The Department of Bioengineering (BE) at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) was founded on June 4th, 2015, to promote the application of physicochemical principles to understand and then manipulate biological entities. The department was born out of an informal gathering of faculty at IISc who were pursuing research in Bioengineering. These faculty, led by Prof. Sanjay Biswas, established an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Bioengineering in August 2012 through a grant from the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. The success of this Ph.D. program encouraged us to formally form the new department that would engage in world-leading research in the broad area of Bioengineering.
Profs. Sandhya Visweswariah and G. K. Ananthasuresh (Suresh) were the founding co-chairs of the Department. Their vision was to bring biologists and engineers to work closely with medical doctors and the biomedical industry to transform the landscape of biological and medical engineering research in India. To realize this vision, they brought in a group of dynamic associate faculty who offered Ph.D. projects jointly to promote both discovery-oriented research in biology using engineering principles and development-oriented research focusing on the design of biomedical instruments and human-assistive devices to improve human healthcare and agricultural practices.
Since its inception a core theme of research at the Department has been to work on problems that are important to clinicians. To support such research, several collaborative efforts were established. One of them was the Bioengineering and Biodesign initiative involving a team of scientists from IISc, clinicians from St. Johns Medical College, and clinicians as well as researchers from the Mazumdar Shaw Medical Foundation (led by Suresh). Another was the establishment of a clinician-Ph.D. program between IISc and Christian Medical College, Vellore (led by Sandhya). These two initiatives have resulted in the Centre developing a strong biomedical focus.
As the Centre began to take-off, several formally trained bioengineers took notice of the department. Recruitment of these individuals led to the establishment of core-faculty of the Department, who utilize their bioengineering training to solve challenging inter-disciplinary problems. Recognizing our efforts to create and grow biological and medical engineering research activities, Dr.Kiran Mazumdar Shaw established an assistant professor chair position (R.I. Mazumdar Young Investigator Chair) to support young faculty with their research activities. And Drs. Vijaya and Rajagopal Rao founded the Biomedical Research Laboratory that houses two faculty members who focus on clinical and translational research. Support in these forms have helped us strengthen our research programs and dream big.
In 2020, Prof. Narendra Dixit took over as Chair of the department, with a vision to grow the fledgling Centre into a world-leader in bioengineering. Alongside the clinical connect, Narendra has been leading our efforts to interact with industry experts, with the long-term goal of becoming the nucleus around which an ecosystem of biomedical industries is created. To enable such a transformation, we have begun working closely with several biomedical firms to conduct product development-oriented research, and in August 2022, we will start a Master of Technology program in Bioengineering to train the next generation of individuals who will lead this change. Numerous students, staff and faculty have helped shape this Department, and we are looking to expand over the next few years.