Navigating industry-academia collaborations at RYIM Hyderabad

Ankita Rathore

RYIM Hyderabad was the sixth Regional Young Investigators’ Meeting for the year 2023 – 2024, held from 02 to 03 February 2024, at Mahindra University. The meeting’s focal point was the theme industry-academia collaborations to translate research to products.’ In this report, Ankita Rathore, Program Manager-Science Communication, IndiaBioscience, highlights the key takeaways from the various talks and discussions held during RYIM Hyderabad.

RYIM Hyderabad Titleimage
RYIM Hyderabad 2023-2024. Picture Credits: RYIM Organisers.

While heading to the venue at Mahindra University in Hyderabad, I overheard a conversation between a RYIM participant and my colleague, Arushi Batra. He posed the question, curious about the whereabouts of IndiaBioscience and our headquarters (and sub offices). 

I chuckled, thinking about how IndiaBioscience, though based in Bangalore, has pan-India reach and impact with its strong digital presence, and diverse programs, grants and initiatives. 

I shared this anecdote at the start of my presentation at RYIM Hyderabad, introducing IndiaBioscience and highlighting its role in bridging many gaps across the life science community in India, including that between academia and industry.

Further on in my talk, I shared the details of the diverse initiatives undertaken by IndiaBioscience, such as organising career development workshops, creating compendia focused on collaborations and varied career paths, and establishing external partnerships with biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries for several programs. I also urged the scientists and students in the audience to actively engage with the different programs at IndiaBioscience to maximise the impact of these initiatives.

In this report, I highlight the key takeaways from the various talks and discussions held during RYIM Hyderabad.

Genesis of RYIM Hyderabad

To commence the meeting and kick off the first day of RYIM Hyderabad, Bindu Madhav Reddy, University of Hyderabad, and Vivek Singh, L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, who were also the organisers of the inaugural RYIM Hyderabad in 2018, discussed the genesis of regional YIMs. They highlighted the necessity to establish local scientific networks within India’s major cities, leading to the genesis of the RYIMs at the tenth Young Investigators’ Meeting in 2018, with the support of IndiaBioscience.

In the true spirit of collaboration, RYIM Hyderabad 2024 was organised as a multi-institutional effort, by an incredible team led by Viswanadham D, IKP Knowledge Park; and Manjari Kiran from UoH, along with Sanjeev Kumar Choudhry, Pijus Kanti Barman, and Runa Kuley from Mahindra University; Sugunakar Vuree, National Institute of Nutrition; Manish Jaiswal, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research; Sandeep Kushwaha, National Institute of Animal Biotechnology; Kranti Kiran Reddy, Malla Reddy Dental College; Shibsekhar Roy, Osmania University, and Yathish Achar, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting Diagnostics (CDFD).

RYIM Organisers at Mahindra University. Picture Credits: RYIM organising team.
RYIM Organisers at Mahindra University. Picture Credits: RYIM organising team.

Bringing academia and industry together

Another talk aligned with the theme was by Rashmi Pimpale, Research and Innovation Circle of Hyderabad (RICH), who emphasised the compelling influence of collaboration in science. While an ideal scientific scenario envisions seamless partnerships among industries, institutions, academia, and government, the actual reality poses challenges. Initiatives such as RICH and other S&T city clusters, backed by the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Government of India, play a crucial role in bridging such gaps and fostering a collaborative culture. Through these joint endeavours, diverse expertise comes together to tackle challenges and devise innovative solutions.

In another talk, Vinay Nandicoori, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), shared some learning points from his experiences with academia-industry partnerships. He said to forget about the one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to science’, and urged young researchers to work in partnership with other (non-state) stakeholders. In line with this, Falguni Pati, IIT Hyderabad, shared his initial grant-related challenges, emphasising the importance of having clinicians involved in the early stages of translational research.

The panel discussion, Unmasking the truth: Animal models vs. in vitro lab models,’ featured Janani Radhakrishnan, NIAB; Falguni Pati, IIT Hyderabad; B Kiran Kumar, CCMB; Suresh Poosala, OncoSeek Bio, Vinod Kumar, NIAB; moderated by Yathish Achar, CCMB. Pati emphasised effective communication between stakeholders with different perspectives, avoiding jargon, while Poosala suggested regular meetings for better team communication. 

Janani highlighted the role of science communicators in teaching scientists how to engage with the public, citing events like RYIMs as beneficial.

Transcending boundaries through technology transfer

In his talk on strengthening the bridge between academia and industry, Bala Reddy, Provis Biolabs, emphasised the development of enzymes and proteins for pharmaceutical industries. He mentioned the significance of collaboration between industry and academia to drive innovation and create impact. Reddy suggested that industrial companies around research institutes should share facilities with the institutes, and placement cells should be set up within the institutes to establish engagement with the industry and drive collaboration between academics and the industry.

Ashwin Dalal, CCMB, talked about the Mission Program in Paediatric Rare Genetics Disorders (PraGed),’ discussing the prevalence of rare diseases in India (1 in 20 Indians affected) and the urgent need to reduce the average diagnosis time of over seven days. Dalal proposed that collaborating with industry for drug manufacturing could significantly lower costs.

In an interesting approach to a breakout session, young investigators (YIs) were divided into four groups based on their areas of focus: cell-based and biomaterial therapy, infection and immunology, disease biology and biomarkers, and AI in health and disease. Discussions within these groups focused on exploring potential collaborators in Hyderabad and across India, as well as considering the formation of consortia for collaborative efforts, discussing funding possibilities, and identifying priority research areas for grants.

On grants and funding 

In his discussion on the EMBO Global Investigator Network fellowship,’ Santosh Chauhan, CCMB, encouraged researchers to possess strong writing and presentation skills. He highlighted that EMBO provides flexible funding for relocating labs and offers various perks, including childcare funds. Regarding grants in India, Chauhan advised researchers to focus on a well-crafted curriculum vitae (CV), include preliminary data, be cautious in budgeting, and prioritise concise yet impactful communication with more emphasis on visuals such as images and schematics. 

Moving forward, Akash Chaurasiya, BITS Pilani, shared his experience through a talk on Translating innovation: From bench to clinic.’ P. Nageshwar Rao, Bycusbio, shared his experiences transitioning from academia to industry, highlighting the importance of overcoming failures and the idea that scientists can aspire to become CEOs. Jaganmohan Reddy, UR Advanced Therapeutics, expressed the dream of being involved in innovation and founding an organisation, which led to the establishment of UR Advanced Therapeutics with a focus on building cell peptides. Reddy highlighted the significance of the journey itself, stating that walking the talk’ is not just about success but also about the path taken.

Arushi Batra and Ankita Rathore at the CYC workshop at RYIM Hyderabad. Picture credit: RYIM Organisers.
Arushi Batra and Ankita Rathore at the CYC workshop at RYIM Hyderabad. Picture credit: RYIM Organisers.

Crafting careers with the CYC workshop

On Day 2 at RYIM Hyderabad, along with Arushi Batra, Program Manager-Digital Initiatives, IndiaBioscience, I conducted a Crafting your Career (CYC)’ workshop, attended by around 50 masters and PhD students from various institutes around Hyderabad. Students appreciated learning practical tips for networking, gaining confidence to interact with individuals from different fields, and understanding how to upskill for enhanced scientific opportunities and networking. One student mentioned, 

Being an introvert, I always struggle with networking. This workshop helped me get some easy-to-use tips and boosted my confidence to talk to people from different fields.

Key takeaways from the meeting

This marked the second RYIM in Hyderabad after the inaugural 2018 meeting, with a primary focus on bridging the gap between industry and academia. Here are some key takeaways from the meeting:

1. There is a need for collaborations in science, and initiatives like RICH and S&T city clusters facilitate industry-academia partnerships.

2. Academia-industry partnerships yield valuable learning points, including the importance of avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach, involving clinicians in the early stages of translational research, and effectively communicating your research.

3. Industrial companies and research institutes should collaborate to drive innovation in life science research.

4. It is important to share experiences of transitioning from academia to industry.

5. There is a growing demand for capacity building among PhDs to facilitate their careers beyond scientific academia.