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IISc student wins award for his work on Photodynamic therapy for Cancer

Aditya Garai, a PhD student at IISc, has won the  Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Award in category of biotechnological/medical/ health care innovation. Aditya has been awarded BIRAC-SRISTI Award, one of the Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Awards, for his work on light based cancer therapies. The award was presented on March 13, in Rashtrapathi Bhavan, New Delhi.

BIRAC-SRISTI Award is jointly constituted by Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) and Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions (SRISTI).  The award recognises “A technology having potential for reaching the masses and/or addressing a felt social need or making it extremely affordable compared to available solution will be selected”.

Aditya is currently pursuing his PhD in Prof. A. R. Chakravarty’s laboratory at Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry, IISc, Bangalore. The research work that was the focus of the BIRAC-SRISTI award was in the field of photodynamic therapy (PDT) against cancer cells. This new form of cancer treatment involves the use of ‘light activated’ drugs that kill cells only when irradiated with a particular wavelength of light. In this way, normal cells are unaffected, and the harmful side effects of chemotherapy are mitigated.

Speaking about Photofrin®, the existing PDT in the market, Aditya says “Photofrin® is a clinically approved drug used for the radiation therapy but it decomposes into bilirubin and biliverdin in the body, culminating in jaundice. Thus we wanted to make a metal based complex which can be used in PDT”, says Aditya Garai.

Aditya Garai and Prof. Chakravarty have developed a novel PDT agent by complexing iron with benzhydroxamate. The group has found that this new molecule can selectively kill cancer cells in vitro when exposed to red light. 

The iron based complex localizes to the mitochondria of the cell and produces reactive oxygen species (ROS) upon photoactivation . ROS are damaging free radicals that when released in large quantities cause exposed cells to die. Importantly, there is no cytotoxicity in dark, which means that this molecule will help target tumors selectively, leaving the normal cells that are not illuminated unharmed.

Aditya is excited about the appreciation and recognition of his work and wishes to work further on developing reagents for the treatment of cancer. The efforts made by SRISTI to appreciate the innovations by young students and scientists will certainly make an impact on the society.

Link to the abstract of Aditya for Gandhian young technological innovation award (BIRAC-SRISTI) is below