Life sciences spell international success; a unique Indo-Swiss partnership in the area of biotechnology is putting knowledge to work. Swiss News talks to officials at the ISCB to find out more.

AuteurHeddema, Renske
Fonction Feature

The Indo-Swiss Collaboration in Biotechnology (ISCB) is undoubtedly one of the most successful scientific programmes Switzerland has entered into with another country. Initiated in 1974 by ETH Professor Attain Fiechter, the programme has created a solid framework for innovative research and practical applications both in India and Switzerland.

For over 30 years, Indian and Swiss scientists, universities and industries have been working closely together in the field of biotechnology (mostly agricultural project). The work has entailed successful projects regarding the improvement of disease resistance in plants, bettering soil quality--to name a few.

So, what is the key success factor of this unique partnership between two countries? What challenges does the programme face today? Former ISCB programme manager Dr Katharina Jenny and current ISCB programme manager Dr. Gabriele Schachermayr share their views with Swiss News.

"Nobody would have thought that ISCB would still be around today," says ISCB programme manager Dr. Gabriele Schachermayr. After having been hosted for the first 30 years by the Institute of Biotechnology in Zurich, the ISCB is now heading for new shores at the lake of Geneva in Lausanne. At the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), Schachermayr will continue to run a programme that is based on partnerships between Indian and Swiss research institutions and science and industry.

Solid Academic Base

The fact that the programme is science-driven, may be one of the reasons of its success.

While other programmes of the Swiss government are based on economic development, ISCB is embedded in an academic environment, fostering scientific collaboration. Moreover, the programme is focused on technology transfer, which basically means the practical applications of research for end-users, mainly farmers.

The ISCB programme manager takes the example of bio pesticides to illustrate how the programme works. Dr. Schachermayr, who visits India at least four times a year and maintains an extensive network in both countries, says "One of the current ISCB projects targets an insect pest in pulse crops, which are very important in India. These crops are a vital protein source in a vegetarian diet. Hence it is essential to adequately eradicated the insect pests in them. Our programme does just that; with Swiss and Indian scientists working together in their search for alternative ways to fight these crop diseases. Most pesticides in the...

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