HT Spotlight | For Kashmiri research scholars, Mohali’s NIPER opens doors to Indian diversity

National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), Mohali.

“Look at it through my eyes and you will realise that NIPER is a great organisation that is not only the best in the country for pharmaceutical research, but treats all without any religious or social discrimination,” says 26-year-old Mir Asrar, who topped in the Joint Entrance Test of National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER).

A bright Kashmiri boy, Asrar is pursuing his PhD in pharmaceutical. He belongs to Budgam in Jammu and Kashmir. He adds that this premier institute purely promotes scientific temperament, but also opens a window into a diverse India.

“When I was in Kashmir University, I read that Kerala has the highest literacy in the country. There was a desire in me to know how people from the state were. This institute has fulfilled my desire to interact with them.”

Researchers here come from all over the country: Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Punjab, Northeast, Gujarat and Maharashtra, among others.

He adds, “I can say they are all my best friends. If I go to any of these states in future, I will not have to stay in a hotel; they will invite me to stay with them at their homes.”

He is not the only Kashmiri here. Ishfaq Rasheed and Firdous share the same sentiments.

ONLY FOR THE BEST

The institute does not leave any stone unturned in ensuring that its students have a promising career in the pharmaceutical sector. There are six other branches of NIPER in Hajipur, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Raebareli.

“Only the best get admission here,” says 29-year-old Kuljeet Singh, who is working on a project after finishing his PhD. Moreover, NIPER has the best campus placement system and students do not face any job hassle later, he adds.

“The institute has facilities for research, starting from the source of a drug up to its marketing. The national toxicology laboratory, the only one in the public sector in the country, is located in this institute,” says professor Raghu Ram Rao, director of NIPER.

Some faculty members are on expert panels of World Health Organisation (WHO).

48 PATENTS, 180 TO GO

With 48 patents in its kitty and applications filed for 180 more, this institute has established its name not only in the country but across the globe.

Rao claims, “Seven technologies developed here and patented in the name of our institute have been out-licensed for production and marketing of drugs.”

He adds that NIPER is not only a place for research but also supports the industry. Research activities of the institute are defined by national requirements.

Rao further says, “We focus on tuberculosis, malaria, cancer, kala-azar (black fever), diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and many other diseases,” adding, “over the past 12 years, the institute has executed extramural projects worth Rs 64 crore.”

The institute has won several awards, including the coveted Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology. This science award is given annually by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for outstanding research in various scientific fields.

Established on February 23, 2009, the institute has a small and medium pharmaceutical industries centre (SMPIC) to cater to small and medium enterprises. With 110 industry members, it is dedicated to solving the problems of the sector and fuel its growth. In addition, the institute analyses samples received from small and medium pharmaceutical industries at a 50% subsidy.

CAMPUS PLACEMENT

Companies prefer students on campus as they are involved in consultancy projects being conducted inside the institute’s laboratories.

Dr Arvind Bansal, professor of pharmaceutical, says, “The industry sector prefers students with an experience in research projects of companies and it assures their placement in a good reputed company.”

Postgraduate students at NIPER get an average package starting from Rs 3.5 lakh to Rs 6.5 lakh per annum, while PhD students get an average package ranging between Rs 6 lakh and Rs 8.5 lakh. The placement cell has national and international companies such as Abbott, Emcure Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, Mankind Pharma, Lupin Limited, Evalueserve, Bristol-Myers Squibb, BBRC, Fresenius Kabi India Pvt Ltd, Biocon, Nitin Pharmaceuticals, Ranbaxy Laboratories, Sun Pharma, Blue Ocean Pharma, BresMed Health Solutions, Biological E, Natural Remedies, Bioxcel and Reckitt Benckiser, among others.

Bansal said consultancy projects should be taken up on a priority basis. “There is a need to realign our ongoing research mechanism, keeping in view the current needs of pharmaceutical. The focus should be on consultancy projects. Students get an insight into how the industry works and brings in money and helps in building its name.”

DENTED IMAGE

However, the high-profile institute is not without its black marks. In 2016, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) booked nine officials, including its then officiating director professor KK Bhutani, and a Pune-based firm under the Prevention of Corruption Act for allegedly bungling funds in the purchase of database software, SciFinder.

A senior official of the institute said, “We suffered heavily in the last few years due to the ad hoc appointments at the top positions. There was a lot of negativity in the public domain about our image.”

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