CSIR-CDRI Award for Outstanding Contribution in Drug Discovery and Development

CSIR-CDRI organised the "CDRI Award-2020 Oration and Felicitation Programme" on 29 September 2020 to promote drug discovery and development research in India. CSIR-CDRI instituted CDRI Awards in the year 2004 to promote scientific excellence in the country and to recognise outstanding contribution in the area of Drug Research and Development.

These prestigious awards are given annually to Indian Nationals below 45 years of age who have carried out outstanding research work in the area having a direct bearing on Drug Research and Development. There are two separate individual awards in the area of Chemical Sciences and Life Sciences. Each award carries a cash prize of Rs 20000/- and a citation.

These awardees are usually nominated by the head of the Institutions/Organisation/Universities/Industries, Bhatnagar Awardees, Fellows of National Science Academies. A committee comprising eminent scientists scrutinize the nomination/application and select the CDRI Awardee.

Since 2004, a total of 34 scientists (17 outstanding scientists in Chemical Sciences and 17 in Biological Sciences) have received this prestigious award for their notable contribution in drug discovery and development research in India.

Out of 34 CDRI Awardees, Dr Shantanu Chowdhury, Dr Sathees C. Raghavan, Dr Balasubramanian Gopal, Dr Suvendra Nath Bhattacharyya, Dr D. Srinivasa Reddy, Dr Souvik Maiti, Dr Govindasamy Mugesh, Dr Gangadhar J. Sanjayan, Prof. Sandeep Verma, Prof. Santanu Bhattacharya, Prof. Uday Maitra have also received the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award. 

One of the CDRI awardees Dr Bushra Ateeq received this year's Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award in medical sciences. Many of them are now leading personalities in various Institutes/organisation.


Dr Bushra Ateeq's quest for new therapeutic avenues for prostate cancer 

The recipient of the CDRI Award 2020 in Biological Sciences, Dr Bushra Ateeq currently holds a position as an Associate Professor and a Senior Fellow of the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance at the Department of Biological Sciences and Bioengineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur.

She shared her notable contribution during the award oration, entitled "Mechanistic insights into etiology of aggressive SPINK1-positive prostate cancer: a quest for new therapeutic avenues." She discovered the underlying molecular mechanism involved in SPINK1 (A Pancreatic Secretory Trypsin Inhibitor (PSTI) which is also known as serine protease inhibitor Kazal-type 1:SPINK1) upregulation, wherein miRNA-338-5p and miRNA-421 play a critical role in post-transcriptional regulation of SPINK1. 

Her findings showed that these miRNAs are epigenetically silenced in SPINK1-positive Prostate Cancer (PCa), and restoring their expression using synthetic mimetics or drugs targeting epigenetic modifications could abrogate SPINK1-mediated oncogenesis.

Collectively, her findings provide an explanation for the paradoxical clinical-outcomes after Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT), possibly due to SPINK1 upregulation, and offers CK1 inhibition as a strategy for Prostate Cancer adjuvant therapies.


Dr Surajit Ghosh's contribution in discovery of Nuclear Localizing Cell Penetrating Peptide (CPP) for anticancer drug

Dr Ghosh received the CDRI Award 2020 in Biological Sciences for the development of efficient Cell Penetrating Peptides (CPPs) which has tremendous implications in medicine. Dr Ghosh is presently working as Professor in the Department of Bioscience and Bioengineering at Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur.

His extensive research work enlightened us about the importance of two amino acids, arginine and tryptophan in the cell penetration. In his award oration, Dr Ghosh focused on a top-down approach to show how spatial positions of two tryptophans regulate the cellular entry and nuclear localisation. This enables us to develop short nontoxic tetrapeptides with an excellent potential for cell penetration and nuclear localisation. Among them, Glu-Thr-Trp-Trp (ETWW) tetrapeptides emerge as most promising one which enter into the cancer cell following the endocytic pathway and bind at the major groove of nuclear DNA, where successive tryptophan plays a major role.

His study provides major fundamental insights into the positional importance of tryptophan and opens new avenues towards the development of next-generation Cell Penetrating Peptides (CPP) and major groove specific anticancer drugs.


Dr Ravi Manjithaya's outstanding work on chemical genetics-based identification of autophagy-modulating small molecules which provides mechanistic insights and therapeutic potential 

Dr Ravi Manjithaya received CDRI Award 2020 in Chemical Sciences. He is presently working as Associate Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore. 

In his award oration, he talked about Autophagy, a cellular waste recycling process which is critical for maintaining organellar, cellular and organismal homeostasis. Dysfunctional autophagy results in a plethora of diseases including neurodegeneration, intracellular infections, and cancer.

Using sensitive, kinetic and phenotype-based HTS assays, he identified and characterised several autophagy-modulating small molecules. Elucidating their effect on autophagy has provided mechanistic insights into autophagic flux. These include initiation of autophagosome biogenesis, expansion and completion, its eventual fusion with lysosomes, and degradation of cargo. 

In addition, these molecules have revealed regulatory aspects of selective forms of autophagy such as aggrephagy (selective autophagic degradation of protein aggregates) and xenophagy (selective autophagic clearance of intracellular pathogens). 

In his award oration, he also discussed how using cellular and a preclinical mouse model of Parkinson’s, some of these molecules can have therapeutic potential. Thus, chemical genetics approach, while shedding light on basic cellular principles, also reveals potential therapeutic avenues towards diseases that currently have no cure.

The CDRI Awards-2020 orations and felicitation programme was live-streamed through the YouTube channel of the Institute and participants participated through MS Team.