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Infosys award winner's research may help find AIDS cure

Jan 03, 2013 10:00 AM IST India India

Bangalore: Twenty five years ago when Dr Satyajit Mayor shifted from engineering to chemistry while studying at IIT-Mumbai, he was the butt of jokes for moving to a non-lucrative course. But today Dr Mayor has shown he made the right choice. His research could now help find cure to fatal diseases like cancer and AIDS.

Dr Mayor, a biologist-cum-chemist, is the winner of the prestigious Infosys Prize for Life Sciences, which is India's highest science award. Dr Mayor's research looks at the structures of virus-cells and how they interact and spread within our bodies. His work taps into Chemistry that he majored in, and Biology, which he says was a childhood passion.

"I always built up a passion for biology in my school, this was through a wonderful teacher we had CM George and he had this terrific lab where he would teach us biology. With specimens and all kinds of all kinds of worms, reptiles, octopus in jars. It was an interesting set of collections that George had picked up from all around the place. As you walked into the lab, you would see jars of specimens all over the place and that is how he wanted to present biology. I remember once there was a snake that was captured in the school and sometimes we would have to bring frogs to feed the snake," Dr Satyajit Mayor, professor, National Centre for Biological Sciences said.

Dr Mayor is married to an artist and has a teenaged son who shares his father's passion for both chemistry and cricket. After 11 years in the United States, Mayor returned to India optimistic about the budding culture of research here. "The research we do I know would contribute to specific interventions in HIV and cancer but when exactly that happens is the actually matter of hot pursuit," Dr Mayor said. "In india today we have more money for basic research than some of my colleagues elsewhere simply because we have enough talented people working in the country to absorb the resource available," he said.

The Infosys Science Award for Life Sciences came as a pleasant surprise for the scientist but Dr Mayor says that it remains a means to an end. "I think people enter basic research because they truly want to understand something or there's some project or problem that makes them curious and that thrill can't be matched by any prize but of course, getting a prize is terrific."