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Dr. Akhil Banerjea

Professor & Chair
National Inst Immunology
JNU Campus, New Delhi

Brief Biography:

Akhil C. Banerjea, Ph.D. is currently a senior scientist/Chair of Virology Department at National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, India. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, India. He obtained his B.Sc. degree from Gorakhpur University, Masters degree in Microbiology from G. B. Pant University, Uttranchal and Ph.D. from National Institute of Virology, University of Pune in Virology. He was a Post Doctorate Fellow & Assistant Research Professor at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North-Carolina, USA (1984 – 90) and Senior Staff-Fellow at National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA (1990 – 1994). He has published more than 60 papers in international peer reviewed journals in the field of HIV/AIDS, Biochemistry, Gene Therapy, Virology etc., and contributed 12 invited chapters/ reviews to National and International Publishers in the field of HIV/AIDS and Gene Therapy. He is the recipient of National Awards of ICMR (Shakuntala Amir Chand); National Foreign-Assocaiateship of DBT, National Bio-Science Award for Career Development of DBT, Government of India, won several full international scholarships to present work on HIV-1 in USA, UK, South Africa and Singapore. He is the recipient of Indo-US –ICMR grant on HIV transmission; Member- Editorial Board of several International Journals. Review papers for Mol. Ther, Antiviral Research, Gene, JBC, Biochemical J, Virology on a regular basis. He has delivered seminars in Albert Einstein-NY, Duke-NC, UCLA-CA, COH-CA, NCI-NIH, Drexel-Philadelphia NSU-Singapore etc. He is interested in studying molecular basis of various viral diseases, especially HIV / AIDS and Influenza in India. He has guided six Ph.D. students and trained several Project Assistants and Associates who are now doing advanced research in JHU-Baltimore; Yale, UCLA-CA, NIH Frederick & Bethesda –MDUniv of Toronto, Basel-Switzerland etc. He was awarded the Visiting Professorship at Colorado State University, Fort-Collins, Colorado, USA for a period of two years (2002 – 2004). The work carried out on siRNA into stem cells against HIV-1 was covered in New York Times in 2003 and now in Clinical trial in USA. His major interest now is to use lentiviral vectors, stem cells, catalytic nucleic acids (Ribozymes & DNA-enzymes) and small interfering RNA technology as a gene therapy approach against HIV and other pathogens on one hand and determine the functional implications of genetic changes in the host genes or viral genes from HIV-1 isolates in order to understand the molecular basis of HIV/AIDS pathogenesis in India.


Academic positions:

January 2011 to 2005:  Staff-Scientist VI & VII (Chief), Laboratory of Virology, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi-110067, India
August 2004 to January 2005: Staff-Scientist V, Laboratory of Virology, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi-110067, India
April 2002 to August 2004: Visiting Professor (Sabbatical), Department of Pathology, Colorado State University, Fort-Collins, Colorado, 80523-1682, USA.
2000 January - to 2002 April: Staff-Scientist V, Laboratory of Virology, (PI), National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi-110067, India. 
1994 December to 2000 January: Staff Scientist IV, Laboratory of Virology, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi-110067, India.
1990 July to 1994 December: Senior Staff Fellow, Laboratory of Viral Genetics, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland - 20892, USA.
1988 April to 1990 June: Research Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC-27710, USA.
1984 July to 1988 March: Senior Research Associate, Department of Microbiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North-Carolina –27710, USA.
1978 February to 1984 February: Junior ICMR Fellow and DST Senior Research Fellow, National Institute of Virology, Pune- 411001, India.
1975 December- 1978 January: Research/Teaching Assistant, Department of Microbiology, G. B. Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, Pantnagar, 263145, India.


Research interests:

(A) Use of lentiviral vectors for gene delivery into stem cells/human embryonic stem cells:
Third generation lentiviral vectors based on HIV-1 back bone is being improved to deliver therapeutic genes more efficiently into hematopoietic stem cells and human embryonic stem cells. Derivation of HIV-1 resistant T-lymphocytes and macrophages using ribozymes, catalytic DNAs (DNA-enzymes) and small interfering RNAs technology.
(B) Genetic analyses of the host genes and HIV subtype C specific gene products that affect progression of HIV-1
The major focus of my laboratory is to understand unique features of HIV epidemic in North India. This involves studying host genetics, functional implications of genetic changes and establishing molecular determinants for HIV/AIDS pathogenesis.
(C) Functional characterization of HIV-1 subtype B and subtype C (Indian isolate) gene products and their role in pathogenesis. This involves finding functional implications of natural genetic changes in HIV-1 genes (LTR, Vif, Vpr, Nef, Env, Tat etc)
(D) HIV vaccine using genetically engineered multiple protective epitopes, engineering of HIV-1 Envelope for generating neutralizing antibodies and reverse genetics for the production of new generation Influenza vaccine candidates.


Any other information:

Other activities involved:
1. Involved with the isolation of Japanese encephalitis and Westnile viruses from an epidemic in 1981in India. (Arthopod Borne Virus Information Exchange, 43, 66-67, 1982).
2. Reviewed many National and International grants for funding research projects including CFAR grant from NIH, MD, USA.
3. Played a major role in organizing Indo-US vaccine workshop in India, 26-27 October, 1999.
4. Acted as a judge in scientific workshops held in schools in USA (Beall elementary, Rockville, Maryland and Poudre High, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA). Gave popular lectures on HIV/AIDS in schools of USA and several Delhi University colleges.
5. Ph.D. Guide: Five students have carried out research exclusively in my supervision and received their Ph.D. degrees. These students are now in UCLA, CA; NIH, MD; Yale, CT; and Boston, MA, - doing their Post Doctoral Training. Presently guiding six Ph.D students at NII, ND.
6. Co-supervisor of a graduate student in USA: Mr. Joseph Anderson  who is carrying out his Ph.D. in the Pathology Department of Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA (April 2002 …).
7. Post Doctorate Training: Several students have received training in my laboratory in India and now placed in top laboratories of USA (UCLA, Yale, St. Jude, Baylor College, NIH, MIT, etc.).
8. Teaching responsibility: I taught introductory virology courses and conducted practical virology classes for the medical graduate students of Duke University in the years 1989 and 1990.  I taught comprehensive course of Virology (RNA & DNA viruses, structure, function, gene regulation, prevention strategies, including extensive coverage of double stranded viruses, retroviruses – HIV and gene therapy – my expertise) for four years (1990 – 1994) at National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. USA. Appointed chief Ph.D course coordinator for the course Emerging Areas & Methodoligies in Biology for the year 2007 -2008.
9. Responsible for teaching, modern biology, molecular biology, virology, stem cell biology and gene therapy courses for Ph.D. students of NII, New Delhi (1994 to present).
Extramural funding:
National: The candidate has three Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and one Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) (both from Govt. of India) funded projects in the area of HIV (January 1997 to March 2002). Currently three DBT funded grants (two projects related to HIV-1 /pathogenesis and progression and the third on developing novel antiviral approaches against Influenza (total approximate funding to the extent of Rs One Crore as of year 2009). 
International: Indo –US 1R03- NIH- HD052153-01A1: DC-SIGN and DC-SIGNR Genetic Variations and HIV-1 Transmission in India. Period – 2007 – 2009.
Administrative experience: Involved in the purchase of major equipments, consumables, books, organizing seminars etc; member of biosafety & ethics committee of NII, New Delhi. Involved in designing the Virology Laboratory at NII, New Delhi, which includes the biosafety containment facility also.  Member of the Governing Body of National Inst. Immunology, New Delhi. Served as a member of Human Ethical Clearance, Campus management, Library committee, Equipment committee etc.
Invited  Lectures/Papers delivered:
(Too many lectures, only 2008 – 2009 listed)
1. 4th May, 2009, Inhibition of gene expression with catalytic nucleic acid and siRNA mediated approaches, at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (Centenary Celebration).
2. 10th April, 2009, in National Symposium on Biotechnology in the post genomic era, HIV-1 pathogenesis and gene therapy, at Venkateswara College, New Delhi.
3. 3rd April, 2009, HIV Biology and Gene Therapy, at Jawaharlal University, New Delhi.
4. 4th March, 2009, HIV-1 genetic diversity among North Indians and host – viral interaction. At Les Cent Grades (Pasteur), New Delhi.
5. 27th February, 2009, HIV genetics and Gene Therapy at Institute of Learning and management at Greater Noida.
6. 30th January, 2009, HIV Biology & Therapeutics, DeshBandhu College, New Delhi
7. 17 -18th November, 2008: Novel mosaic HIV-1 genes in North India and gene therapeutic approaches against HIV-1. At Conference on Human Viruses and Translational Medicine, NII, ND, India.
8. 24 – 25th October, 2008: HIV-1 pathogenesis and gene therapeutic approaches. In International Conference: Emerging Trends in Biological Sciences, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India.
9. 5 – 8th October, 2008: Genetic and functional characterization of HIV-1 Vpr C variants from North India: Presence of unique recombinants with mosaic genomes from B, C abd D subtypes. In the International Conference on Fundamental and Translational Research on HIV/AIDS: Global perspectives, Mumbai, India.
10. 25 -26th September, 2008: Evidence of purifying selection in Novel B/C/D recombinant gene circulating in North India. In International Symposium on Complex Diseases: Approaches to Gene Identification and Therapeutic Management. Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata, India.
11. 3 – 8th August, 2008: Functional analysis of RGD/QGD motifs in HIV-1 subtypes B and C tat mediated apoptosis and transactivation. At XVII International AIDS Conference, Mexico City.
12. 1st August, 2008: Gene therapeutic approaches against HIV-1. At Indian Institute of Technology – Guwhati, Assam
13. July, 28th, 2008: HIV-1 biology and pathogenesis. At LRS Institute of TB & Respiratory Diseases, ND.
14. May 29th., 2008: Genetic Diversity of HIV-1 genes from North India and Gene Therapeutic Approaches. Inaugural Speaker at Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
15. 11 -12th February, 2008: Role of reactive oxygen species in viral pathogenesis: its potential role in HIV-1 gene expression and latency. In Society for Free Radical Research – India- Satellite Meeting, AIIMS, New Delhi.
16. 27 – 29th January, 2008: HIV-1 Pathogenesis and vaccine approaches in International Conference on Opportunistic Pathogens in AIDS, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.
17. 14 – 15th January, 2008: Novel si-RNA-Ribozyme constructs against HIV-1 and X gene of hepatitis B viruses, at XIV Annual Ranbaxy Science Foundation Symposium on Emerging Frontiers in Management of Advanced Stage Cancers, Nattional Institute of Immunology, New Delhi.
18. 3 – 7th January, 2008: Plenary lecture on stem cells & gene therapy entitled, “ Lentiviral vectors and novel gene therapeutic approaches against HIV-1, at 95th Indian Science Congress Association, Andhra University, Vishakhapatnam.


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