'.
The doctors would have capitalized on the lack of knowledge among public and media on the happenings and technical complexities related to nanotechnology research, to leverage cheap publicity for them. They lack practical experience in this field and never worked in any project under any scientist in India and abroad, in any of the 'nanotechnology' related areas. It is unbelievable to accept that the doctors got experimental knowledge and experience from reading books or articles from Internet.
Dr Joshi said he was the first to alert the State Chief Minister and the Government to verify the credentials of the promoters of the Rs 500 crore proposed nanotech centre, included in the one-year action plan of the state Government as a public-private venture. The Government should not back out from the idea of setting up a nano technology centre in Thiruvananthapuram due to the controversy, and should rope in the services of experts on the subject to set up a world class centre similar the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Bio technology at Thiruvananthapuram.
It may be noted that based on the blue print of the project submitted by Dr Ajith Kumar and Dr Arun Kumar, the Government had entrusted its Non Resident Keralite department (NORKA) to mobilize funds for the project, for setting up the first phase of the centre in Thiruvananthapuram with an investment of about Rs 15 crore. The state was also planning to offer land for the project as its stake. However, when the controversy erupted, the Government backed out from the project, as reported by Pharmabiz earlier