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Pankaj Kumar: Helen B. Taussig Award

Recognition of my tuberculosis research with the Helen Taussig Research award has made me feel connected to patients and emboldened me to take this research to a higher level.

Pankaj Kumar

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Mentor: Dr. Gyanu Lamichhane

Project Details

My research focuses on the development of new antibiotics against M. tuberculosis through Structure-Based Drug Designing approach. We targeted an important enzyme, L,D-transpeptidase, from M. tuberculosis which is  important for bacterial growth and virulence. In this target-based drug discovery, we designed and developed several new antibiotics that are very potent against M. tuberculosis. This drug discovery gives new hope towards the treatment of drug-resistant TB worldwide. Our research has been published in Nature Chemical Biology.

Learn more about the Lamichhane lab

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work?

Johns Hopkins is one of the most reputed institutes in the area of medical research and more, and  attracts the world’s most intelligent scientists, scholars and students. Johns Hopkins has given me a wonderful opportunity to get training in different laboratories with very intelligent professors to achieve my goals of performing research on tuberculosis and developing new antibiotics.

What does receiving this award mean to you?

I’m originally from rural India, where I regularly saw poor people infected with tuberculosis dying. I always dreamed of discovering new TB medicines and that motivated me to become a scientist.

What contributed to your project's success?

I joined Dr. Gyanu Lamichhane’s group at the Centre for Tuberculosis and got involved in TB drug-development supported by the New Innovator Award, a highly selective program funded directly by the Director of NIH on the basis of promise for Innovations in Drug development, awarded to Dr. Lamichhane. Under the umbrella of TREAT at Johns Hopkins University, we have successfully developed several new antibiotics that have been filed for US Patent. Guidance and help from Prof. Cynthia Wolberger and Prof. Craig Townsend in the area of structural biology and biophysical studies on drug molecules is highly acknowledged, as is the Center for Tuberculosis.

What thoughts do you have about Young Investigator's Day itself?

I am highly thankful to Johns Hopkins for organizing Young Investigator’s Day. This brings a great motivation to research scholars at Johns Hopkins and gives them confidence that they are in right direction towards achieving their goals.

What has been your best/most memorable experience while at Hopkins?

Hopkins has been like home to me and my small family for the last 6 years. We have celebrated several cultural festivals and summer festivals every year. My little daughter has participated in several education programs for kids organized by Hopkins. Hopkins has become an important of our life and we will always cherish this time.

What are your plans over the next year or so?

I have plans to establish a laboratory and work towards development of new diagnostics and therapeutics to treat drug resistant tuberculosis. I am currently looking for faculty positions in India.

What are your hobbies or interests?

I’ve enjoyed writing poetry since childhood. The poetry is in my native language. I have a blog of these poetries.

I have interest in working for poor people in India. My village does not have any basic facilities for education and health. There is only one government school up to 5th standard, and the condition of the school is very bad. There is no transportation facility for poor students to go for higher education in distant cities. Due to lack of education, the majority of poor youth is unemployed. I want to work to improve education system in my village.