Situated in the largely agrarian, scenic and fragile Central Himalayas, IIT Mandi has a focus on agriculture and the environment. Another important focus area of research is human health. Towards this, IIT Mandi has initiated activities in the life sciences in the broad areas of immediate relevance tothe Himalayan region, and to health care particularly for the rural and lower-income strata of society.
There is an immediate need to extend the benefits of advanced knowledge and technology to the traditional farmers, particularly those engaged in the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, saffron and medicinal plants in this region. Also, with the advancements in technology, better health care regimes need to be evolved. Towards these goals, IIT Mandi has several faculties in the school of basic sciences with core expertise in Life Sciences, who along with the faculties in physical and chemical sciences at SBS and engineering disciplines (computational engineering, mechanical engineering) are engaged in highly interdisciplinary research activities.
The majority of the research in the BioX area is being carried out as a part of the BioX Centre, which was conceived at IIT Mandi in 2012, driven by the need for affordable health care for India, and advanced technology interventions in agriculture and for preservation of the environment in the Himalayan Region. Since then, IIT Mandi started to hire faculty and made an initial investment of Rs. 10 crores in lab equipment. As it had reached a critical mass, the formal structure of the BioX Centre was approved in December 2016. The BioX Centre building was inaugurated on May 13, 2017, by Professor K. Vijay Raghavan, Secretary, Dept. of Biotechnology, Govt. of India in the presence of Professor Sarit Kumar Das, Director IIT Ropar, and Professor Timothy A Gonsalves, Director IIT Mandi.
The vision of the BioXcentre is to advance the frontiers of technology development and engineering towards applications in disease prevention and affordable healthcare, agricultural practices with respect to the Himalayan region, Himalayan biodiversity, and exploration in biotechnology. The aim, consistent with the IIT Mandi motto of interdisciplinary R&D, is to bridge the gap between life sciences, physical sciences, and engineering. This is reflected in the name, BioX, of the centre. The mission of the Centre is to pursue excellence in research, innovation, and discovery with focus on life sciences and technology development by promoting multi-institutional and inter-disciplinary research activities in health-related and agri-based challenges. This is primarily done by facilitating interactions between engineers, computational scientists, and physical and life sciences researchers. Another important mission is to build industry-academia partnerships to conduct cutting-edge research and development in the priority areas.
The BioXcentre at IIT Mandi has twenty two faculty members already on board, with eight biologists and others drawn from computing, electrical and mechanical engineering, as also physics and chemistry. The faculty are supported by more than fifty research scholars, pursuing their PhD. To set up the various research facilities in the BioX Centre an initial funding of Rs 12.5 crores has been provided by IIT Mandi. At the same time the independent PIs in Life Sciences have been able to attract external funding of Rs. 12.8 crores from various funding sources including Dept of Biotechnology, Dept. of Science & Technology, and Ministry of Human Resources and Development, amongst others.