23 Oct 2023

The Cyber Side of DNA: Amrita and Ashok Mahbubani

Through generous support from the EKTA Foundation & the Mahbubani family, the HudsonAlpha Bio-Cybersecurity Lab creates a center of cybersecurity excellence to impact and protect the Institute’s mission areas in Biotech and Genomics.


By Lillie Mermoud


HudsonAlpha uses specialized tools like DNA sequencers to analyze genomic structures and make life-changing clinical, agricultural, and environmental discoveries. Biotech and Genomics are rapidly evolving fields with a growing volume of digital data that must be protected across shared networks to safeguard individual privacy and intellectual property. 

It is also crucial to ensure that future generations of the cybersecurity workforce are properly trained in securing genomic data. 

To address these needs, HudsonAlpha is launching the Bio-Cybersecurity Lab, a project that aims to secure the Institute’s own data while partnering with other centers of excellence to help train and support students in the cybersecurity space.

Amrita and Ashok Mahbubani have been energetic supporters of HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology’s mission, funding the Institute’s Educational and Plant Science research projects from their private family foundation, the EKTA Foundation.

The Mahbubanis set up EKTA to support impactful initiatives in educational, entrepreneurial, and environmental innovation. With its three-pronged mission of scientific research, economic development, and education, HudsonAlpha was a natural fit. When the Mahbubanis first learned about the Bio-Cybersecurity Lab, they could see that the project aligned well with their goals and interests.

Here, Amrita and Ashok share what inspired them to support the design and execution of the Security Enclave for the Institute’s Bio-Cybersecurity Lab, with a gift made through HudsonAlpha Foundation’s Innovation Fund, and the impact they hope the lab will have on North Alabama and beyond.

Amrita and Ashok Mahbubani


HudsonAlpha Foundation: It’s clear that philanthropy means a lot to you both. What causes do you care about supporting, and how does HudsonAlpha align with that?

Ashok Mahbubani: Through the EKTA Foundation, we support organizations that educate future generations, encourage entrepreneurship and address environmental challenges. HudsonAlpha aligns with all three of those goals.

Amrita Mahbubani: We value an organization’s ability to stay nimble and adapt to change. We see that reflected in how HudsonAlpha embraces advances in technology, which accelerates the impact they can have on the world.


HAF: What inspired you to support the Bio-Cybersecurity Lab?

Ashok: Dr. Neil Lamb and I joined a working group at Schmidt Futures focused on talent development for the Bioeconomy. For one of our follow-up meetings at HudsonAlpha, we offered an agenda where the first item was AI in Biotech. This took us down a discussion path that brought the idea of the Security Enclave and the Lab to the forefront.  

Technology is in our organizational DNA, starting with the manufacturing business we started up and ran for over 31 years in Huntsville. The Bio-Cybersecurity Lab will use advanced tools and technology to fulfil its purpose of securing the Institute’s digital data and infrastructure, as part of the bioeconomy. It’s an initiative we’re honored to support.


HAF: The Bio-Cybersecurity Lab will impact all of HudsonAlpha’s research mission areas and create opportunities for student experiences and community partnerships. What are you most excited for your gift to impact at HudsonAlpha?

Amrita: The enhancement of human dignity through education is one of the EKTA Foundation’s core principles, so the educational part of the Bio-Cybersecurity Lab resonated with us. Through this part of its work, the lab would allow students – like our grandson, who is studying at the Alabama School for Cyber Technology and Engineering – to develop the skills and talent they need to become cybersecurity experts and future leaders.

Ashok: The lab will secure HudsonAlpha’s research capabilities, its educational programs, and its partnerships with organizations and businesses across the country while taking bio-cybersecurity to another level. It will positively impact so many elements of HudsonAlpha’s mission and operations.


HAF: Why do you think HudsonAlpha is important to our community? What value does the Institute bring to our community, and why should we support it?

Amrita: People are often surprised that a place like HudsonAlpha exists in Alabama, but it makes me so proud of what we can accomplish here. Right in our backyard, HudsonAlpha is changing the world and making it a better place.

Ashok: In all our work, we take our time when assessing the organizations that we partner with, looking at the integrity of their mission and their ability to execute with sustainably high quality. HudsonAlpha practices science as it should be, with creativity, discipline, and visibly excellent results. They have also made a lasting economic impact on our community and put Huntsville on the map as a center of excellence in biotech, finding solutions to real-world problems and making a beneficial impact on humanity.