Valakunja Nagaraja received BSc (1973) and MSc (1975), both from Bangalore University and PhD (1981) from the Indian Institute of Science (IISC), Bangalore for his work on 'molecular biology of host virus interaction'. Thereafter, he worked as Research Associate at the University of Basel, Switzerland (1981-85), and the University of Rochester, USA (1985-89) to work on type 1 restriction enzymes and regulation of anti-restriction system of phage Mu, respectively. Subsequently, he joined IISc as Assistant Professor (1989) and continuing to work there as Professor.
Academic and Research Achievements: Nagaraja carried out extensive studies on DNA transaction processes which play a key role in important cellular functions. His work on DNA topoisomerases, regulation of gene expression and biology of R-M systems, resulted in several seminal findings and applications. His studies to elucidate the distinctive properties of topoisomerases from Mycobacteria resulted in the design of new class of inhibitors with novel mechanism of action. Several chromosomally encoded gyrase inhibitors were characterized and their in vivo function shown to be protecting gyrase from other poisons and toxins. Other major contributions made by him include elucidating a new mechanism of transcription activation, construction of novel regulatory circuits, defining alternate paradigm for transcription termination, discovering new facets of regulation of gene expression and unraveling the new catalytic and molecular mechanisms. He has 120 publications in reputed journals to his credit and some of his findings led to the development of commercial biotech products such as restriction enzymes and antimicrobial inhibitors.
Other Contributions: Professor Nagaraja worked for the cause of science popularization by conducting a large number of courses and workshops. He served as Secretary, Science Education Panel, Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore; and Honorary Secretary, Society of Biological Chemists.
Awards and Honours: Professor Nagaraja is recipient of numerous awards, notably SS Bhatnagar Prize, Sreenivasaya Memorial Award of Society of Biological Chemists, First Product Process and Technology Development Award of Department of Biotechnology, Ranbaxy Science Foundation Award, JC Bose Fellowship of Department of Science and Technology, IISc Alumni Award for excellence in research, Honorary Professorship of Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, and J Das Memorial Oration Award of Indian Cell Biology Society. He was elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore and National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad.