Chebrolu Pulla Rao currently holds Institute Chair Professorship in the Department of Chemistry, IIT Bombay wherein he has been a faculty since 1988. He did his Masters from IIT Madras (1977), Ph.D. from IISc. Bangalore (1982) under the mentorship of Prof. C.N.R. Rao, FRS, and two post doctoral stints one at Harvard University with Prof. Richard H. Holm and the other at MIT with Prof. Stephen J. Lippard. His research interests span across biological inorganic and supramolecular chemistry using small synthetic molecular systems as well as proteins with an extension of the studies to biological cells, and the efforts are way into nanobiomaterials. His research group extensively uses spectroscopy, microscopy and diffraction techniques besides practicing biochemical methodologies including antiproliferative activity.
Teaching and Research Contributions: He has been teaching for about three decades the undergraduates, masters’ and doctoral students in the courses related to inorganic and coordination chemistry, bioinorganic chemistry, modern analytical methods for molecules and materials, supramolecular chemistry and crystallography and several laboratory related courses. His research interests include aspects, such as, ion and molecular recognition through supramolecular chemistry, bioinorganic model systems, metallation of proteins, artificial metalloproteins and metalloenzymes, bio(nano)materials, cytotoxicity, DFT of small molecular systems and MD of protein systems, protein docking by synthetic molecules.
Three major challenges of bioinorganic chemistry are: (a) selectivity of metal ion by protein binding core (i.e., correlation between the ion and the binding core); (b) structural and functional mimicking of metalloproteins; (c) role of the replacement of original metal ion by a different one and/or mutation of a crucial amino acid (artificial metalloenzymes). In our research we addressed all these aspects using conjugates of calixarenes and carbohydrates. Choice of these arises from the ubiquitous nature of calixarenes, and aqueous solubility and biological benign nature of carbohydrates.
Besides these, we initiated four additional activities connected directly with proteins, enzymes and nucleic acids. These are, (d) addressing disease diagnosis and therapeutic aspects by studying the inhibition and/or modification of the properties of lectins and glycosidases using glycoconjugates (i.e., glycobiology); (e) cytotoxicity of cancer cells using the metal ion complexes of glycoconjugate and related systems (as chemical nucleases); (f) metallation of a-helical albumins and b-sheet lectins to coordinate surface exposed side chain residues to form artificial metalloenzymes and materials of importance as biofillers and also as electronic and magnetic materials; (g) molecular dynamics simulations of artificial metalloenzymes generated by replacing original Mn+ by a different one. Thus our research progressed in all these seven directions in contributing immensely to the growth of biological inorganic chemistry as supramolecular aspects, cytotoxicity and to the generation of biocompatible materials.
Awards and honours: Chebrolu Pulla Rao has been a DST – JSPS fellow during 1997. He is a fellow of Indian National Science Academy (FNA), Indian Academy of Sciences Bangalore (FASc), National Academy of Sciences Allahabad (FNASc) and Andhra Pradesh Akademy of Sciences and is a CRSI bronze medallist. He is DST’s JC Bose National Fellow. He has served on the editorial board of IJC A for over ten years and served for over three years in the editorial board of the Journal of Chemical Sciences. His group received the honour of highly cited research publication (for 2010) and a review (for 2014) given by the IRCC of IIT Bombay. He also received Prof. S.C. Bhattacharya Award for excellence in pure sciences for the year 2015.
ACS & India (Partners in Progress, October 1-12, 2012 magazine) named his research group among one of the 28 Indian Scientist’s names listed under “Highlighting Authors of high-quality research in ACS journals”. He is a member of several scientific bodies, such as, the Society of Biological Chemists, National Crystallography Association, Society of Carbohydrate Chemists & Technologists and American Chemical Society. He has been an Institute Chair Professor since 2011.
Other contributions: Till now, 29 PhD and 54 MSc students completed their degrees and published over 200+ papers in journals of international repute and completed a number of research projects sponsored by DST (SERB, Nano Mission), CSIR and DAE-BRNS besides handling few consultancy projects. To their credit, the group has 4 US patents and one Indian patent already being awarded and 10 Indian patents submitted and are under various stages of consideration. He contributes immensely to the peer review process for various journals and funding agencies, besides evaluating Ph.D. thesis and serving on different national committees that intends to support high quality education and research in the country.