Pursuit of discovering new drug molecules to combat diseases

Dr Writoban Basu Ball, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, received an outlay of Rs.26.34 lakhs from DBT, Government of India to pursue research on “Targeting Kennedy pathway of cellular phosphatidylethanolamine biosynthesis as a common therapeutic strategy against protozoan parasites like Leishmania donovani, Trypanosoma brucei and Entamoeba histolytica.” Disease-causing intracellular parasites present serious health challenges, which could be fatal if left untreated. For example, Leishmania donovani and Trypanosoma brucei are the causative agents of visceral leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness, respectively. Entamoeba histolytica causes amoebiasis and 100,000 people die each year world-wide from amoebiasis-related complications. The current treatment regimen against these diseases consists of drugs that possess severe toxicity and drug resistance. Toxicity is detrimental to health and drug-resistance causes unresponsiveness of the drug to the parasite, rendering the drug ineffective. Therefore, it has become imperative to discover new drug molecules to combat these diseases.

In his study, Dr Writoban proposes to repurpose an FDA-approved drug meclizine, which can be used as a potential drug against dreadful parasitic infections. He explains. “One rational way to discover new and effective drugs entails identifying pharmacological targets against unique yet essential parasite metabolic pathways which are either absent or redundant in hosts (in the present case humans). One such central metabolic pathway in L. donovani, T. brucei, and E. histolytica is the Kennedy pathway for the biosynthesis of phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), a major lipid molecule of the cell. Without the presence of this lipid molecule, the cellular membranes (plasma membrane, organellar membranes) cannot form. Therefore, the Kennedy pathway is indispensable to parasite survival. On the contrary, in humans, although the Kennedy pathway is present, other pathway of PE biosynthesis is predominant. Hence, the Kennedy pathway offers a potential target to disrupt PE biosynthesis in these parasites without causing any side effects in the human host. In this context, meclizine, an over the counter anti-nausea drug, has been shown to disrupt the Kennedy pathway.”

Dr Writoban’s research is oriented to find safe cures for dreadful parasitic diseases that mostly plagues the underprivileged section of the developing countries like India, and countries of the sub-Saharan Africa. He believes, “The successful implementation of the proposed research scheme would benefit a lot of underprivileged people belonging to the underdeveloped and developing countries, as well as reduce the disease burden of those countries.” Further, Dr Writoban emphasizes, “Getting the grant is only the job half done. I would like to guide this proposal to a fruitful completion so that it can benefit people who need it most. I really want to take this project beyond the bounds of a mere academic exercise.

An intriguing paper on “Recent developments and strategies in genome engineering and integrated fermentation approaches for biobutanol production from microalgae” has been published in Fuel by Dr Karthik Rajendran, Department of Environmental Science, SRM University-AP, Andhra Pradesh. Fossil fuels such as petrol, coal, and natural gas deplete natural resources and increase emissions leading to global warming and climate change. As the transportation sector is heavily dependent on liquid fuels and only a few alternatives are available including ethanol, there is an urgent need for higher energy-dense liquid fuel, which is researched across the world, and butanol is considered as an alternative.

There is a constant conflict between food and fuel where the debate lies on whether to swap agricultural lands to produce fuel. An alternative to tackle this problem is identified to be microalgae which is the third-generation feedstock. This feedstock does not conflict with the production of food, as agricultural land is not necessary for its creation. In his work, Dr. Karthik explored different mechanisms for producing butanol from microalgae.

Dr Karthik has been curious on developing industrially feasible solutions for bioenergy, waste management, and sustainability as these industrial solutions are least researched and transferred. This has motivated him to work on economically viable solutions for industries. Dr Karthik explains, “In this work, the mechanisms and fermentation strategies of butanol production from microalgae is explored. Advancing with the research, our team will work on identification of the bottlenecks pertaining to such pathways along with assessing the profitability of producing butanol from microalgae.”

Link to the research paper: Please Click Here

SRM University AP-Andhra Pradesh has collaborated with the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) -Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)’s outreach programme. As part of the association, the students of SRM AP have the excellent opportunity to register for annual courses as well as live and interactive programmes being organized by IIRS-ISRO.

Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering, SRM AP, have participated and successfully completed the programmes offered IIRS-ISRO. Lehitha Paturi, Bharadwaj Kadiyala, and Sai Yasaswini Metla have been awarded the certificate from the IIRS-ISRO on completing the online course on “Satellite Photogrammetry and its Application”. Also, Annapragada Sai Mounika has been certified for taking up the course on “Application of Geoinformatics in Ecological Studies”. Further, Tamatam Sravani Ratna has been accredited for undertaking both the aforementioned programmes organized by IIRS-ISRO.

SRM AP encourages the students to proactively avail the interactive distance learning courses and webinars that will enable them to achieve their career goals in aerospace and geospatial technologies and make a mark globally.

Amine-free air- stable perovskite nanocrystals for future optoelectronic devices

Dr. Nimai Mishra, Department of Chemistry, SRM University-AP, Andhra Pradesh, along with his research group comprising of his Ph.D. students – Mr. Syed Akhil and Ms. V.G.Vasavi Dutt, have published “Completely Amine-free Open Atmospheric Synthesis of High Quality Cesium Lead Bromide (CsPbBr3) Perovskite Nanocrystals” in the journal “Chemistry-A European Journal” (Wiley-VCH, Impact factor 4.86).

Cesium Lead Halide Perovskite Nanocrystals (NCs) CsPbX3 (X=Cl, Br, and I) have gained popularity in the last few years due to their high Photoluminescence Quantum Yield (PLQY) owning for Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), and other significant applications in Photovoltaic and Optoelectronics. Dr Mishra says, “In this research work, we demonstrated a facile and efficient amine- free synthesis of Cesium Lead Bromide Perovskite Nanocrystals using Hydrobromic acid as halide source and n-trioctylphosphine (TOP) as ligand in open atmospheric conditions.” He further explains, “The hydrobromic acid (HBr) served as labile source of bromide ion, thus, this three-precursor (separate precursors for Cs-Pb-Br) approach gives more control over conventional single-source precursor for Pb and Br (PbBr2). The use of HBr paved the way to eliminate oleylamine, as a result, we can completely exclude the formation of labile oleylammonium ion halide.”

Dr Mishra and his research group extensively studied the various Cs-Pb-Br molar ratio and found an optimum condition that was able to stabilize with high PLQY CsPbBr3 NCs. These completely amine-free CsPbBr3 perovskite NCs synthesized using bromine-rich condition, exhibit good stability and durability for more than three months in the form of colloidal solutions and films respectively. Furthermore, they demonstrated stable tunable emission across a wide spectral range, via anion exchange process. More significantly, their work presents an open atmospheric stable CsPbBr3 NCs films demonstrating high photoluminescence (PL), which can be further used for optoelectronic device applications.

These high-quality nanocrystals have the potential to be used as active material in LED devices. Advancing his research, Dr Mishra and his team are planning to make a prototype LED device using their nanocrystals.

Link to the research paper: Please Click Here