Govindasamy Shanmugam did his PhD in the area of biosysnthesis of nucleic acids working at the Erstwhile Regional Research Laboratory (now Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology), Hyderabad. He did his postdoctoral studies at St Louis University School of Medicine and subsequently became Assistant Professor of Molecular Virology in the same University. He joined Madurai Kamaraj University (1978), established the Cancer Biology Division and retired in 1999 as Senior Professor of Biochemistry and Head of the School of Biological Sciences. He continued as INSA Senior Scientist and Emeritus Professor (1999-2007) at Madurai Kamaraj University and served as founder Director of Oncophyta Labs, a phytoceutical company focused on development of plant-based drug formulations.
Academic and Research Achievements: Shanmugam made many novel contributions in the area of molecular mechanisms of viral carcinogens, and replication of RNA tumour viruses including HIV. Later, he discovered several genetic alterations in oral cancer such as mutations in oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes. One of his findings was about the predominant role of hypermethylation in the genesis of oral cancer and the ADH1 and MTHFR polymorphisms with the risk factor of developing oral cancer in alcoholics. He also identified potent anticancer agents like Cleistanthin A and B from indigenous poisonous plant Cleistanthus collinus .
Other Contributions: Shanmugam established the ‘cancer biology’ research discipline in the Department of Biochemistry, School of Biological Sciences, Madurai Kamaraj University. He also provided practical training in ‘animal cell culture’ and ‘molecular biology techniques’ to college students.
Awards and Honours: Professor Shanmugam was conferred the ICMR Award for Biomedical Sciences (1984); INSA Senior Scientist Award and the UGC National Lectureship (1999-2004). He was an elected fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, India (FASc) and National Academy of Sciences, Allahabad, India (FNASc). He served the INSA Council from 1995-97.