Ramakrishnan Nagaraj obtained BSc from Bombay University, MSc from IIT Bombay, and PhD from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore under the supervision of Professor P Balaram. Thereafter, he joined Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) as Scientist (1980) and continued working there.
Academic and Research Achievements: Nagaraj's initial studies on the synthesis and conformation of alamethicin, an ion-channel forming peptide and related peptides, established the propensity of the non-coded amino acid alpha amino isobutyric acid to adopt 310 helical structures, which find extensive use to generate regular structures such as helix, turns and beta hairpins. Later, he investigated various facets of conformational features, structure-function correlations and membrane perturbing abilities of host-defense peptides providing a framework for the design of potent antibacterial peptides. He characterized novel antimicrobial peptides from the skin secretions of the Indian frog Rana tigerina, and intracellular sorting of proteins by 'signal sequences' and mechanism of membrane fusion in cells. He also showed how multiple fatty acid acylation promoted fusion of membranes. His work on self-assembly of peptides has shown that solvent history and surfaces play crucial roles in modulating the morphology of aggregated structures.
Awards and Honours: Dr Nagaraj was conferred the INSA's Young Scientist Medal (1981); Young Associate of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore (1985); CSIR Young Scientist Award (1988); Homi Bhabha Fellowship (1991); SS Bhatnagar Award in Biological Sciences (1994); PB Rama Rao Award of Society for Biological Chemists, India (1995); and Dr Nitya Anand Endowment Lecture (1997). He was also elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore (1992); and National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad (1999).