The third edition of the International Conference on Bioscience and Biotechnology (ICBB-2020) was held between January 28 and 31, 2020 at Hotel Barahi, Pokhara, Nepal. The conference, organized bi-annually by the Research Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology (RIBB), was a continuation of the prior conferences held in 2016 at Kathmandu and in 2018 at Dhulikhel, Nepal and had “Expanding Nepal’s Biotech Horizon” as its theme. In accordance with this vision of exploring and expanding the scope of biotechnology to a new city, we chose Pokhara, the gateway to Himalayas, as the conference venue. This was done particularly for two reasons: 1) Networking and finding grounds for collaboration with the academic and research institute and biotechnology related industries and 2) Supporting the government initiative of Visit Nepal 2020, since Pokhara is one of the major tourist attraction centres of Nepal.
The conference was attended by more than 150 participants that included students, researchers, government officials and academics. Representatives from fifteen nations (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Poland, India, Italy, Korea, Nepal, Netherland, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, UK and USA) presented their paper and poster presentations during the conference. Apart from academia and research, the conference also provided the platform for start-up biotech companies that included dairy (Fermentica Foods and Dairy Pvt. Ltd.), wine (Pure joy Pvt. Ltd.), cosmetic (Gresmetic Pvt. Ltd.), plant tissue culture (Kalapas Biotech Pvt. Ltd.) as well as equipment vendors (Helix Enterprises Pvt. Ltd.).
Of the four days, the first three was dedicated for paper and poster presentations. On the first day, presentations were given by Prof. Dr. Arjun Karki about the initiative of establishing University of Nepal, a university, first of its kind, which would solely be dedicated towards research and liberal arts education followed by Dr. Ashim Dhakal on introduction to Nepal Research Alliance (NRA), an initiative between seven research institutes of Nepal, to stop research and/or equipment duplication as well as form an umbrella organization dedicated for promotion of research culture and innovation in Nepal. The final presentation of the day was given by Mr. Prajwal Rajbhandari to shed some light on the ongoing research activities at RIBB as well as our vision and aim for the future. Apart from presentations, a large panel discussion was held to discuss the possibilities of collaboration between the national and international researchers and their corresponding institutes.
The second day saw two sessions: Green and Sustainable Chemistry and Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Green and Sustainable Chemistry session, chaired by Prof. Dr. Janardan Lamichhane, Kathmandu University and co-chaired by Dr. Prativa Pandey, RIBB, began with a keynote speech from Mr. Rob van Daalen, a senior publisher at Elsevier and initiator of Green and Sustainable Chemistry Challenge, discussing recent developments in the field of green and sustainable chemistry with respect to science and publishing. This was then followed by presenters giving talk on various aspects of eco-friendly technologies currently under development which included innovations in the field of nanotechnology and its implementation in agricultural sector, sustainable synthesis of natural products and, phosphorous through its recycling of by-products from food industries which would bring forth the concept of circular economy without bearing much pressure on the environment. Similarly, during medical and pharmaceutical sciences session, chaired by Prof. Dr. Shishir Gokhale, Manipal College of Medical Science and co-chaired by Dr. Prson Gautam, Post-doctoral fellow at University of Helsinki, presentations were given on importance of one health in national and global settings, study of microbes from high altitudes of Nepal as a potential source of therapeutic compounds, understanding the role of Borealin during cell division, development of hybrid models for predicting treatment outcome for lung cancer patients as well as establishing better gene expression measurement methods, drug delivery systems and the need for screening of drug quality in developing countries like Nepal.
The remaining two sessions: Food Technology and Applied Microbiology and Agriculture and Plant Biotechnology were held on the third day. The first session began with a keynote speech on application of probiotics (Lactobacillus rhamnosus yoba 2012 and Streptococcus thermophiles C106) for producing functional fermented foods and its health benefits from Prof. Remco Kort, VU University. Prof. Dr. Kort and Prof. Dr. Bishnu Raj Tiwari from Pokhara University chaired and co-chaired this session, which mainly dealt with valorisation of food by-products using novel and emerging technologies, technological innovations in the field of microbial fermentation for development of functional foods as well as the effect of arabinose and xylose during metabolism in Escherichia coli.
The final session of the conference i.e. Agriculture and Plant Biotechnology focused on basic as well as entrepreneurial and applied aspects of the field. The session was chaired and co-chaired by Dr. Bibek Aryal, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Dr. Namaraj Dhami, Pokhara University. The ensuing talks delved into the role of differential cell elongation during development, the prospects of hybrid vegetable seed production as well as distribution incorporating the scientific and economic viewpoints, emergence of bio-fertilizers, and bio-fortification as well as plant tissue culture as a viable business in Nepal.
Apart from paper presentation sessions, the 2nd and 3rd day of the conference also showcased poster presenters eager to present their work which included but not limited to Guava leaves as natural preservatives for small-holders farmers of Nepal, antibiogram for bacteria isolated from fresh fruits and vegetables, genotyping of Orientia tsutsugamushi, molecular characterization of biofilm producing multidrug resistant E. coli, Aphicidal activity of Bacillus thuringiensis, screening of β-Galactosidase producing lactic acid bacteria isolated from different livestock of Nepal, determination of infection outbreak potential of hospital and municipal wastesand many more. From poster presenters, top 3 best presenters were awarded with Best Poster Award. The first, second and third award went to Dr. Rijan Shrestha, Mr. Samrat Poudel, and Ms. Nasla Shakya respectively.
The fourth and final day of the conference included workshop on publishing high quality papers and understanding researcher and publishing ethics conducted by Mr. Rob van Daalen. The workshop was held at School of Health and Allied Sciences, Pokhara University in the morning and at Prithvi Narayan Campus, affiliated to Tribhuvan University in the afternoon. Concurrently, as an outreach program for community engagement to promote science among school going children (Grade V to VIII) (Engage Nepal with Science), the research team (Ms. Rojlina Manandhar, Ms. Rita Majhi, Ms. Angisha Basnet, Mr. Aayush Kar, Mr. Nawnit Kumar Mahato) from RIBB led by Ms. Suvechhya Bastola joined hands with Dr. Maria A. Abad from University of Edinburgh to bring the world of science to them via live demonstration of various experiments and their underlying principles. This included DNA extraction using common household chemicals, chromatography using chalks, microscopic visualization of microbes present in hand so as to associate the importance of good sanitary habits and other basic experiments.
The conference concluded with notion of resounding success similar to or even greater than that of previous conferences, which would have been impossible, if not for relentless effort from the organizing committee and volunteers along with the active audience members with enthusiastic heart and a curious mind. At last, but not the least, this conference, although a brain child of RIBB, would not have flourished as much, without the financial support from organizations that encourages and promotes science and acknowledges the importance of proper scientific communications. Hence, the additional credit for success of this event goes to all of our supporters: Platinum Sponsors (Elsevier; Society for Applied Microbiology (Sfam)); Gold Sponsors (Helix Enterprises Pvt. Ltd.); Silver Sponsor (Organization for Women on Science for the Developing World (OWSD); Pure joy Pvt. Ltd.; Hospital for Advanced Medicine and Surgery (HAMS)); Supporting Partners (Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST); Talk Biotech Forum; Fermentica Foods and Dairy Pvt. Ltd.; Praramva Biotech; Nepal Research Alliance (NRA); Sarba Shrestha Seeds; Gresmetic Pvt. Ltd.) and Media partner Chhaproma.
ICBB-2020 concluded with accomplished goals of having formed a strong research network, where future collaborations could be incubated and brought to fruition while celebrated farewell with a fast forward welcome for its next iteration to be held in the year 2022 with same level of energy and enthusiasm but at a different location.
3rd International Conference on Bioscience and Biotechnology 2020 (ICBB-2020).