Pranab Kumar Sarkar received his BSc (Hons) Chemistry (1957) from Midnapur College, MSc (Biochemistry) from University of Calcutta, and PhD (1963) also from the University of Calcutta under the guidance of Late Professor BC Guha. He proceeded for postdoctoral studies at University of California, San Francisco with Professor JT Yang, and at Harvard University with Professor Paul Doty (1964-66); and then joined the Bose Institute, Kolkata. However, he went back to USA (1969) as Research Associate to work with Professor Aron Moscona, University of Chicago, joined the Biology Department, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago as Assistant Professor (1974); and as Head, Division of Cell Biology, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB) (1978). Following his retirement (1999), he worked at IICB as CSIR Emeritus Scientist (1999-2004) and then as INSA Senior Scientist (2004-09). He also continued teaching at National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), Kolkata and West Bengal University of Technology.
Academic and Research Achievements: Sarkar's postdoctoral work with Paul Doty, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (1966), was hallmark in identifying beta-structure in proteins and is still cited. While at IICB, he exhibited the molecular basis of thyroid hormone (TH) action in brain development showing that TH promotes differentiation of neural cells in the developing brain by regulating the biogenesis and/or assembly of the cytoskeletal proteins such as tubulin, actin, glial fibrillary acidic protein, vimentin and the neurofilament proteins. He also developed methodology for the isolation and separation of neuronal and glial cells and establishment of primary cultures of these cells for biochemical studies. His latest findings focused on neurodegenerative diseases on which he wrote a review in Current Science (2005) and on the role of TH on regulation of GSH, the major antioxidant, in the developing brain. He published about 80 papers mostly in peer reviewed foreign journals, supervised 15 PhD students and 10 Postdoctoral Fellows/Scientists.
Other Contributions: Dr Sarkar developed a centre for research in neurobiology at IICB by establishing facilities for primary culture of neural cells and for the development of monoclonal antibodies. He organized several international and national meetings at IICB. He has been Life Member of Guha Research Conference, Society of Developmental Biology and Society of Neurochemistry, India.
Awards and Honours: Dr Sarkar was elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Science, Bangalore (1990); and President of the Society of Neurochemistry, India (2002-04).