Scientists at IIIM labs aim new skies

Sanjeev K. Sharma

Dr. Zabeer Ahmed

As the tableau of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) J&K moved in Republic Day Parade-2024 at the National Capital, the country came to know about the purple revolution ushered through lavender cultivation in the Union Territory. The tableau also highlighted agro-technical development and appealed farmers to progress with CSIR initiatives as it was very easy to cultivate lavender which yields good returns even on small investments. The all women CSIR tableau showcased achievements under government’s initiative of scientific development.
Apart from lavender cultivation the CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM) in J&K is performing many more functions and presently the scientists at IIIM labs are busy in researches to serve mankind by bringing some better drugs to fight dreaded diseases. Not only this CSIR-IIIM is also helping start-ups, budding entrepreneurs, unemployed persons, women and youth with its ventures like Technology Business Incubator (TBI), BIRAC-BioNEST Incubator, Atal Incubation Centre (AIC) and other societal mission projects like CSIR Aroma Mission, CSIR Floriculture Mission and Region Specific Smart Agriculture Missions.
The Institute housed in its Jammu campus and its Srinagar branch fosters innovation and entrepreneurship in the region and focuses on enhancing the income of farmers.
CSIR-IIIM, Jammu, an Institution under Union Ministry of Science & Technology has mandate to work on Natural Product Driven Drug Discovery. It follows an interdisciplinary approach, bringing together scientists and researchers from various fields which enhances Institute’s ability to address complex scientific challenges.
An exclusive interaction with Director IIIM, Dr. Zabeer Ahmed (who is also son of the soil) brought to fore that scientists at this elite research institute are busy in research works on cancer, diabetes mellitus & obesity, rheumatoid arthritis & inflammatory disorders, tuberculosis, liver disorder and skincare.
“In addition to core Research & Development (R&D) in areas of various human ailments, we are planning to involve youth along with progressive farmers to become entrepreneurs by adapting cultivation of aromatic and floriculture crops, value addition and product development from the same and also to enter this sector to create wealth from wastes like distillation wastes, crop wastes etc,” the Director IIIM informed.
He further said that apart from this, research is also going on at IIIM on distillation of aromatic oils and isolation of new aroma chemicals.
“For market linkage of distillation of aromatic oils and for value addition to the product, this year, we will train start-ups so that high value products can be launched in the market after which the youth involved in the programme may make good earnings from these essential oils,” Dr. Ahmed maintained adding: “Similarly, from the wastes of aromatic oils and aromatic crops, IIIM is planning to make something useful.”
Giving details on Leather Training Centre (LTC), he said that under Atal Incubation Center, the LTC has been established for the youth and the women so that they at local level can make leather products. “LTC is presently a successful exercise so far which has seen participation of many women,” Dr. Ahmed further said.
He said that as this region is very rich in biodiversity, start-ups are being engaged in making health related products, for quality control and value addition of which IIIM will provide the required support so that they can come out with nice nutraceutical and health care products.
Director IIIM informed that Phase-III of Phyto-pharmaceutical Mission launched by CSIR may start from April this year in which some earlier leads identified would be taken up for further development. “IIIM will go for domestication and captive cultivation of plants in J&K having medicinal values on which no work has been done so far,” he further said adding: “During last phase of Phyto-pharmaceutical Mission, IIIM has identified drug molecule from saffron for the treatment of Alzheimer disease which will be soon taken up for clinical development.”
“After completing the basic research on Cannabis, the scientists have found drug molecules for Cancer pain management and many other diseases. This year, after getting license from J&K Government, we will be starting work for GMP manufacturing and clinical trial on Cannabis based medicines,” Dr. Ahmed further said.
More excerpts from interaction between IIIM Director and this Scribe of Daily Excelsior (DE)
DE: Tell us more about the research areas of IIIM?
IIIM Director: CSIR-IIIM in Jammu is involved in various research areas related to medicinal and aromatic plants, natural products and drug discovery. Over the years, CSIR-IIIM Jammu has made significant contributions in the fields of medicinal chemistry, natural products chemistry, synthetic organic chemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, pharmacology, fermentation and biotechnology. The institute has been actively involved in cutting-edge research and development activities aimed at addressing various societal challenges and meeting the needs of industries. Some of the general research areas traditionally associated with CSIR-IIIM include Natural Product Chemistry, Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Pharmacology and Drug Discovery, Phytochemistry, Biotechnology, Microbial Biotechnology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Analytical Chemistry, Ethno-pharmacology and Bioinformatics.
DE: How IIIM is beneficial to the society?
IIIM Director: CSIR-IIIM has numerous ongoing welfare schemes to empower and uplift society particularly the agriculture sector of J&K. Under PM Modi’s leadership, President CSIR and under the guidance of Dr. Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of Science and Technology, also Vice President CSIR and under the patronage of Dr. N. Kalaiselvi, Director General CSIR & Secretary, DSIR, GoI, these initiatives have been implemented by CSIR-IIIM Jammu to improve the lives of farmers, unemployed youth, women and new entrepreneurs and start-ups by providing them financial security, skill development, market access and sustainable agricultural practices. CSIR-IIIM Jammu is committed in supporting the local community especially youth, farmers, self-help groups and entrepreneurs by offering them various socio-economic opportunities to enhance their livelihood and better their living standards. Aroma Mission and Floriculture Mission are notable societal initiatives by IIIM that have positively impacted local farmers and self-help groups in J&K. Purple revolution by the Institute has created jobs in remotest and far flung regions of Pir Panjal, Chenab and Kashmir valley. IIIM has also empowered farmers to become entrepreneurs. The success stories of IIIM-TBI start-ups serve as inspiring examples for others in the region.
At present, the institute is running two dedicated incubators – BioNEST in Jammu & Atal Incubation Centre in Kashmir to support biotech based start-ups and entrepreneurs and also to impart skill development trainings to local youth, industrial personnel, start-ups and faculty members of various Colleges and Universities.
DE: How IIIM benefits the government?
IIIM Director: CSIR-IIIM benefits the government in several ways through its research, innovations and contributions to various sectors. Some ways in which CSIR-IIIM does this are Scientific Research and Innovation, Healthcare and Traditional Medicine, Natural Resource Management, Drug Development and Pharmaceutical Industry, Technology Transfer and Commercialization, Quality Control and Standardization, Capacity Building and Skill Development, International Collaboration and Recognition, Policy Support and Advisory Role.
DE: How IIIM helps in industrial development?
IIIM Director: CSIR-IIIM’s contributions to industrial development are multifaceted covering research, technology transfer, quality standards, skill development and policy advocacy. This collaborative approach between the scientific community and industries helps drive innovation and economic growth. Today, industries collaborate with IIIM for joint R&D projects, leveraging the scientific expertise and to utilize state-of-the-art infrastructure available in the Institute. Collaborating with IIIM, industries develop and commercialize innovative products and technologies in the field of integrative medicine, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Some of the industrial partners of this Institute are multinational companies of repute such as Emami Limited, Sarvotham Care Ltd, Synergia Bio-Sciences, Sun Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Bombay Hemp Pvt. Ltd, Pharmanza Herbals Pvt Ltd, Reliance Industries Ltd, Om Sav Pharma Research Ltd, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Anphar Organics Pvt Ltd etc.
DE: Which new drugs and technologies are being developed at IIIM?
IIIM Director: The CSIR-IIIM is working on development of modern drugs (New Chemical Entities-NCEs) and botanical drugs (Phyto-pharmaceuticals) targeting various diseases conditions as well as Nutraceuticals for providing health benefits.
IIIM is carrying out Investigational New Drug (IND) enabling animal studies for further development as anti-cancer drugs.
In Phyto-pharmaceuticals, IIIM has developed IIIM-160, a drug based on Bergenin-rich extract of the aerial parts of Bergenia Ciliata, for targeting rheumatoid arthritis. IIIM-160-SR is a gastro-retentive sustained release capsule formulation of the hydro-alcoholic extract of Bergenia Ciliata. With this new SR formulation, a hard-gelatin capsule formulation has been prepared. IND application has been filed to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) to seek permission for conducting Phase I clinical trial in healthy volunteers.
Neurodegenerative disorders may develop in ageing population and in order to address this IIIM has developed a phyto-pharmaceutical IIIM-141 which shows multiple pharmacological activities for Alzheimer’s disease including ability to enhance amyloid-? clearance from brain (via induction of P-gp/ LRP-1 proteins), provides protection against amyloid-? induced toxicity to neuronal cells, inhibit NLRP3 inflammasome, display antioxidant activity and memory enhancing activity.
IIIM, along with DBT and ICMR have started working on two phyto-pharmaceutical products: CBD-THC based product for Cancer Pain management and CBD based product for treatment of epilepsy. IIIM is also developing a botanical product based on Andrographis paniculata and Piper Betle, for the management of Sickle Cell Anaemia. Development of nutraceutical product from Lepidium Latifolium for improving gut health is also being carried out.
IIIM along with CDRI (Lucknow) and CCRAS-CARI have initiated projects to develop standardized botanicals from Vasaka (Justicia adhatoda), amla (Phyllanthus emblica) and Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), as adjunct therapy to reduce hepatotoxicity associated with tuberculosis treatment.
“I am hopeful that with the hard work that team IIIM is putting in, we would see some of these drugs and botanical products in market, within next few years,” Dr. Ahmed concluded.