Dr. Mrittika Sengupta is an assistant professor in the Biotechnology department at Bennett University. With global rise in COVID-19, she has described what role Biotechnology can play in preparing a vaccine against this type of infectious disease. Let us check her opinions on it here:
What exactly is novel coronvirus?
The SARS-CoV-2, popularly called as the 2019 novel coronavirus belongs to the virus family Coronaviridae. It is the tiny microorganism that has brought the entire world to a standstill by causing the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The name coronavirus is derived from the crown-like appearance of the virus particles when viewed through an electron microscope. The SARS-CoV-2 is shaped like a sphere with spikes projecting from it. The sphere is made up of a lipid-containing envelope that encircles and covers another protein casing called the nucleocapsid that encloses the virus’s genetic material. Viruses are unique in that unlike other organisms whose genetic information is encoded in DNA; some groups of viruses can have their genetic information encoded in RNA.
How do this viruses spread?
The SARS-CoV-2 is one such virus whose genome is made up of a single strand of RNA. This RNA can be used directly for viral protein synthesis during viral multiplication. But viruses are handicapped in one way, unlike other organisms they lack the machinery required to multiply on their own. So, they hijack a host cell and use their machinery for their replication. The spikes that project from the virus help them to attach to a host cell so they can hijack it and command it to make new virus particles that will eventually spread to other cells of the body.
How can the spread be prevented?
Understanding these mechanisms holds the key for the development of suitable vaccines and antiviral drugs. A strong collaborative approach of different branches of Biotechnology such as Microbiology, Immunology, Protein Engineering and Antibody Engineering is essential to come up with preventive and therapeutic strategies in times like this.
At Bennett University, the B.Tech Biotechnology curriculum provides the students with a strong foundation in Microbes and Immune System, where they learn about the biology of pathogens such as viruses and how they interact with our immune systems. They learn the techniques of culturing them in courses like Cell and Tissue Culture Technologies. The students learn to clone different proteins like the viral spike protein in courses like rDNA Technology. Further, they learn how to engineer those proteins for beneficial applications in Protein Engineering and Applications course.
While vaccine and therapeutics development are taught in detail in Antibody Engineering Technologies. Also, a culture of strong laboratory components in each course along with project-based learning supported by a robust research program with multiple projects funded by the Government of India ensures that the students at Bennett University are trained not only in theory but they also receive sufficient practical training in a safe controlled environment.
Thus, the University’s pedagogical approach ensures to provide a holistic education to build future leaders in the field of Biotechnology who will provide solutions to such pandemic challenges in the future.
About the author, Dr. Mrittika Sengupta
Dr. Mrittika Sengupta is a Ph.D degree holder in Cell and Molecular Biology from Illinois State University, USA. She also has an M.Sc and B.Sc degree in Microbiology from Bangalore University, India. Since 2017, she is an assistant professor at Bennett University in the Department of Biotechnology.
Her research areas include Molecular Mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance and Transcriptional regulation of bacterial biofilms. She also has 5 publications.
Apart from that she has been awarded with Weigel Research Grant in 2010, 2009, 2008. Also, in 2011 she received the Omar Rilett Travel Scholarship.