All India Institute of Medical Sciences
University of New Mexico
Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha.
From my earliest secondary school days, I have had a special interest in and affinity for biology. I received a First Class Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology/Botany/Chemistry and was selected through a competitive process to a Master’s degree program in Biotechnology at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. During this time, I was exposed to real theoretical and practical aspects of contemporary research in the life sciences and became seriously interested in a research career.
I joined the Ph.D. program at the All India Institute of Medical Science, New Delhi under the guidance of Dr. JS Tyagi. My work focused on transcription regulation of/by a two-component signal transduction system called DevR-DevS (DosR-DosS), known to be involved in latent/dormancy phase survival of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. During my doctoral studies, I cherished and productively utilized the research freedom provided by my mentor, Dr. JS Tyagi. Due to the intellectual independence she encouraged, I was also able to pursue different projects and publish nicely during my PhD. It was my luck that I got chance to pursue my PhD under guidance of Dr. JS Tyagi.
After completion of my Ph.D. in 2009, for postdoctoral fellowship, I joined the laboratory of Dr. Douglas Boyd in the Department of Cancer Biology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston. During my three years of postdoctoral studies at MD Anderson I gained a significant understanding of cancer biology, a broadened knowledge of eukaryotic gene transcription/epigenetic regulation and acquired contemporary technical skills. My first paper here as lead author, published in Nucleic Acid Research, centered on epigenetic regulation of a well known metastasis-related gene, UPAR. My second project focused on the transcription factor ZKSCAN3, which Dr. Boyd’s lab had shown to be a novel driver of colon cancer, and where my part was to study its role in bladder cancer. Through microarray analysis I determined that a number of autophagy genes (>60) are induced in ZKSCAN3 knock-down bladder cancer cells and that, phenotypically, these cells grew slower than their parent cells. These observations led me to speculate that ZKSCAN3 might be a transcription regulator of genes involed in autophagy. After over a year of intense experimental focus, I showed that my hypothesis was correct and ZKSCAN3 indeed regulates autophagy by suppressing transcription of several genes involved in the autophagic pathway. This work was published in the journal Molecular Cell and highlighted in the journal Cancer Discovery and was recommended by Faculty of 1000’s. It was during this fellowship that I became passionate about learning more about autophagy, not only because it was an up and coming field but also because it was shown to have a remarkable number of connections with health and disease states.
At a Gordon Conference on Autophagy I met Dr. Vojo Deretic and expressed interest in joining his group. Dr. Deretic’s lab at the University of New Mexico published several ground-breaking studies in the field of autophagy and innate immunity. Here, I have learned much more about fundamental autophagy and innate immunity processes and gaining a host of technical skills. I have concentrated my studies primarily upon an Immunity-Related GTPase IRGM, shown to be involved in anti-mycobacterial autophagy. Combining my long-held deft skills in mycobacterium handling with newly acquiring skills in cell biology, excellent lab resources, and extraordinary guidance from Dr. Deretic, I have defined the mechanism by which IRGM mediates anti-mycobacterial autophagy (published in Molecular Cell). More recently, in Dr. Deretic lab, we screened >3000 drugs and identified a subset of autophagy-modulating drugs showing beneficial effects in cellular models of HIV and Alzheimer’s disease (published in Nature communications and a US patent is filed). I also worked on TRIM family proteins (70 proteins) and their role in autophagy regulation.
In September 2014, I was promoted to Research Assistant Professor at University of New Mexico, US. In September 2015, I joined ILS, Bhubaneshwar as Scientist-D. Recently, it was my dream come true when I got selected for Wellcome-DBT intermediate fellowship. I have no hesitation in saying that this fellowship program has potential to take Indian science to new heights.