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I recently sat down with Mahesh Peddibhotla, a senior scientist, one of the first scientists to join SBP at Lake Nona in 2007. We discussed his career path, which began in Mumbai, India.
How did you become interested in science?
There was always a focus on learning in my home. My uncle, an electronics and communications engineer, was one of my main inspirations. I competed in and won a junior scientist competition in high school and scored a gold medal from the Indian Chemical Society in a nationwide chemistry aptitude exam. This gave me the confidence to pursue chemistry.
What brought you to the U.S. and why did you select medicinal chemistry?
After completing my masters at one of India’s premier institutes—the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay—I, like many of the graduates, sought advanced training in the U.S. The opportunity to experience advanced technologies and cutting-edge science is what attracted me to the U.S. My Ph.D. focus was in synthetic organic and medicinal chemistry and post-doctoral work involved developing a chemical biology toolbox, which trained me to find chemistry-based solutions to address biological problems.
What did you study?
I did my B.Sc. (Chemistry) from University of Mumbai and M.Sc. (Chemistry) from IIT Mumbai followed by PhD (Organic Chemistry) from Michigan State University.
Why did you join SBP in Florida?
I was about the fifth or sixth person to join what was then the Burnham Institute before the Lake Nona facility was constructed. It was an exciting time for medical research—we were building something new and different from the ground up at Lake Nona.
The Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics houses technology that screens thousands of compounds in search of “hits” or chemicals that have the potential to alter the course of disease. What is your role?
Working in the Prebys Center is a cross between academic and industry research and my role spans both chemistry and biology as a member of a multi-disciplinary team. I apply synthesis and medicinal chemistry principles to refine small molecule hits from a screening program to more potent and selective leads. I further optimize these leads to modulate activity of a biological target in vivo and positively affect adisease while reducing potential side effects from the treatment
What disease-related projects are you working on?
Under the FTRP program, for the past year I’ve been working on targeting a chemokine receptor that controls cancer metastasis and inflammation-induced organ failure. I’m also collaborating with researchers at the University of South Florida on an Alzheimer’s project. Our aim is to streamline the drug discovery process to translate early discoveries in research labs in Florida to potential new medicines.
What do you enjoy when not working?
I’m interested in numerous science and non-science topics on public radio. I was recently elected to the Community Advisory Board of the 90.7 WMFE Orlando/NPR station. When I gained U.S. citizenship in 2015, I learned that one of the responsibilities of being a citizen is to participate in social service and I look forward to contributing my thoughts to shape the station’s programming and service to our community.