Narinder Kumar Mehra obtained his BSc degree in Human Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry from Govt Medical College, Amritsar and later did his MSc (Human Anatomy) and PhD (Immunology of Leprosy) from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. During 1975-77, he visited various centres in Europe and studied histocompatibility and immunogenetics (chiefly under Professor John Van Rood, Holland), a new emerging biomedical speciality at that time. Subsequently, he worked with Professor John Hansen at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, Seattle, on immunogenetic aspects of rheumatoid arthritis using DNA based technologies of HLA analysis.
Academic and Research Achievements: Mehra pioneered the specialty of transplant immunology and clinical immunogenetics and earned international acclaim for his original contributions on the immunogenetic aspects of mycobacterial (leprosy and tuberculosis), autoimmune (type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, rheumatic heart disease) and rheumatological diseases. His group discovered several 'novel HLA alleles' and 'unique haplotypes' in the Indian population, many of which were found to be disease associated. They showed for the first time that susceptibility to mycobacterial diseases is under the control of HLA linked genes with specific pockets in the peptide binding region influencing disease severity. By establishing highly sophisticated technologies of HLA matching and antibody detection, he facilitated the field of organ and bone marrow transplantation in the country and discovered important immunological predictors of graft rejection. He has published more than 365 research articles in high impact international journals and has mentored a large number of students including 45 MD/MS and 28 PhD students.
Other Contributions: The HLA services established by Professor Mehra serve as the 'Core Laboratory' from India at the International Histocompatibility Workshops. In 1994, he established the 'Asian Indian Donor Marrow Registry (AIDMR) aimed at stimulating the unrelated donor marrow transplant activity in India. In recognition to his contributions, he was elected as the President of the Indian Immunology Society, President of the Australasian and South-East Asian Tissue Typing Association and 'Council Member' of the International Union of Immunological Societies (three times). In 2002, he was elected as 'Council Member' of the International Histocompatibility Advisory Council, the only Indian to be on this Council. He edited some books and is on the Editorial Board of several international journals in the area of immunology and immunogenetics.
Awards and Honours: Professor Mehra is the recipient SS Bhatnagar Award (1992), Ranbaxy Science Foundation Award (1996); OP Bhasin Science Foundation Award (2000); Chief of the Army Staff Award (2003); and several awards from the ICMR and other science organizations in India. In 2003, the French President conferred on him the title of 'Chevalier of the National Order of Merit'. He received 17th KHWARIZMI International Award, the highest award for Science in Iran by the Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology. His other prominent awards include: Tata Innovation Fellowship of DBT (2007) and Honorary Member, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (2004). He is a Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad, and International Medical Science Academy.