Dear members. It has been almost six years since an International Conference on, “Promotion of Biotechnology in Bangladesh: its national and international perspective” was held in Sasakawa Hall in ICDDR,B. It was the largest assembly of biotechnologists ever held in the country. From all over the country as many as 300 delegates covering all the biotech-related institutes attended the conference. From overseas a number of delegates came, some of them adjusting their homecoming schedule coinciding with the timing of the conference. It was the largest conference of its kind ever held in Bangladesh. A well-known vaccine specialist, Dr Ahmad A. Azad a Bangladeshi expatriate in Melbourne, Dr. Abed Chaudhury at CSIRO, Canberra, Dr. Lamia Sharmeen from USA, Prof. Mehmet Ozturk at Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey, Professor Asma Ismail, Director, Institute for Research in Molecular Medicine, Universiti Sains Malaysia Health Campus, Dr. A. K. Azad at the Department of Biochemistry, National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, Dhaka, Firdousi Qadri and Dr. Shah Md. Faruque from ICDDRB, Dr. Khwaja Sultanul Aziz, former Director of ICDDRB, Professor Haseena Khan & Prof. Zeba I. Seraj at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, DU, Dr. Aparna Islam from BRAC University were among the participants. As many as 48 (35 scientific and 13 promotional) abstracts covering a variety of disciplines were submitted in due time but many more were received by the conference Secretariat just before it began its deliberations on the 6th of April, 2007. As many as 75 posters were submitted for display. There was so much enthusiasm among the delegates to attend the sessions held simultaneously in three lecture halls that many had to stand finding no sitting accommodation. Usually at conferences of this kind, most of delegates leave the conference hall to run their personal errands but this was different.
On the third final day, a number of recommendations were drafted by the expert committee drawn from both local and expatriate scientists and after consensus the following recommendations were placed before the scientists in the jam-packed hall. After minor modifications the recommendations were adopted unanimously.
Shortly after the conclusion of the conference, the organizers met the then Adviser Mr. Tapan Chowdhury and handed over the recommendations. Hardly any concrete step has been taken by the concerned Ministry to accept any of the recommendations except creation of an impressive NIB website. Although nearly six years have passed, the National Commission for Biotechnology has not been created, nor is there any recommendation to this effect pending with the Government. In the absence of NCBT, the question of the establishment of its secretariat does not arise nor is there any necessity to specify the tenure of its full time Secretary. By the same token, unless it is created, granting NCBT full autonomy and the running of its administration by its own governing body (that will be answerable only to the Parliamentary Standing Committee) amounts to putting the cart before the horse.
The only progress that has been made so far according to a reliable source has been the appointment of the Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and a number of senior scientific officers. The CSO is yet to join the Institute.
o Unfortunately no workshop to determine priorities has been held.
o So far no such advisory Committee has been constituted.
o The Newsletter in semi-technical language has still to be published.
In the backdrop of such a dismal outcome of the conference, what the community comprising both local and expatriate scientists can do to achieve their goal which they fixed almost SIX years back. To my mind the community can approach Begum Matia Chowdhury, Ministry of Agriculture. GNOBB members may recall that the minister went out of her own way to give a liberal grant to Prof. Maqsudul Alam toward completing the jute genome project. To me it will be a good idea if we approach Prof. Alam to meet the Agriculture Minister again during his next visit to Bangladesh to place before her the recommendations of the committee enumerated above, namely, the creation of autonomous NCBT following the examples of India and Pakistan. When these two countries have reaped tremendous benefit out of these bold measures, there is no reason why BD won’t reach her goal by adopting the same approach.
I hope GNOBB members will come up with more effective and practical suggestions. Pl read in the connection the following article published in the Stat Campus section of The Daily Star in its 29th April issue.
I beg to be excused for taxing your patience