Humble village boy's research may humble diseases

Prof G Mugesh.

Prof G Mugesh, an IISc scientist working in the field of inorganic and physical chemistry, who won the Infosys Prize in the category of Physical Sciences, a feat which he said had left him flabbergasted.

“Growing up in a small village of just 20 houses, without proper access to electricity, it is overwhelming for me to come to this place,” Mugesh said, in an emotional speech while acknowledging the award during the awards ceremony at the Infosys campus in Electronics City.

Mugesh, of the IISc's department of inorganic and physical chemistry, was recognised for his work in creating small molecules and nanomaterials for biomedical applications, which could result in potential cures for Alzheimer's. The prize constitutes a pure gold medal, a citation and a sum of $1,00,000, which will formally be presented to Mugesh and the other five winners on January 7 by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.

“We are designing new compounds and new molecules that can regulate the biological systems in the cells,” Mugesh said, adding that preparing novel molecules is not especially difficult, but making molecules with the desired purpose is challenging.

The research work, which started in 2016, has the potential to treat diseases, Mugesh explained, adding that he and his team were working in two key areas. One focus area is compounds that regulate biological systems under disease conditions. An example is endothelial dysfunction, which starts to take place a decade before a heart attack strikes. 

“We are trying to make molecules that can regulate nitric oxide in the blood, which could be a treatment for this disease,” Mugesh said.

The second area is compounds to treat strokes and neurodegeneration. The professor said he and his team are planning to collaborate with a new Centre for Brain Research, which is coming up at IISc.

“We are planning to patent our compounds. In future, we will be examining if we can establish a conceptually new drug, which has never originated in India. It will take significant resources and time. Even if we create something for clinical trials, it will be a big achievement,” he said.

Mugesh credited his wife for his success, saying that she supported his focus on lab work over a 15-year period. 

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