• 13 December 2007
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Biophysical analyst

Dr Souvik Maiti of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi, has bagged the CSIR Young Scientist Award for the year 2007 in Chemical Sciences for developing a novel methodology to stabilise DNA in organic solvents. Excerpts from an interview:

"I completed my MSc (1995) in Chemistry from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, and PhD (1999) in Polymer Chemistry under Dr Prabha R Chatterji from the Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad. Then I carried out a postdoctoral research on biophysical aspects of DNA secondary structures in the Professor Luis A Marky's laboratory at College of Pharmacy, University of Nebraska Medical Center, USA. I also worked as a post-doctoral fellow on designing and development of DNA based nanomaterials in the Professor Francis Rondelez's laboratory, Physics Department, Curie University, Paris, France. Currently, I am working as a research faculty in the Proteomics and Structural Biology unit of Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi, India".

What has been the major focus of your research?

I have contributed specifically in the biophysical analysis of DNA-polymers interactions.

The fundamental work done by me in this area, at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, has major applications in nanobiotechnology. I believe that my early training in physical chemistry, with a talent for identifying relevant problems in inter-disciplinary areas of research has been helpful towards this end. I have out together a group of motivated associates involved in research on biological applications of nanomaterials. In the last four years or so, seven out of eleven research articles by me on nanobiotechnology have found place in prestigious journals (Langmuir 2003; 19; 2947-2955, Langmuir 2004; 20; 2386-2396, Langmuir, 2004, 20, 5165-5170, Langmuir 2004; 20; 8468-8475, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 126; 26-27, Biomaterials 2006, 27, 5377-5390 and Biomacromolecules 2006, 7, 1386 - 1388).

What work have you done in the field of nanobiotechnology?

I have described a new group of nanoparticles based on random co-polymers. These nanoparticles are stable in aqueous media unlike other nanoparticles and could be carriers for diverse therapeutic molecules. It has been branded as the next generation material for designing nanometric biosensors and biochips.

I have also demonstrated a novel methodology to make DNA soluble in common organic solvents, while ensuring that it does not lose its biologically important properties (J Am Chem Soc 2004, 126; 26-27). My group also demonstrated the use of biomacromolecules such as DNA to create nano-patterned materials base on nanoparticles (Langmuir 2004, 20, 5165-5170).

Another outstanding contribution to the field of nanomaterials and nanobiotechnology is the development of a PEG based cationic hyperbranched polymer that protects RNA from enzymatic degradation by forming water soluble nanoparticles (Biomacromolecules, 2006, 7, 1386 – 1388). This methodology can be easily adapted for long-term storage of RNA, long distance transfer of RNA, and genetic engineering using RNA as a building block.

We have also demonstrated the interactions between living cells and nanoparticles (ChemBioChem 2007, 11, 1237-1240) and showed that gold nanoparticles are not toxic for living cell.

Besides this, what other areas have you contributed to?

I have also contributed in the field of fundamental aspect of nucleic acids and structural biology. We recently demonstrated that loop regions of quadruplex secondary structures at the DNA level can serve as targets to regulate their functions. I have also shown that these secondary structures exist in competition with the normal Watson-Crick (WC) duplex structure that is formed by interaction with the complementary strand present in the genomic DNA. Along with this, I have also contributed significantly towards the understanding the biophysical aspect of locked nucleic acids, a promising modified oligonucleotides

What are you currently working upon?

I am currently engaged in development of nanoparticle based remote controlled drug delivery systems and highly sensitive, nanoparticle-based detection systems, capable of detecting a single cell of pathogens like Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Bacillus anthracis, which will be a technology to watch out for in the coming years.


Samir Brahmachari is the CSIR chief

Eminent biophysicist Dr Samir K Brahmachari has been appointed the new director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Dr Brahmachari, the former director of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi, took charge of CSIR from the officiating director general T Ramasami, who is also the secretary, department of science and technology (DST).

Dr Brahmachari has over 130 publications in leading international journals and has 5 patents and 10 software copyrights to his credit.


E&Y award for Dr Cyrus Poonawalla

The Ernst and Young (E&Y) Award for Health and Life Sciences was awarded to Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, chairman and managing director, Serum Institute of India, by Sheila Dikshit, chief minister, Delhi, at a function held in the capital recently.

Ernst & Young India launched the award in 1999 to felicitate leaders and visionaries, who build top-notch businesses through their dedication, innovation, strategic acumen and personal commitment towards society. This year, 20 finalists were short listed from 170 applications received for the ninth E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2007. He was the BioSpectrum Person of the Year in 2004.

Dr Poonawalla among India's 40 Richest

Dr Poonawalla has been ranked 23rd among India's 40 Richest by Forbes Asia magazine. Son of a racehorse breeder in Pune, he branched out in 1967 and began making anti-snake venom serums that were in short supply in the country. Privately owned Serum Institute, which he founded and runs, now sells a range of affordable vaccines for rabies, measles, hepatitis B, among other diseases, in 140 countries.


VK Singh is CEO of Ethypharm India

Ethypharm India, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ethypharm SA, France, one of world's leading drug delivery solutions companies based out of Mumbai, has appointed VK Singh as chief executive officer.

As CEO, Singh will be responsible for the overall ex-India business and operation of Ethypharm, which would include marketing, manufacturing, R&D and operations in India and in attached markets of the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, and emerging markets of Latin America, CIS and Middle East.

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