Sunil Kumar Mukherjee earned his BSc (1969) from Calcutta University, MSc (Physics) from Visva Bharati University (1974), post-MSc (Theoretical Nuclear Physics) from Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (1976) and PhD degree (1983) from Calcutta University on Biophysics under the supervision of Professor RK Poddar. He joined Biochemistry Department of John Hopkins University, USA as a post-doctoral Assistant (1983-84) and later worked in the Microbiology Department of Duke University, USA for six years as a Research Associate. He returned to International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi in the Plant Molecular Biology Laboratory in 1990. He was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of California, Irvine, USA (1992), and a Visiting Professor at the CNRS, Grenoble, France (2002).
Academic and Research Achievements: Mukherjee has been working in the field of DNA replication since 1984. At ICGEB, he started working on pea chloroplast DNA replication and established a crude in vitro system of replication. A detailed analysis of the system led to the identification of replication factors that show interesting mix of prokaryotic and eukaryotic features. Later, his interest shifted to genome replication of plant DNA viruses, especially the geminiviruses. He established a yeast model of geminiviral DNA replication, the exploitation of which led to the identification of important host as well as viral factors necessary for viral DNA replication. The mechanisms of initiation and progression of DNA replication in the geminiviral genome are worked out and still being pursued in his laboratory. Geminiviruses ploliferate in the infected plant cells by encoding three RNAi suppressors, the mechanism of which is being worked out. These suppressors alter the microRNA distribution in the host and, in turn, cause disease expression. These suppressors have also been manipulated to alleviate transgene expression. He developed tomato transgenics that express artficial microRNAs which consequently silence the critical genes of the tomato leaf curl Viruses ( ToLCV). A few of the transgenic lines show extreme tolence to the challenge ToLCVs.He has guided eight students for their PhD degrees.
Other Contributions: Mukherjee served as Member of Expert Committees of National Science Funding Agencies.
Awards and Honours: Dr Mukherjee was elected as a Member of Guha Research Conference (1998). He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad (2001) and Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore (2005). Recipient of SriRanjan Memorial Lecture award ( NASI,2008) and Panchanan Maheshwary Lecture award ( INSA, 2010).