Interview: Dental genetics & saliva research in India – Dr. Gargi Roy Goswami
This interview showcases the inspiring solo entrepreneurial journey of Dr. Gargi Roy Goswami who has established dental genetics as an interdisciplinary domain in India. Dr. Goswami is also an enthusiastic supporter of saliva research and she talks about the next Saliva Summit that she will be organizing in January 2022.
When did you start your journey with dental genetics in India?
My journey with dental genetics officially started as a solo entrepreneur back in 2016. I started speaking about it in public forums, seminars, and various dental conferences (like World Dental Conference, WDC 2016, Mumbai) to spread awareness about the importance of this interdisciplinary area and its scope.
What inspired you to travel en route to Dental Genetics?
So here is the long story made short. To answer this, I need to go back and tell you about my interdisciplinary academics and take you through a flashback that triggered the journey. My career started as a geneticist in 2004 after completing a postgraduate program in Applied Genetics from Bangalore University, India. Later I pursued my professional research career at Jawaharlal Nehru University, followed by IIT Kharagpur until 2009. Dentistry was always in my genes as I grew up in a family of dentists. My father, Dr. Kamalesh Chandra Roy, was a known legend of his time in dentistry in West Bengal (particularly in Berhampore town of Murshidabad district). In mid-2009, I decided to join BDS, leaving behind the opportunity to travel abroad for higher studies to attend a family emergency that came along the way with my father's deteriorating health.
While studying dentistry, especially 3rd - 4th year BDS, I realized that the current dental curriculum in our country does not train students much in areas such as fundamentals of molecular biology, genetics, etc. When I explored it further, I realized that the situation is the same everywhere - in India and worldwide. Very few universities abroad provide formal education in the field of dental genetics as a subject.
While studying dentistry, many of my dental postgraduate colleagues would approach me to help them decipher the meaning of research papers involving basic sciences technologies in dentistry and give them a clearer understanding of the context. This triggered my mind to initiate a drive in this crucial area of science in India.
Another point that hooked my mind is that even as a scientist, when I used to work with oral cancer cell lines and performed various molecular assays daily, I had no idea about the clinical aspects of oral cancer! With all these observations, I realized the dire need to bridge this knowledge gap. This inspired me to travel en route to dental genetics.
What is your real background story to date with the journey of Dental Genetics right from the inception of the Indian Academy for Clinical and Dental Genetics?
In one sentence, the journey is fantastic and challenging! I started Indian Academy for Clinical And Dental Genetics in 2016 as a solo entrepreneur. After completing BDS in 2015, I started working in my father's clinic running from 1964 and was quite well known in the area.
To balance my own family life (based out of Chennai) and quench my thirst to establish dental genetics in India and keep my dad's clinic running, I started traveling from Chennai to Murshidabad (WB) every month continuously for almost four years until 2019.
One fine morning in 2019, a hard punch from the gut awakened the sleeping beauty inside! I was not satisfied even with a flourishing practice! I decided to quit my practice to put my entire effort into building the foundation of Dental Genetics in India. I started traveling all over India, conducting offline workshops and programs to promote oral healthcare research with dental genetics as a career option. The path was difficult and unrewarding, yet enjoyable, challenging, and motivating. The sweet and sour experiences only added to my determination, and Dental Genetics became my life mission. I incepted our company Dr. Kamalesh Roy Research and Diagnostics Private Limited (KROYNAS), in May 2019 as the first online educational start-up in India focussing on Dental Genetics and Saliva Research and Diagnostics (www.genedent.com).
Can you tell us how saliva came into the picture?
Saliva was on my mind for ages - ever since I was studying my first undergraduate program in molecular biology at Calcutta University way back in the 90s. Teaching genetics was not easy, and I was constantly trying to develop ways to make genetics more palatable and simplistic. Once I introduced saliva in my teaching, everything changed. To describe in one line, if dental genetics was the car, saliva became the fuel!
The role of saliva in SARS CoV 2 testing is only becoming more and more significant. Can you add anything to that?
I have been a big advocate of saliva compared to swabs. I have extensively tweeted and posted on various saliva tests relevant to different sectors of biology and healthcare. As a new addition to this awareness drive, I am coming up with a book, "COVID19 Detection Strategies - Swab to Saliva". This book focuses on the current status of COVID-19 diagnostic methodologies highlighting point-of-care tests that utilize saliva specimens as the testing matrix. It is an attempt to create awareness in the scientific community about the global market scenario for salivary diagnostics and to elucidate the promising futuristic role of saliva in the accurate diagnosis of COVID-19.
Please tell us about the international saliva conference that your organization conducts annually.
Saliva is one of the most under-exploited yet vital biological fluids with high diagnostic potential. The awareness about the scope of this magical fluid is low among healthcare and dental communities.
The possibility of using saliva in diagnosis has always fascinated me. With a mission to create awareness and bring about radical healthcare diagnostic changes, I pioneered the International Saliva Summit of India (SALSI) in 2019 (Chennai). SALSI is a first of its kind interdisciplinary, international meet organized in India that focuses on the immense potential of saliva as a disease diagnostic tool, saliva therapeutics, and saliva biomarker research from a global perspective. It shows newer pathways in applications of molecular genetics and genomic technologies in daily diagnosis and research. It also demonstrates the latest saliva collection tools, point of care devices, and saliva therapeutics.
Every year through the platform of SALSI, we focus on imparting and promoting the importance of interdisciplinary science and collaborative research. SALSI 2020 was the last offline format of the conference held in IISc, Bangalore, India. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SALSI 2021 was conducted online. The journey continues with the upcoming 4th chapter to be held 28 -30 January 2022.
You can get more details on www.salsi.in.
The Theme of SALSI 22 is Saliva: The new hope of the pandemic. SALSI encourages undergraduate and early career researchers in India by awarding cash prizes as KRRIA -Dr. Kamalesh Roy Research Idea Award.
Who can attend SALSI?
Any science enthusiasts from the fields of Dentistry, Medicine, Pediatrics, Forensics, Pharmacology, Biotechnology, Genetics, Omics Industry, Ayurveda, Biomedical Sciences, Pathology, Biochemistry, Entrepreneurs in the healthcare sector, diagnostics, and therapeutics can meet, share ideas, and conceive the next generation of non-invasive technologies that will benefit human health in the future.
Do you run any journals or magazines?
Yes! Of Course! To foster interdisciplinary scientific knowledge sharing, I run a global free monthly online magazine- Genomeden, focusing on dental genetics, saliva diagnostics research and therapeutics, healthcare innovations, and lifestyle disorder. It also features exclusive sections as Student's corner, Experts' speak (interviews), Faculty's corner, Product reviews, Career talks, Pen-A-Page Essay Contest, and free events and contests. All the issues can be downloaded from the website (www.genomeden.com), availing free subscription.
What is your future vision with Dental Genetics and Saliva?
My future vision is to educate more and more science enthusiasts about dental genetics and saliva diagnostics, create future thought leaders and educators in these fields, create jobs and opportunities for young minds to take interdisciplinary research as a career pathway, and also lead people towards the pathway to innovate and to make dental genetics a scientific movement.
Dr. Gargi Roy Goswami
Director, KROYNAS Pvt. Ltd.
Founder and Director
Indian Academy for Clinical and Dental Genetics (IACDG)
Facebook Group Link: IACDG: https://www.facebook.com/groups/www.dentalgeneticsacademy.in/
Founder & Chairman,
International Saliva Summit of India (SALSI)