JNCASR scientists win Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize

 NEW DELHI:  Kanishka Biswas, an associate professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), has received the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize in Chemical Science for his discoveries in the field of solid-state inorganic chemistry and thermoelectric energy conversion.

JNCASR is an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology under the government of India.

“Biswas’ research involves a fundamental understanding of the relationship between structure and property of inorganic solids to develop lead (Pb)-free high-performance thermoelectric materials, which can efficiently convert waste heat to energy and are being translated into cost-effective technologies,” a release from the Ministry of Science and Technology said on Monday.

Using fundamental and insightful chemical principles, Biswas has achieved thermoelectric performance through control of atomic ordering and consequent electronic state delocalisation in a crystalline inorganic solid, simultaneously enhancing its electronic transport and reducing the thermal conductivity, which was published in the ‘Science’ journal this year.

His innovative strategies to tune the thermoelectric properties with chemical bonding hierarchy, ferroelectric instability, and rattling atoms in a class of chemical compounds called metal chalcogenides have advanced the frontiers of inorganic solid-state chemistry introducing new paradigms.

Biswas, who hails from Habra near Kolkata, studied chemistry at the Jadavpur University before doing his PhD from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.

Meanwhile, Jeemon Panniyammakal, currently positioned as an assistant professor at the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Trivandrum, is one of the 11 recipients of the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology for his exemplary research work and leadership in the field of chronic disease epidemiology, complex public health interventions and quality improvement initiatives.

SCTIMST an autonomous institute under the Department of Science and Technology.

Jeemon’s contributions to the task-sharing model for management of hypertension and diabetes in community settings have been widely appreciated in the academic community and policymakers in the low and middle-income countries.

Two important research papers based on this work have been published recently in the Lancet Global Health journal.

Jeemon, who hails from Nilambur, Kerala, refined his research skills while working with eminent cardiologists like K. Srinath Reddy and D. Prabhakaran, formerly associated with the department of cardiology, AIIMS New Delhi.

Similarly, T Govindaraju from JNCASR has received the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology.

He received the prize for his ground-breaking concepts and discoveries, which have significant potential for diagnosis and treatment for Alzheimer’s, lung cancer among other health problems. His innovative work on small molecules, peptides, and natural products offers both diagnostics as well as therapeutics, leading to personalised medicine, a release from the Ministry of S&T said.

After completing PhD from CSIR-NCL and post-doctoral fellowship in leading research institutes in USA and Germany, Professor Govindaraju’s research focussed on bioorganic and chemical biology is addressing unresolved problems related to human health – neuro-degenerative diseases as well as cancer.

His persistent research efforts over the last 10 years paid off earlier this year. He has discovered a novel drug candidate molecule (TGR63), which effectively reduces the burden of toxic protein aggregation species called amyloid in the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease and reverses cognitive decline in animal models. A pharmaceutical company has picked this molecule for clinical trials, which shows excellent promise to treat Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

His interest in understanding the relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and cancer resulted in the discovery of the first small molecule-based drug candidate (TGP18) for lung cancer, one of the difficult types for early detection and treatment. Fascinatingly, this molecule can also function as a diagnostic tool and is one of the few molecules globally to be classified as “theragnostic” (diagnostic therapy) candidate.

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