Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB), home to major research activities in Molecular Biology was established on 1st November 1981 as Centre for Advanced studies in Molecular Biology. The center was later upgraded to the center for excellence in molecular biology in 1986. Later in April 1987, the Federal Ministry of Science & Technology (MOST) approved the establishment of Centre for Applied Molecular biology as a separate group located beside the CEMB. The organization was divided into two units with an aim to provide better educational and research activities and to channelize the research from lab into different sectors of the society by providing different diagnostic and forensic services to national agencies.
Primarily focusing on research activities in plant and medical sciences, this center is one of its kind in Pakistan. It is considered as one of the best research centers in the country attracting students from all over Pakistan as well as abroad. More than 500 scientists from Pakistan, and member countries of SARC and OIC (Egypt, India, Bangladesh, Jordan, Iran, Sri-Lanka, Nepal, Turkey) have passed through the corridors of the complex to learn different approaches and/or spend sabbatical assignments. If you are a research enthusiast or want to conduct innovative experienced based research, then CEMB is the one that offers it all.
The CEMB Laboratory Complex is spread over 60 acres of land, with a covered area of 15000 square meters, including an old laboratory block, a new laboratory block, a teaching Block, hostels for Ph.D. research scholars. The old laboratory block comprises of a total of 30 research labs, two containment labs and six conference rooms. Along with this are a production unit and a Support Facilities Unit that comprises of a lab-aid section (for washing, autoclaving and media preparation), an animal house, an Insectary, six large plant growth rooms, and storage space for research materials. In addition to that, the center is known for its usage of up to date modern technologies and have top notch equipment in its inventory. The combination of high-quality infrastructure and use of modern technologies not only provides conducive learning environment for its researchers but also aids in national economy by taking their products to national market.
The two main units working under CEMB complex are Agriculture and Health Sciences. The plant wing comprises of five laboratories (Plant genomics, Plant transformation, Seed Biotechnology, Plant Biosafety, Crop Breeding and GMO Detection Group). The wing is very diverse in their activities as it conducts research on wide variety of crops including cotton, potato, rice, sugarcane etc. and offers platform to explore unique aspects from controlling abiotic stresses of cash crop to fibre improvement in cotton, trails for edible vaccination and use of genome editing technique to control potential viral diseases of various crops.
Moreover, center has its own approved double gene and triple gene Bt varieties for cotton plant including CEMB66, CEMB 33, CEMB 100, CKC-3, CKC-1, and HATF-3. First three varieties are developed by Prof. Dr. Bushra Rashid who is the pioneer in successfully developing double gene Bt tolerance in cotton plant. These varieties, as compared to American cotton varieties, not only aid in country’s economy with its cost effectiveness but are also helpful in boosting the cotton production. Besides, researchers have also established techniques which are being used to raise disease free seeds of gladiolus, sugarcane, potato and even fungus free stock of gladiolus. The Plant wing is mainly using CRISPR–Cas9, RNA Transcriptomics technologies and bioinformatics tools to meet the objectives of their research. Thus it offers a hotspot for learning new techniques and advancements in biological sciences in Pakistan.
Similarly, Health wing of Centre also has promising research activities running in about 8 different labs (Genetic diseases, molecular virology, forensic service lab, biopharmaceuticals, molecular medicine, functional genomics, Stem cells research lab) headed by experienced scientists. The health sector is currently working on wide range of projects including production of recombinant collagen for cosmetic and therapeutic purposes, characterization of Dengue, characterization of new genes/locus for human genetic diseases, breast cancer and HCV diagnosis and therapeutics.
Moreover, researchers from health wing have achieved the cloning of human pharmaceutical protein genes for commercial production and developed procedures for the prenatal diagnosis of b-thalassemia and PCR based diagnosis of various viral diseases that for general public are economical and reliable diagnostic procedures.
Recently health scientist managed to achieve another mile stone by starting the production of components required for COVID-19 diagnostic kit under supervision of Dr. Nadeem from Biopharmaceutical Unit .
For past 35 years CEMB has been contributing a lion’s share to research in Molecular Biology in Pakistan. The alumni of the center are providing services in different regions of the world and are making their country proud by conducting valuable research activities. Despite degrading research culture in the country and limited financial resources, the center and its researchers are striving hard to contribute to the existing body of knowledge both nationally and internationally.
A research enthusiast striving to bring change in the field of Molecular Biology through my knowledge and skills for the betterment of humanity in general and for my home country Pakistan in particular.