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  Recognizing the importance of information technology for pursuing advanced research in modern biology and biotechnology, a bioinformatics programme, envisaged as a distributed database and network organisation, was launched during 1986-87.  
he programme has become a very successful vehicle for transfer and exchange of information, scientific knowledge, technology packages, and references in the country involving 10-12 thousand scientific personnel. Ten Distributed Information Centres and an Apex Centre at the Department of Biotechnology, and 46 Sub-Distributed Information Centres, located in universities and research institutes of national importance, are fully engaged in this task. Six national facilities have been set up for interactive graphics based molecular modelling and other biocomputational needs. Four long term courses at the level of post MSc Diploma in Bioinformatics, at Poona University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Calcutta University and Madurai Kamaraj University, are fullfilling the long outstanding need for trained human resources in this inter-disciplinary area. The entire network has emerged as a very sophisticated scientific infrastructure for bioinformatics involving state-of-the-art computational and communication facilities.  


The computer communication network, linking all the bioinformatics centres, is playing a vital role in the success of the bioinformatics programme. Database development, R&D activities in bioinformatics, human resource development and a variety of services in support of biotechnology R&D programmes and projects, has made this programme very popular and useful to the scientific community. With an excellent cooperation received from various agencies of the Government of India, in particular, the National Informatics Centre (NIC), who provided the communication support, initially for E-mail and subsequently for full Internet access as well as some value added services, made it possible for the network to assume the role of a closed user group representing a scientific grid in various inter-disciplinary subjects of biotechnology encompassing, agriculture, health, and environment, besides other related subjects of scientific importance. The contributions made by the scientists and academicians at the University departments of the UGC, and national laboratories and institutions of the CSIR and ICAR, in which our bioinformatics centres are located, have resulted in excellent capacity building for use of a variety of information resources on the Internet. More than 100 databases dealing with different aspects and of relevance to R&D efforts in biotechnology are now available on the network. A national node of EMBnet has been established at the Centre of DNA Fingerprinting and Diognostics (CDFD), Hyderabad.

Four mirror sites for mirroring important biological databases are being established at IISc, JNU, Pune University, and IMTECH to promote and support R&D activities in Genomics and Proteomics, the two emerging fields of biotechnology requiring critical support of genomic databases. With these resources now available on the BTISnet, it has now become a single largest information resource for all references to biotechnology related literature, scientific data, patent information, policy matters and related issues. Several Home Pages have been hosted on the Internet to give details of the services being provided to the scientific community. The Biotechnology Information Centre (BTIC), the Apex Centre, established at the Department of Biotechnology, is coordinating the entire network activities, including hosting of a Home Page on the activities of the Department of Biotechnology and its major programmes, as well as maintaining several directories and databases on the Research projects funded by this department. A Biotechnology Patent Facilitating Cell has recently been established which uses the facilities of the BTIC to provide full scale patent search services.

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