Scientist targeting cancer cells with nanotech has Pune roots

This led her to do a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at IIT Bombay followed by a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr John Clements at the University of California, San Francisco. In 2001, she returned to India to join IIT Bombay as a faculty and set up her research laboratory.

A major area of her work involves developing specifically engineered nanoparticles that can be used to deliver anti-cancer drugs. "We disguise the drugs into particles which resemble food-like substances and fool the body into taking them in as it would take nutrients." Once inside the cells, the particles release drugs to treat the disease. Further the nanoparticles are designed to be "smart" such that they can release their drug only in presence of certain stimuli associated with cancers. This reduces toxicity and increases effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs. "We are looking for industry and clinical partners for further translation and clinical trials."

Another area has been to develop low-cost technologies for global health. "We are designing nutrient loaded cosmetics for delivery of micro nutrients in pregnant women through the skin." This can lead to easy acceptability and reduction in mortality in newborns due to malnutrition and folic acid deficiency.

"I would definitely encourage girls to get into research. There are interesting schemes launched by the Government of India like Women Scientist Re-entry Grants and Child Care Provisions to encourage women to follow their dreams without hindrance."

She added, "I would like to encourage medical professionals to explore careers in medical research. More inter-disciplinary teams are required to make an impact in this area."

The IIT website shows she has published more than 100 papers in international journals and has a number of patents to her credit. Recently, Izon Science Ltd, New Zealand, in recognition of her contribution to nanomedicine gifted her a lab instrument in presence of the New Zealand Minister of Science and Innovation.

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