Kanury Venkata Subba Rao received BSc and MSc, both from the Pune University, after which he joined Malti Chem Research Centre in Vadodara and did his PhD under the supervision of Professor Sukh Dev. In 1983, he joined the Division of Environmental Chemistry in Johns Hopkins University, USA, as a Postdoctoral Fellow under Professor Miles R Chedekel and worked there on the synthesis of melanin pigments. In 1985, he moved to University of California and worked with Professor Fred C Fox, focusing primarily to study the cross-talk between growth factor and steroid receptors in human breast carcinoma cells. In 1988, he joined the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in New Delhi where he continues to work as Head, Immunology Group.
Academic and Research Achievements: Initially, Rao's research interests involved studies on mechanisms underlying the generation and maturation of T-dependent humoral responses. Several novel mechanisms were discovered by his group including elucidation of the underlying pathways driving intra-clonal selection during the development of the humoral response, as well as the discovery of a novel subset of IgD receptors on 'naive' B lymphocytes. It was possible to resolve the paradox of how a limited repertoire of pre-immune B cell antigen receptors can recognize the infinite array of antigenic determinants. Afterwards, he focused on employing systems level approaches to understand communication networks in lymphocytes, and studying the interaction networks that become established when host macrophages are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. He also initiated a program to develop a peptide vaccine against Hepatitis B.
Other Contributions: Dr Rao served two consecutive terms as President of the Indian Immunology Society (2004-08).
Awards and Honours: Dr Rao received the SS Bhatnagar Prize (1997). In addition, he was also conferred the National Bioscience Career Development Award (1999), Millenium Medal of the Indian Science Congress (2000), and Ranbaxy Research Award (2001). He was elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore (1993); and National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad (1994).