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Karachi University has produced 1,240 PhDs so far

KU produced 1,240 PhDs in 42 years
Karachi, Aug 04: Vice Chancellor Karachi University (KU), Prof Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, has said that the KU has produced 1,240 PhDs so far since its inception and on the top among the other varsities of the country in this regard.

"However, 49 public and private universities have produced more than 5,665 PhDs in the country, while KU is on the top among them, he said, while giving an interview to The Nation last week.

Dr. Pirzada pointed out that University of Punjab had awarded 1,266 PhD degrees since 1937, while the Karachi University produced 1,240 PhD scholars since 1957. This figure can help people to measure the standard and excellence of the largest institution (KU) of the country.

The varsity's research and other academic activities are the real proof of its superiority over other educational institutions in Pakistan, he said.

"KU is trying to promote further research activities; the set-up of 17 research institutes/centres at the KU is the clear instance. Karachi University has produced about 600 MPhil, 300 PhD, 7 DSc and 7 DLit degrees only in science faculty that exceeds the number produced in any other university of the country. Our teachers are also involved in various research projects and contribute regularly to local and foreign publications.

Only in 2006, the number of published research papers by the KU teaching and research faculty was 506. The creation of the Institute of Sustainable Halophyte Utilisation at KU is another example of the varsity's stance to encourage research education at higher level.

The institute is trying to explore the potential of indigenous halophytic plants by using brackish water and saline land."

Dr. Pirzada further said the objective of the KU is to inculcate inquisitiveness in younger scientists to solve problems related to saline lands leading to poverty alleviation among farmers specifically through the use of halophytes.

"We want to prepare a team of scientists capable of conducting state of the art research in various aspects of halophyte biology. Conversely, International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), at KU, which will be one of the finest academic research establishments of chemical sciences in the developing world. KU is the only institution in the country that has trained 120 German students during the last 10 years," he added.

Dr Pirzada admitted that the Karachi University would face leadership crisis as the dynamic teachers were beyond the screen.

"Despite the fact that we always proudly mention the names of renowned educationists and scholars associated with this institution like Dr I H Qureshi, Dr Mahmud Hussain, Dr Salemuzzaman Siddiqui, Dr Afzal Hussain Qadri, Dr M M Ahmed, Dr Mujtaba Karim, Prof M Ilyas, Prof Q Fareed, Dr Ibadur Rehman Khan, Prof Muntakhibul Haq, Prof Memony, Dr S M Yousuf, Dr M A Wali and Dr Karawala.

The faculty was drawn not only from Pakistan but also included eminent educationists form Europe and America." The Nation

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Breakthrough in enzyme research at KU
Karachi: Five enzymes of high industrial value on the import of which the country spends over $10 million every year have been produced at the Dr A.Q. Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (Kibge) of Karachi University.

The institute has got international patents for the enzyme-producing strains and is now ready to sell the processes to industry and provide them with technical support. The institute is the first to plan commercialisation of the enzymes in the country. Commenting on the achievement, Prof Dr Abid Azhar, co-director Kibge, said: "Though a new subject in Pakistan, industrial biotechnology has assumed a lot of significance in recent years, with the production of different enzymes that have a wide range of applications. The efforts at Kibge aim at developing the much needed link between the scientists' community and industry, a link that will benefit society and cut the import bill."

It is important to mention here that the current global market of industrial enzymes is over $2 billion, and is expected to top $2.7bn by 2012. Though enzymes, biomolecules that increase the rate of chemical reactions, have been used throughout history, it was only quite recently that their significance was realised. The history of modern enzyme technology really began in 1874, according to reference information on the subject.

About the uses of enzymes produced at Kibge, associate professor Dr Shah Ali-ul-Qader said that they all had a wide range of applications in industry. "The product produced by an enzyme, dextransucrase, commonly called dextran, is widely used in the food, cosmetic, mining and oil drilling industries. Its most promising application is its use as a protective colloid in blood plasma volume expanders.

"Alpha amylase is important in processes such as production of ethanol and high fructose corn syrup, baking, laundry washing powders, dish washing detergents, textile de-sizing and paper recycling. Protease is extensively used in the food, pharmaceutical and detergent industries," he said, adding that protease comprised about the 60 per cent of the total commercial enzymes involved in industries.

Dr Afsheen Aman, assistant professor at Kibge, lamented the lack of awareness and communication between the scientific community and industry and said that it was one of the major factors hindering growth. "It was a French organisation which first approached us on the basis of our research, which was internationally publicised. But we couldn't accept their offer because the institute, with its limited resources, could only produce enzymes on a small scale." Explaining this point, Dr Shah said that the government, industry and the scientific community were all part of any research venture in developed countries.

In fact, manufacturers not only funded the project, but also made the product on a mass scale and marketed the product.

"Here, the situation is altogether different. The projects are solely funded by the government and there are no buyers or marketers once the product is ready. The industry people do not trust scientists and literally nobody benefits from the research, not even the researcher. The stipend given to PhD students is too low. These are the reasons why Pakistan lags behind and faces a serious shortage of manpower in research."

Apart from all these handicaps, Dr Shah was hopeful and said that efforts were being made to start commercialisation of the processes. "Industry people want enzymes in plentiful quantities, which we can't supply since the institute does not have the resources. But this is not the end of the world. We can start by selling these enzymes on a smaller scale. These enzymes are extensively used for research purposes throughout the world. We would sell them cheaper, but with improved quality.

"In order to enhance our production capacity and boost our research, we plan to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) and the School of Biological Sciences of the University of the Punjab. Besides, we would publicise our work through a website carrying details of our research to get international buyers." Dawn

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