About Fellow

Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, San Diego, USA
La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, San Diego, USA.

Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Bhopal

I had, as a child, always dreamt of becoming a pilot in the Indian Air Force – a series of lucky coincidences brought me into science. In college, an article I happened to come across on ammonia transporters simultaneously fascinated and piqued my interest in membrane proteins. Even today, I find myself perpetually mesmerized by the structure of these molecules and their mode(s) of action.

I first developed an interest in voltage-dependent anion channels, or VDACs, in short, in 2006, while I was searching for a challenging protein system to study that was 'structurally different' from ion channels, and yet behaved 'functionally' like one. In 2008, the human VDAC isoform 1 structures were finally revealed (both in solution and in crystals), and this was quickly followed by the mouse VDAC structure. Unveiling the mystery of this protein's unique 19-stranded beta-barrel structure, and how this structure correlates with its function as an anion channel, were evidently attempted over the next few years.

Most importantly, research to determine the mechanism by which VDAC interaction with apoptotic elements serves as the determining factor in the regulation of cell survival, was intensified. The succession of papers that ensued tried to correlate functional data, accumulated painstakingly over three decades, with the newly determined structure. When the prospect of leading my research group presented itself in 2009, I immediately realized that the opportune moment for me to initiate VDAC work had finally arrived.

Over the past few years, my team has developed and optimized methods for the biophysical characterization of not only human VDAC isoform 2 but also other transmembrane beta-barrel proteins of biological relevance. With assistance from the Wellcome Trust / DBT India Alliance Intermediate Fellowship, I hope to contribute to the growth of the VDAC field, and substantially contribute to the growing momentum in membrane protein biology.