Tete-a-tete with Sameer Mani Dixit – Malvika Subba

Malvika Subba had a tête-à-tête with Sameer Mani Dixit. Here’s excerpts as published on Himalayan Times of 3rd April.


Dr Sameer Mani Dixit is a research scientist, who is also the country director at the Centre for Molecular Dynamics Nepal (CMDN) and director of research and development for Intrepid Nepal. Celebrity Malvika Subba had a tête-à-tête with him. Excerpts:



What made you get into bio-technology?

My father, Dr Sundar Mani Dixit, is an accomplished physician of the country. I completed my ISc in Nepal from St Xavier's and wanted to follow in the footsteps of my father and get into medicine. But he wasn't very supportive of the idea. He told me that a doctor's life is not exactly a bed of roses as it entails various challenges other than that related to profession, like juggling family, personal lifestyle and work. But in the 1990s, what else was there to study besides medicine and architecture? So, I went to the US where I did my bachelors with biology as my major and still tried to get into medicine. When I was graduating, my father happened to meet this lady from the University of Wollongong, Australia. She was the one who suggested I take up bio-technology, as it was the next big thing after IT. But I went to England to do a short course on bio-computing and realised that it was not what I wanted. In the end, the same lady contacted my father and in the whole process I ended up studying bio-technology .

What kind of work does Intrepid do?

Intrepid is a molecular diagnostic lab that specialises in providing molecular diagnostics clinical services for detection of various pathogens including HIV , HPV , HBV , HCV , Avian Influenza and most other prevalent diseases caused by viral, bacterial, and parasitic causative agents. We now offer the facility of the tests that had to be sent to India earlier to detect certain diseases.

What about CMDN?

Intrepid is a lab and CMDN is a research organisation. We apply for different projects that are health related. If there is a work that needs to be done in the lab, let's say for HIV testing, we give it to the lab. The field work is done by CMDN. We are trying it for the first time in Nepal to find what kind of virus causes cervical cancer in Nepali woman. Vaccines are available, but we don't know what virus is causing it. This will help vaccine companies come up with a new vaccine. While there are vaccines against four types of viruses, there are hundreds of types in the world. So we want to find out as soon as possible what virus is causing the cancer. We are also getting into wildlife and trying to find out about the tiger population. Simply based on the faecal sample of tigers and the DNA extracted from it, we are trying to find out the gender and the location it comes from, among other details.

In what ways are you working with the government?

For the cervical cancer, we are working with the Ministry of Health and Population. In fact, we are supporting their work. We are also working with World Health Organisation (WHO) Nepal. We are helping them assign doctors and lab technicians to remote districts so they are better prepared in case of any outbreaks.

What are the challenges you are facing in your line of work?

One of the biggest challenges we faced was trying to convince doctors, health authorities and local people about the benefits of knowing the cause of various diseases. There were many hurdles in the beginning. There are some hurdles even today.
People ask us why they would want to do a test that costs Rs 4,000 as compared to a test that costs Rs 200 to detect the same disease. The difference is, when you pay Rs 4,000 you get the results in two hours with almost 100 per cent accuracy. While, with the test costing Rs 200, it takes about two weeks to get the report and the accuracy is at the max 90 per cent.

And then there are other problems like load shedding, lack of human resources, finding qualified people to do the work, among others.

Recently you also took up production of an upcoming film `Highway'. What made you get into films?

Although I am primarily a research scientist interested in developing research in the country, I had another dream as a child. I think being an actor is a dream most people have when they are young. I was no exception, but that didn't happen.

However, I had been quietly saving for films so that I could make a movie one day. I used to watch Nepali movies and find them very boring. It always felt like a copy of some Bollywood movie. I was looking for a good director and my nephew Eelum Dixit, who is one of the actors for the movie `Hamro Team' suggested this young director who was working with Bhushan Dahal for the same. So I met Deepak Rauniyar and I was very impressed. He is young, smart and knows what he wants.

Not only has he won a couple of awards, he has also been to Cannes. He came up with the idea of `Highway'. Everything fell into place and I became a producer.

Do you want to take this up in the long run?

Well, I guess it will all depend upon the feedback we get and the profits we make.

Intrepid is a private organisation and CMDN is an NGO. Which one makes the money for you?

We were hoping at one time that it would be Intrepid because it is a diagnostic lab with a free flow of samples, making money for both.

It's turning out to be the other way right now which is very strange.

CMDN is getting a lot of work because of our expertise. We were just approved a UNDP project, out of 20 organisations who have a track record of 10 to 20 years.

We are just three years old, but we got the project. It is bringing in the much required funds for us to sustain. But we don't want that in the long run, we want CMDN and Intrepid to sustain autonomously .

What is a typical day like in the life of Dr Sameer Mani Dixit?

I've two daughters who are four and seven years old. My wife is a dentist, so she also works. I get up at 6:30 am, have breakfast by 7:30 am and reach work by 8:30 am. I ride a bicycle to work.

I am there until lunch -busy with researches, proposals, trying to find funds. I cycle back home for lunch. Then I go to pick up my daughters from school and then I drive back to work again. After work, I try to get home by 6:00 pm so I can spend some quality time with my family .
Tete-a-tete with Sameer Mani Dixit – Malvika Subba Tete-a-tete with Sameer Mani Dixit – Malvika Subba Reviewed by Nepali Chalchitra on 3:13 AM Rating: 5

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