Sponsored Projects

Undertaken as Principal Investigator

Sponsoring Agency: Department of Science and Technology (DST)

Title: Studies on Mass Transport of Oxygen without Gas-Liquid Resistance as Applied to Biosystems.

Amount of grant: Rs. 3.79 lakhs

Period and status: 1995-1997, completed

Abstract:Mass transport of oxygen through gas-liquid mass transfer is a limiting factor for optimal operation of many industrially important systems, such as aerobic bioreactors.  This project studied oxygen mass transport through a methodology which involves no gas-liquid resistance.  The methodology involved liquid phase in situ breakdown of hydrogen peroxide to oxygen and water.  This novel methodology for oxygen transport markedly improved specific productivity of bioprocesses.

Sponsoring Agency: Board of Research in Nuclear Sciences (BRNS)

Title:  Treatment of Ammoniacal Wastewaters from Heavy Water Plants.

Amount of grant: Rs. 10.25 lakhs

Period and status: 1997-1999, completed

Co-investigators:  S.R.Asolekar, K.V.Venkatesh (IIT); R.R.Sonde (BARC)

Abstract:Reactor grade heavy water production results in large amounts of liquidwastewater containing unacceptable levels of ammonia.  The process employed in heavy water plants to reduce ammonia levels in wastewater was highly energy intensive and also did not address the problem completely. Therefore, an effluent treatment system which utilizes microbial conversion of ammonia, which overcomes the problems posed by the above method, was highly desirable.  The project addressed a microbial method of ammonia conversion to harmless nitrogen and nitrate.  This involved use of different species of bacteria of the Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter variety.  An additional advantage of this method is that the nitrate produced can be used as a `fertilizer’ for lawn and tree growth.  The optimal level of nitrate obtainable from the effluent treatment facility, based on the actual `fertilizer’ need was also addressed.  In addition, the various biological processes involved in this effluent treatment were optimized based on energy (metabolic) status of the culture.

Sponsoring Agency: All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE)

Title:  Improvement of Bioreactor Yields Using Culture Status in Viscous Fermentations.

Amount of grant: Rs. 5 lakhs

Period and status: 1997-2000, completed

Co-investigators:  A. K. Suresh

Abstract:The method mentioned in the DST project above, was optimized. To optimize the method, we needed information on state of cells in culture, the actual factories producing the product.  Such information is available through culture status measurement.  Culture status is measured through culture fluorescence which is a non-invasive measure of the NADH level in culture.

Sponsoring Agency: Department of Science and Technology (DST)

Title:  Improvement in Enzyme Productivities from Shear Sensitive Aerobic Systems

Amount of grant: Rs. 10.75 lakhs

Period and status: 2000-2003, completed

Co-investigators:  A. K. Suresh

Abstract:A novel couette flow bioreactor (CFB) in which the entire cultivation can beperformed under defined shear conditions was developed.  Oxygen supply, the normal limiting factor for entire cultivations under defined shear conditions, was achieved by passing air through a teflon membrane fixed on the inner cylinder of the CFB. More importantly, analyses of the oxygen transfer capabilities as well as the shear rates show that in this CFB, the effects of defined shear can be studied without interference from the effects of oxygen supply.  The specific intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) level was found to be the maximum at the onset of the stationary phase when grown in the CFB, and the mode of cell death is suspected to be apoptosis.

Sponsoring Agency: Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD)

Title:  Improvement in the Performance of Bioreactors Employing Recombinant Organisms Using the Liquid Phase Oxygen Supply (LPOS) Strategy.

Amount of grant: Rs. 12 lakhs

Period and status: 2003-2006, completed

Co-investigators:  S. B. Noronha, A. K. Suresh

Abstract:  The liquid phase oxygen-supply strategy (LPOS), which is characterized by oxygen evolution in the liquid phase through catalasic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) pulses, was employed for the cultivation of a recombinant system –  recombinant Escherichia coli that can be induced to produce streptokinase by a change in temperature. Toxicity studies showed that an initial H2O2concentration of 7.5mM was optimal. The specific yieldof streptokinase in the cultivation with LPOS was 2- fold of the value obtained with conventional cultivation based on oxygen supply through aeration. Interestingly, the plasmid loss was about 10-15% lower with LPOS compared to conventional cultivation.  To obtain optimal feed profiles of H2O2, a process model was developed.  The model was optimized using a robust stochastic optimization solver based on genetic algorithm to get optimal H2O2feed rates. A model-predicted approached was used, and also the unknown model parameters were predicted using the genetic algorithm.  The optimal H2O2addition profiles, which were also experimentally verified,resulted in 4-fold higher specific yields of streptokinase compared to that obtained from cultivations with aeration, and 2-fold higher specific yields compared to the cultivations without optimization.

Sponsoring Agency: Department of Biotechnology (DBT)

Title: Biotechnological Approaches for Production and Cultivation of Patchouli.

Amount of grant: Total: Rs. 85.14 lakhs (multi-institutional project); IIT Bombay: Rs. 26.45 lakhs

Period and status: 2003-2006, completed

Co-investigators: Kelkar Education Trust’s Scientific Research Centre (Mumbai, Maharashtra), Keva Biotech. Limited (Mumbai, Maharashtra), Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (Kasargod, Kerala), National Research Centre for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (Boriavi, Gujarat), University of Agricultural Sciences (Dharwad, Karnataka), Dr. Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeet (Dapoli, Maharashtra)

Abstract:  Clonal propagation of plants by tissue culture was then established as the best method of obtaining planting material for vegetatively propagated plants.  A problem with the tissue culture system is the high cost of the plants due to the specialized inputs. Micropropagation of plants is largely a manual operation, and is restricted by the limitations of ease of handling by skilled operators and stringent sterility conditions.

Bioreactor systems are an alternative method to increase the scale of operations and rate of production of the plants. Considering the increased output efficiency at lower costs, if large-scale micropropagation of plants is changed to the bioreactor method, the horticultural industry will better realize the advantages of using tissue cultured plants for cultivation.  Although bioreactors are very common, and are extensively used in the bio-industry, bioreactors for plant shoot culture are rare.  A novel, reusable, shoot culture bioreactor was designed, built and operated as a part of this project.

The developed shoot culture bioreactor did not require plantlets to grow on the liquid surface.  Thus, the main drawback of hyper-hydration or vitrification was completely avoided when the developed bioreactor is used.   Further, the developed bioreactor was re-usable, and allowed easy, continuous monitoring of many important bioreactor variables such as dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, temperature, shoot mass, and others that are essential for optimization of the process.  Also, in the developed bioreactor it was possible to manipulate the atmosphere toward desirable results such as high growth rates, desirable contents of plant parts such as the leaf, and others.  In addition, there were several features in the currently developed bioreactor that were attractive and patentable.

Sponsoring Agency: Indo-US Forum

Title: Reactive Oxygen Species aspects in Drinking Water

Amount of grant: US $ 30,000

Period and status: 2008-2010, completed

Partner: Jeanne VanBriesen, Carnegie Mellon University

Abstract:Chlorination of drinking water is a primary mode of disinfection.  However, many organisms of interest are resistant to chlorination (e.g. Mycobacterium).   The mechanism for microbial inactivation by chlorine is not well understood and thus, understanding of chlorine resistance mechanisms is also lacking.  We hypothesized that chlorine-based microbial inactivation is mediated by reactive oxygen species (ROS).  We evaluated this hypothesis,and the work resulted in a better understanding of the effect of chlorine on Mycobacterium, as well as an improved understanding of the mechanism of microbial inactivation by chlorine.

Sponsoring Agency: Department of Biotechnology (DBT)

Title: Development of a Photobioreactor for Algal Biofuels

Amount of grant: Rs. 1.3 crores

Period and status: 2009-2011, completed

Co-investigator: Shrikumar Suryanarayan

Abstract:  The scope of this project was to develop a design parameter for the effective scale-up of a photobioreactor to produce oil (lipids) from Chlorella vulgarisChlorella vulgaris was chosen as the model algal system because of the significant background information available on it, compared to any other algae that has the potential for cultivation under saline conditions.  The saline conditions were of prime importance, since we were asked to concentrate on marine aspects by the DBT.  A large lab-scale photobioreactor of 15 litre capacity was designed and fabricated for the study.  The effects of parameters such as temperature, pH, salinity, and light on Chlorella vulgariswere studied.  Also, some work on the effect of parameters on Dunaliella parva and Chaetoceros mullieri was also done.  Then the photobioreactor scale-up aspects were addressed in detail.

Sponsoring Agency: Divashri

Title: Algal biofuels

Amount of grant: Rs. 25 lakhs+

Period and status: 2008-2013, completed

Abstract:  This project initially addressed the development of alternate cultivation systems for microalgae, and then some studies on improvement of many cultivation aspects of microalgae such as electroflocculation.

Sponsoring Agency: Department of Science and Technology (DST)

Title:Reactive Species for Improved Bio-oil Yields from Microalgae

Amount of grant: Rs. 32.83 lakhs

Period and status:6th February 2013 – 5th February 2016, work completed

Abstract:A challenge in algae based bio-oil production is to simultaneously enhance specific growth rates and specific lipid content.  We demonstrated simultaneous increases in both the above in Chlorella vulgaris through reactive species induced under UVA and UVB light treatments, and achieved an 8.8-fold increase in volumetric lipid productivity.

Further, we reported for the first time that the endogenous, pseudo-steady-state, specific intracellular levels of the hydroxyl radical oscillate in an ultradian fashion (model system: the microalga, Chlorella vulgaris), and also characterized the various rhythm parameters. We reset the endogenous rhythm through entrainment with UVA radiation, and generated two new ultradian rhythms. The reset increased the window of maximum lipid accumulation from 6 h to 12 h concomitant with the onset of the ultradian rhythms.

In addition, we reported a novel application:  Photon up-conversion, a process of converting lower energy radiations to those at higher energy via the use of appropriate phosphor systems, was employed as anovel strategy for improving microalgal growth and lipid productivity.

Sponsoring Agency: Department of Science and Technology (DST)

Title: Entrainment of Rhythms for Improved Cancer Therapy

Amount of grant: Rs. 38.3 lakhs

Period and status:25th January 2017 – January 2020, on-going