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Bhavan’s Research Centre Entrepreneurial Journey and the Way Ahead

by Clean India Journal Editor
0 comment

The story of Bhavan’s Research Centre from its origin in 2005 till date is an inspiring tale of vision, hard work, team spirit and collaboration. From being a department of microbiology in a college to an entrepreneurial entity offering expertise and consultancy in the areas of hygiene & water microbiology and virology, the journey is a fitting example of how academia and industry can collaborate for their mutual benefit and ultimately, for the benefit of the consumer as well. In a brief interview Dr Sandhya Shrivastava, Director-BRC shares the finer details of the operations of the research centre.

The Beginning

In 2005, the Microbiology faculty of Dept of Microbiology, Bhavan’s College realised that students working on several research projects, once they got their degrees, would leave to pursue their careers. Teachers, during the process of these research activities, gained knowledge which was not being leveraged outside the institution, except when scientific papers were being published.

The faculty approached the management expressing their desire to have an extension of the microbiology lab to work with the industry for better knowledge sharing. Dr M.L. Shrikant, the then Dean of SPJIMR appreciated the move and supported the proposal by putting us under the wing of Prof. M.S. Rao, Chairperson, SPJIMR’s Entrepreneurial cell. Following discussions, a barrack of 1,000sqft within the campus and basic microbiology equipment were allocated to initiate this venture and Bhavan’s Research Centre was born.

Initially, BRC planned to work with industry for R&D projects in Microbiology using post-graduate students. However, we realized that this structure which involved students, lacked a revenue model, faced deadline challenges, and compromised on confidentiality.

Thus, we hired a full-time staff to run BRC under the faculty’s guidance and supervision. Since we had good expertise in microbiology, we initiated analytical services of non-routine but complex nature which were not being offered by many labs in the country. In these decisions, we got extremely good support from a few of our alumni based in the industry.

When analytical services were initiated, the question of accreditation arose. As the industry followed norms of good laboratory practices, the same was expected from us. Thus, we took a call to work towards getting the lab accredited for ISO/IEC 17025. Getting the accreditation was a long journey, as we had no background on the same. Hiring a consultant was disastrous, as she provided us with standard SOPs which did not gel with our laboratory practices. Thus, we began writing the SOPs ourselves and got our accreditation in 2011, which has been continued without any break till date.

In parallel, we continued with our technical journey by working closely with industry and building capabilities slowly and steadily, some of which did not exist in any labs in the country then. Industries were getting these tests done in US and European labs. After adequate handholding and several audits, many of the tests were given to BRC and not outside the country anymore.

Hygiene Microbiology

BRC works extensively with home and personal care industries, evaluating their products for bioburden and preservative efficacy, performed using standard as well as customer specified protocols. An important aspect of ‘clean and hygiene’ requirements by industries is to evaluate their products for effectiveness against different microbes. Methods for such evaluation are laid down by international standards, viz. European, American, Japanese and so on. These methods must be executed with due diligence, including neutralization validation and by following all defined timelines. BRC has set these procedures with great accuracy, using a wide range of test cultures (>150 strains), which has helped it gain great confidence with leading national and multinational organizations operating in the area of ‘clean and hygiene’ (Unilever, ITC, L’Oreal, Jyoti Laboratories, to name a few). This expertise has also been extended to clinical, in-vivo studies by testing skin cleansing and sanitation products on human volunteers using standard methods.

Water Microbiology

In 2007, we started our journey in water microbiology, when there was a spurt of industries entering the league of making domestic, point-of-use water purification devices. We gained expertise in working with viruses and protozoa while evaluating the performance of the water purification devices. This helped build expertise in bacterial & non-bacterial pathogens at BRC. This nature of competency is extremely important as diseases are caused by all groups of micro-organisms. However, most of the times, quality parameters are based on checking only the bacterial parameters, as they are far easier to work with in the laboratories.

Over the years we have evaluated all varieties of water purification technologies for their microbial reduction capabilities. BRC has a dedicated lab automized for evaluating water purification systems. It has contributed immensely to this area by preparing protocols with Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) & Water Quality Association (WQA). The scientists here are part of the technical committee of both these organizations, contributing to the area of water microbiology. BRC is also empanelled by BIS for its expertise in microbiology.

Contract Research for Hygiene Industry

As BRC has a strong research background, industry has used this capability in a number of exploratory and intervention projects to understand the microbial flora distribution, usage of their products and in controlling them in real-time scenarios like in homes.

New capabilities

After the pandemic, general consumer & industry have become quite conscious of hygiene and aware of microbial influence in day-to-day life. The emphasis on the natural/organic has increased.

Considering these factors, BRC is working towards building new capabilities in areas of virology and molecular biology. It has initiated virucidal testing services for cleaning & disinfectant products. It is also tying up with industries for studies related to microbiome which will help in evaluating products that are able to selectively de-activate only the harmful microbes, not the normal flora found in both home and person.

Expert Solutions – Manufacturers & FM

Chemical industries can get their products for efficacy testing against a vast range of microbial bank we possess. Our reports are immensely trusted by industry, who could be potential buyers of these chemicals. They can get their products tested for selective inactivation of harmful microbes, and not the harmless ones. Our reports can be used for marketing as well as claim substantiation by the industries.

The facility management industry can use our services for routine monitoring of cleaning in their facilities. We can check the cleaning/disinfectant products being used by them for effectiveness and can provide consultancy with respect to cleaning regimes and procedures.

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