Sudha Bhattacharya obtained B.Sc. (Hons.) in Botany from University of Delhi (1971) and moved to study Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi from where she obtained M.Sc. (1973) and Ph.D. (1977) for work on regulation of RNA synthesis in Escherichia coli. She got postdoctoral experience in bacteriophage genetics at Stanford University, USA (1977-79) and bacterial DNA replication at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, USA (1979-81). Upon her return to India she decided to work on medically important organisms, and after a brief stint at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi (1981-82) she joined Tata Research Development and Design Centre, TCS, Pune (1982-85) to develop DNA-based diagnostic methods for common diseases. At this point she decided to focus on in-depth study of the biology of the protozoan parasite, Entamoeba histolytica that causes amoebiasis, a neglected tropical disease. Another protozoan parasite, Trypanosoma had shown some fascinating phenomena like trans-splicing and RNA editing, and therefore the motivation was that understanding Entamoeba molecular biology would be rewarding. To set up an Entamoeba research lab, however, she had to go back to USA to learn axenic cultivation of the parasite at National Institutes of Health (1985-86). Upon her return she joined Jawaharlal Nehru University as Assistant Professor (1986) and set up her lab to study E. histolytica. She continues to work at J.N.U. as Professor in the School of Environmental Sciences.
Academic and Research Achievements: Dr. Bhattacharya’s work in basic molecular biology of E. histolytica led to various novel findings, for which she received international acclaim. Her lab first reported the existence of ribosomal RNA genes on circular DNAs, and discovered families of retrotransposons in the parasite genome. Studies on the replication of rDNA established the existence of multiple replication origins in the rDNA circle, which were differentially used in response to growth stress. Expression analysis of rRNA and r-proteins revealed the post-transcriptional regulation of ribosomal biogenesis. Her work on retrotransposons showed that retrotransposition is accompanied by high frequency recombination- which could contribute to sequence polymorphism observed in retrotransposons. Her lab also utilized the extensive insertion site polymorphism of retrotransposons to develop a method for strain typing of E. histolytica clinical isolates.
Other Contributions: Dr. Bhattacharya has served on the Academic Committees of various JNU-affiliated Institutes (CDRI, ICGEB). She served as Dean, School of Environmental Sciences (2010-12) and contributed to the all-round improvement of the academic programme. She has been sectional committee member of Animal and Plant Science committee of Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore and currently nominated to its Council. She is member Sectional Committee X of INSA; member Research committee, Animal Sciences & Biotechnology, CSIR; member, Animal Science Program Advisory Committee, SERB; member Governing body of SN Bose National Center of Basic Science, Kolkata; member Scientific Advisory committee, Institute of Pathology, New Delhi; member Editorial Board of J. Bioscience.
Awards and Honours:
National Science Talent Search Scholarship (1968)
Merit position in Central Board of Secondary Education (1968)
Robert Mc Namara Fellow of World Bank (1985)
Rockefeller Biotechnology Career Development Award (1987)
Fogarty International Research Collaboration Award (1996 and 2001)
Member of Guha Research Conference (1993)
Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore (2001)
Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, Allahabad (2008)
Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi (2014)
J. C. Bose National Fellow (2015)