Updated on 10 July 2012
While there were many scientific challenges that I faced in my research carrier, the most important challenge was establishing biofuel research activity at ICGEB. ICGEB research is primarily focused on human health and plant biology. Initiating research on completely new area of bioenergy needed consent and approval of higher authorities. While I was able to successfully convince these authorities, this would not have been possible without full support of my mentor and director, Prof VS Chauhan, whom I consider a great visionary of contemporary science.
Following your work in the malaria group at ICGEB, you had a successful stint as a postdoctoral associate at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Rice University, US. What brought you back to India?
My purpose of visiting US was to gain knowledge in the field of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology. In the year 2005-06, scientists like Dr Jay Keasling, Dr Greg Stephanopoulos and Dr Craig Venter exemplified this field and inspired me of the potential this field could bring in to produce molecule of choice. I worked with a very dynamic young investigator Dr Ramon Gonzalez at Rice University, Houston, who gave me an opportunity not only to learn about the field but also apply my own ideas in various applications. I decided to come back when I felt confident that I could contribute my learning to the development of science in India.
You began your career as a malarial scientist and now you are heading a biofuels research unit. How do the two work profiles vary from each other?
Well, the two disciplines vary hugely in their outcome, malaria research hope to find solution for the disease, biofuel research hope to find solution for the energy crisis. I was involved in development of processes for production of malaria vaccine candidate and interaction with industry for transfer of technology and helping the industry to scale-up and produce vaccine candidate under certified good manufacturing practices (cGMP) facility. My responsibility regarding biofuel research had been to establish this field at ICGEB and attract funding to support the innovative ideas. My expertise in molecular biology, protein chemistry, fermentation technology and translational research helped in establishing myself in this field.