University of Hyderabad
Biology has always fascinated me. Beginning from the enthusiasm of making a herbarium or dissecting small animals at school and college and the captivating symmetry of the flora and fauna, my interest in biology has grown ever since. Although biology was a difficult choice, due to my inherent interest I opted to pursue M.Sc. Biotechnology from Andhra University and subsequently Ph.D. Biochemistry from University of Hyderabad. During my PhD I was introduced to the concept of cellular stress response and how the various stress transducers coordinate an integrated response to alleviate stress. Further intriguing reality was that most often it is not the stress but the dysfunction of the response that leads to the pathogenesis of many disease. Post PhD, I joined Dr. Siddiqui’s lab in University of California, San Diego to pursue research on endoplasmic stress response during viral infections. Dr. Siddiqui is among the leading scientist in the field of hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV & HCV) with major focus on the underlying mechanisms that trigger liver disease pathogenesis in chronic hepatitis B & C patients. Owing to their limited genome viruses completely rely on the host cell machinery for their proliferation. Hence viruses have evolved strategies to usurp or exploit host signaling to aide their proliferation. While exploring the consequences of mitochondrial injury on mitochondrial function & metabolism in chronic viral hepatitis we discovered that both HBV and HCV upregulate mitochondrial quality control by modulating mitochondrial dynamics and mitochondria-selective autophagy, to sustain viability of infected cells and facilitate viral persistence. Mitochondria serve as the hub of multiple signaling pathways and are primary target of many viruses due to their multitasking capacity. Recent finding implicate mitochondrial dynamic as the integral cellular process that defines cellular response to physiological stress and invading pathogens. Mitochondrial dynamics during viral infections is a newly evolving field with many unknown facets. As a scientist in the Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar, Infectious Disease Biology group, initially I will focus on characterizing the virus-mediated alteration to cellular mitochondrial dynamics and elucidate the functional significance of these alterations in viral life cycle and disease pathogenesis. With the funding from Wellcome-DBT, I will initiate these studies in the Flavivirus Dengue which is more prominent in the Indian-subcontinent and later explore other viruses. Host factors that aide viral proliferation and survival are attractive targets for the development of specific antivirals which will be more resilient to emergence of viral resistance. The ultimate goal is to identify these specific targets and transition these discoveries into potential therapeutics against viral infections and associated diseases.