Kumaravel Somasundaram obtained Veterinary Medicine degree from Madras Veterinary College, Chennai. He obtained MSc (Biotechnology) and PhD (Streptomyces Genetics) from Madurai Kamaraj University under the supervision of Professor K Dharmalingam. Subsequently, he did his postdoctoral research in Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago with Professor Bayar Thimmapaya (1993-95) and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine with Professor Wafik S El-Deiry (1995-99) in the area of DNA tumor viruses and tumor suppressor genes. He returned to India in 1999 to join as an Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, where he is working presently as Associate Professor.
Academic and Research Achievements: Somasundaram is internationally recognized for his work in the areas of DNA tumor viruses, tumor suppressor genes and glioma biology. While at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, he made seminal contributions including elucidation of mechanism of transformation by adenovirus oncogene E1A, in particular its connection with tumor suppressor gene p53, and mechanism of growth inhibition by breast cancer gene BRCA1. At IISc, he initiated both teaching and contemporary research in the area of cancer biology. Some of his important contributions include: p73 adenovirus as a potential cancer gene therapy reagent, Notch1 functional interaction through mTOR signaling as a basis for chemoresistance, mechanism of growth inhibition by AP-2? and its implication in chemoresistance, BRCA1 and BRCA2 role in inherited breast and ovarian cancer among Indian women. He has contributed in a major way as a part of the group from IISc in the discovery of several novel biomarkers for glioblastoma with diagnostic and prognostic utility. His group's independent contributions in glioma research are: (i) PBEF1/NAmPRTase as a therapeutic target, (ii) hepatoglobin as a secreted biomarker using proteomic approach, (iii) IMP3, a novel RNA binding protein as glioblastoma specific marker and (iv) miRNA signatures for classification. Many of these findings have been patented. During the last nine years, he has authored over 40 research articles, wrote book chapters, reviews and editorials.
Other Contributions: Somasundaram has initiated and established the first Molecular Oncology Laboratory at IISc and was instrumental in setting up the Genomics Facility also at IISc. He is Co-leader of the initiative on Cancer Biology and Therapeutics, Principal Investigator of the IISc-CSIR NMITLI Genomics Programme and Co-convenor of the DBT umbrella programme at IISc. He has served on Editorial Board of the journal Cancer Biology and Therapy.
Awards and Honours: Professor Somasundaram was bestowed the International Senior Research Fellowship by the Wellcome Trust, UK (2004) and National Bioscience Award by Department of Biotechnology (2006). He was also elected Fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, and National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad.