Prof. A.R. Podile obtained BSc (1980) from Acharya Nagarjuna University and MSc in Botany from Sardar Patel University, Gujarat. He was awarded PhD (1986), in Botany for his work on biochemical aspects of wilt pathogenesis and biological control. He worked as a Research Associate (1987-89) with Professor Harish Chandra Dube in the Department of Life Sciences, Bhavnagar University and later as a post-doctoral fellow with Prof. Teng-Yung Feng, Institute of Botany, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan. He later worked as Visiting Professor at Institute of Molecular Biology, Academia Sinica. He joined the School of Life Sciences (1989) to teach Biochemical Plant Pathology at University of Hyderabad. In 1999, he was appointed as Reader in Department of Plant Sciences and became full Professor in 2004. During 2007-2009 He has served as Head of the Department of Plant Sciences, and in 2015 he was appointed as Vice Chancellor of University of Hyderabad and continues in the same position. He has a highly successful research collaboration with Prof. Bruno Moerchbacher at University of Munster through various programmes that include, and not limited to, two grants from European Union and one International Graduate School.
Academic and Research Achievements: Prof. Podile, has been working in one of the best Departments of Plant Sciences in the country with a special focus on molecular plant-microbe interactions. He has made significant contributions in three closely related areas of research that revolve around the recognition of pathogen-derived molecules by plants that activate defence response and contribute to improved health/yield. He has developed a concept to use chitinolytic bacteria that attack the rigid cell wall of fungal pathogens for control of fungal diseases and also as plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR). Several chitinolytic bacteria were isolated from rhizosphere, and sources other than the rhizosphere including chitin contaminated areas that hold potential in improving plant growth upon seed treatments. After successful demonstration of the use of chitinolytic bacterial formulations for the control of late leaf spot disease of groundnut in farmers’ field, he has put efforts to understand the mechanism by which the plants turned healthy on treatment with chitinolytic bacteria.
Prof. Podile’s group made an attempt to understand the basic immunity systems in plants and explore the possibility of improving innate immunity in plants. His lab also focused on the molecular aspects of Non-Host Resistance (NHR) of plants against non-adapted pathogens. He was the first, in India, to initiate work on a pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMP) from a phytopathogenic bacterium and made a few significant contributions in understanding the unique features of the harpin protein. The chitosan nanoparticles improved the bioavailability of the harpin by releasing the harpin steadily over an extended period. Such slow release of effector molecule resulted in a long-lasting resistance against pathogens in plants. A patent entitled “Biopesticide compositions comprising stable harpin Pss -loaded chitosan nanoparticles and methods thereof” has been filed.
Prof. Podile’s group has optimized a variety of enzyme engineering approaches like addition of important accessory/binding domains or domain swapping and also structure-guided mutagenesis and improved crucial properties of chitinases like catalytic efficiency, thermal stability and in particular insoluble polymer (chitin) hydrolysing ability etc. for production of CHOS.
Awards and Honours: Prof. Podile, JC Bose Fellow, received several awards and honours including Millennium Plaques of Honour, Indian Science Congress Association, Jan 2017 (presented by Prime Minister of India), Honoris Causa, D.Sc. by the Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University, President, Association of Microbiologists of India, 2018, Mrs. Sitamahalaxmi Memorial Lecture, AP Science Congress, Nov 2016, Foundation day lecture at Institute of Science and Technology, Guwahati, Nov 2016, Platinum Jubilee Lecture, Botany Section, Indian Science Congress Association, Jan 2016, Mysore University, Tata Innovation Fellowship, Department of Biotechnology, April 2014-2019, Best Faculty Researcher Award, Indian Chitin and Chitosan Society, 2014, Prof. G. Rangaswami Award in Agricultural Microbiology, Association of Microbiologists of India, Nov 2013, Life Time Achievement Award in Biotechnology, Association of Biotechnology and Pharmacy, 2012, Member, Research Advisory Council, National Bureau of Agriculturally Important Microorganisms, Mau, U.P. 2011-2014, Vice President, Indian Chitin and Chitosan Society, 2010 onwards, Vice President, Asian Society of PGPR for Sustainable Agriculture, 2010 onwards, Goyal Science Foundation’s Rajib Goyal Young Scientist Award in Agriculture, Biological control of fungal diseases of plants, 1998.