Yamuna Krishnan and collaborators awarded HFSP 2014 research grant

Monday, March 31st, 2014
Yamuna Krishnan_HFSP

Yamuna Krishnan, Associate Professor at NCBS, has been awarded a Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) program grant. Krishnan and her team of collaborators including Professors Ludger Johannes (Curie Institute, France), Mark Bathe (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge) and John Ipsen (University of Southern Denmark) will examine the mechanisms of endocytosis (the process of cells absorbing molecules by engulfing them) and associated cell signaling using innovative nanoprobes.

"The idea behind this work was catalyzed by a Curie-NCBS bi-institutional meeting spearheaded by Satyajit Mayor and Johannes," says Krishnan. "That is when Ludger and I realized we could use a synthetic biological approach to answer an exciting cell biology problem." One of the pioneers of applied structural DNA nanotechnology in living systems, Krishnan will use her expertise to engineer intelligent nanoprobes. This field of DNA nanotechnology that she specializes in utilizes the basic principles of DNA structure to create complex systems and devices that have extensive scientific and technological applications. Krishnan and her team at the NCBS have created numerous devices such as the I-Switch, a DNA-based sensor which quantifies the spatial and temporal changes in cell acidity that occurs during endocytosis.

Krishnan's HFSP project with her collaborators will integrate many powerful approaches, making the project a truly multi-disciplinary one. "We found natural collaborators in Bathe and Ipsen, who bring exciting expertise of computational modeling and theoretical physics approaches to the problem," says Krishnan. "Our research should help better understand how to target therapeutics for pathological cells or potentiate their effects through other molecules," says Johannes. "We can amplify and improve knowledge on cell membranes with HFSP funding."

The multi-disciplinary team lead by Krishnan is indeed the epitome of what the HFSP stands for. An international research-support program implemented by the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO), the HFSP aims to "promote intercontinental collaboration and training in cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research focused on the life sciences." "Our grant program is the only existing mechanism that supports scientists from more than two countries in a joint research effort," says Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, Secretary General of the HFSPO. Collaborative research grants are given for a broad range of projects under the umbrella theme of Complex mechanisms of living organisms.

Many teams comprising NCBS faculty have received HFSP grants in the past. NCBS's Madhusudhan Venkadesan received a Young Investigator Grant last year; Satyajit Mayor and Sanjay Sane received research grants in 2012, R. Sowdhamini, Madan Rao and Mayor received grants in 2009, 2007 and 2005 respectively. This year's HFSP award granted to Krishnan and team is one of the 24 grants which were selected out of a total 844 entries.

Krishnan has been working on diverse aspects of structural DNA nanotechnology in living systems and is looking forward to the initiation of the new HFSP-funded project. "I cannot wait to start on this adventure!" she says.


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