Dr Abhay Jere
associate vice president – life sciences, Persistent Systems, Pune
After extending collaboration with a host of prestigious universities
and institutes in the North America, Pune-based Persistent Systems is
now looking at replicating the same in the burgeoning Indian life
sciences market. In an interview with BioSpectrum, Dr Abhay Jere,
associate vice president – life sciences, Persistent Systems, throws
light on the recent initiatives of the company in bioinformatics space.
the focus areas of Persistent within the life sciences sector in India?
Life sciences has contributed about 15 percent of our
business. We are ready to grow and ready to expand. We have a team of
500-plus people and are always on the look out for ways to contribute
more to life sciences, especially in a country like India. Our focus
areas are bioinformatics, clinical informatics, instrumentation and
LIMS. In the area of research, we are looking at systems biology and
data analysis, especially in next-generation sequencing. We will
venture into personalized medicine space.
throw light on the recently introduced BioCrats Connect?
At Persistent Systems, we realized that
interdisciplinary interaction within life sciences is hardly happening.
For example, a physicist will hardly talk to a biologist and
comprehensive interaction was missing. So we decided to come up with a
platform, BioCrats Connect, where people, interested in contributing to
the life sciences space can interact with medicos, biologists,
pharmacists and then churn out interdisciplinary projects. We will be
monitoring the status of the projects. Persistent Systems may or
may not be a part of it because ultimately the projects should be of
relevance to the Indian life sciences sector. We will take initiatives
to make this community more vibrant because usually people discuss
ideas and many a times those ideas are never taken forward. Meetings
between these professionals will be held every quarter and we will also
initiate bi-monthly meetings. This apart, we are in the process of
setting up a web portal. We plan to have webinars and blogs. In the
near future, we are hoping to take many such initiatives in
looks at collaborations with universities, what are the key initiatives
on this front?
We extend collaborations with institutions and
universities. We have a strong collaboration with Washington
University, US. In India, we collaborate with the National Cancer
Institute of National Institutes of Health (NIH), for an initiative
related to cancer grid called the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid
(caBIG) in collaboration with Washington University. We have been
named a caBIG Support Service Provider for them. Other collaborations
are with Indiana University, Yale University, Harvard and Broad
Apart from universities, we are also working with companies such as
Agilent and we have developed more than 20 products for them. We are
also working with Life Technologies. Persistent Systems and Indiana
University together have come up with research set-up for informatics
in life sciences. In India, we have also collaborated with National
Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune and International Center for Genetic
Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi.
the role played by Persistent in the caBIG initiative?
Persistent Systems has been named a cancer Biomedical
Informatics Grid (caBIG) Support Service Provider by the National
Cancer Institute (NCI). So, all cancer research-related data would be
available online which would be available for other researchers. Along
with Washington University, we have built multiple tools for this caBIG
initiative. CaBIG Support Service Providers are independent entities
that are approved by NCI as meeting specific criteria for performance
of support services related to caBIG needs. Services rendered by caBIG
Support Service Providers to their clients are established under
separate business arrangements organized by and between the service
provider and its clients. The caBIG program has licensed Persistent as
a part of its effort to provide support for greater involvement and
adoption by cancer centers, hospitals and researchers nationwide.
Persistent is licensed as a caBIG Support Service Provider licensed in
all categories of support.
the focus areas for Persistent as part of its collaboration with NIV,
We have built an entire data management system for
swine flu at NIV, Pune. We deployed the system a year back. Currently
they are using the system and are planning to take it to other places.
The software, VirusLIMS, is a secure web-based information management
system that is designed to efficiently manage field and laboratory
information for clinical and laboratory testing across the institute
and related centers. The VirusLIMS software will enable NIV to
effectively manage increasing sample in-flow as well as ensure
documentation of all phases of laboratory testing and reporting
activities, aiding compliance with standards defined by agencies such
as Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The software further provides the infrastructure for timely sharing of
laboratory information with health agencies — which is crucial for
rapid and effective response to outbreaks of infectious diseases such
as chikungunya, swine flu and avian influenza.
any apprehensions among companies on universities being averse to
adopting high-end technology tools?
Initially, I did have apprehensions that we will be
facing such challenges, but, when I started interacting with
universities, the response was pretty positive. In India, there are a
lot of public-private partnership (PPP) initiatives and there has been
a wide acceptance to this model. It takes some time to work out
realities and now I am keen on working with the industry. I do see the
bioinformatics segment in India growing in the next two years.
the business strategy for the future?
I would not be able to comment on short-term plans but
as far as long-term plans are concerned, I would say that our main
focus would be on research in the areas of systems biology and data