1. Who are you?
I am a postdoctoral researcher in Tissue Biology Group, a biologist involved in fundamental research exploring and further explaining the underlying mechanisms that govern the functioning of living organisms. I am Findish, a Finn with roots in India and enjoy Finnish nature such as lakes, forests, snow, weather, ice swimming and sauna. I was born and raised in similar surroundings except the snow and extremes of day and night. I finished my Master’s and Doctoral degree programs from University of Tampere. For my Ph.D. degree I worked on fascinating proteins known as carbonic anhydrase related proteins (CARPs) using zebrafish as a model organism to elucidate their roles in brain during embryonic development. Currently I am working in the exciting field of molecular mechanism of tuberculosis (TB) disease with an ultimate aim of finding a novel approach to treat TB that is resistant to most clinically used drugs.
2. What brought you to University of Tampere?
What brought me to University of Tampere is a long story and is very ingesting, but in short, I wanted to do a Master’s degree in Bioinformatics to gain the knowledge in the field and use the same to study biology. The bioinformatics program was introduced by Turku and Tampere as a joint international degree program in 2006 and I had given a preference for Turku University. My application was transferred to University of Tampere, probably keeping my biology background in mind, and that is how I am here. For my master’s thesis, I used computational tools to study carbonic anhydrase related proteins (CARPs) across many species, and continued the work using molecular biology and microscopy techniques to study their roles in zebrafish model.
3. What is your research about?
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis), which causes tuberculosis disease in humans, is one of the most difficult human pathogens. The molecular mechanism of the TB disease caused by M. tuberculosis is yet to be understood completely. My work involves studying the roles of β-carbonic anhydrases in M. tuberculosis to elucidate the molecular mechanism of tuberculosis disease. To understand pathogenesis of TB disease, I use the model bacterium M. marinum, which is a close relative of M. tuberculosis and a natural TB pathogen of Zebrafish (Danio rerio) with a similar mechanism of disease. In addition, I develop anti-tuberculosis drugs that have novel mechanisms of action with the potential to treat multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB. For my study, I plan and conduct research using molecular biology, gene knockout/knockdown technology, proteomics and genomics, microscopy techniques and bioinformatic tools. In addition, I screen large numbers of chemical compounds for toxicity and perform in vitro inhibition studies using recombinant proteins that are essential for the life cycle of M. tuberculosis. The lead compounds obtained thus are further preclinically characterized for inhibition of M. marinum in vitro and in vivo. My work also involves establishing national and international collaborations, especially on tuberculosis research and drug development project. I supervise master’s students and visiting guest researchers from national and international research organizations. I also actively conduct research and journal club meetings every month in the group to discuss current research and new research plans. In addition to the main tuberculosis research project, I work on development of anti-cancer drugs targeting hypoxia induced CA IX. Similarly, I study the structural and functional characterization of carbonic anhydrases from pathogenic organisms. We recently knocked out the CA VI gene in zebrafish using CRISPR/Cas9 technology that contains a novel pentraxin domain to study its role in immunology.
4. What is the best thing about conducting research at Tampere?
The Tissue Biology Group is a very enthusiastic research group and the members of the group have expertise in different fields and approach the research topics from different angles with the same goal of understanding the roles of carbonic anhydrases in pathogenic organisms and humans. In addition, state of the art infrastructure at the faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences at Kauppi Campus and multidisciplinary environment are critical to conduct research on these topics. In addition to the research facilities and people at the University, the city of Tampere is a small and very beautiful place with a lot of serenity and very friendly people, making it a very nice place for conducting research and devoting more time to the work.
5. What are your plans for the future?
I love research and enjoy doing research in biology to understand basic cellular processes. Doing research in biological sciences is always exciting and full of surprises and there is always something to look forward to in science. My current research on the molecular mechanisms of tuberculosis has several questions and I would like to find answers to those questions. Similarly, I plan to develop drugs with a novel mechanism of action that have potential to treat not only drug resistant TB but also helpful in treating the latent TB disease which is found in 30 percent of world population