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Prof. Manikuntala Kundu: This year Professor Manikuntal Kundu has received the award for her work in Biochemistry. Her present interests are in the area of infectious diseases focusing on the cellular and molecular microbiology of infections. Helicobacter pylori, is a bacterium that chronically infects billions of people worldwide, causes gastric ulcers and gastric adenocarcinoma. Apoptosis (death) of the gastric epithelial cells and inflammation are hallmarks of H. pylori infection. Dr. Kundu has identified one of the major secreted antigens of the bacterium against which antibodies have been detected in the sera of infected patients, as an apoptosis-inducing factor and analyzed the mechanisms by which it does so. At the same time she has elucidated how this secretory protein as well as lipopolysaccharide from H. pylori induce proinflammatory cytokine release from macrophages. Her work thereby provides valuable insight into how H. pylori orchestrates the inflammatory response associated with gastric ulcer and/or carcinoma. Dr. Kundu’s recent ground-breaking work has uncovered the details of a signaling pathway regulated by positive feedback leading to expression of the persistence regulator Rel in M. tuberculosis. She has shown that Rel expression is controlled by polyphosphate kinase, making this enzyme an attractive therapeutic target against persistent infection. The importance of this work has been highlighted in a Microreview published in the acclaimed journal “Molecular Microbiology” in 2007.
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