Dr M Chawla Sarkar obtained MSc (1992) from Department of Zoology, University of Calcutta, Kolkata. She was awarded PhD (1999), in the area of Molecular Microbiology from Bose Institute and Jadavpur University, Kolkata. She underwent her postdoctoral training in biomedical research at Center for drug discovery & development, Taussig Cancer Center and Division of Immunology, Lerner Research Institute under Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland (1999-2004). During her tenure as postdoctoral fellow, she worked on understanding the role of IFN as anti-cancer therapeutics and mechanisms which underly IFN resistance in subset of patients. In addition, she also worked on role of Nitric Oxide and NO donors during inflammation. On return to India, she joined ICMR-National Institute for Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Kolkata (2006) in the division of Virology. Currently she is Scientist F (Deputy Director Sr Grade) at ICMR-NICED.
Academic and Research Achievements: Dr. Chawla-Sarkar’s lab is one of the very few laboratories in India which studies basic aspects of virus replication with a view to understand its relationship with viral pathogenesis. Her work has thrown significant light on the pathogenicity of viruses like Rotavirus and Influenza viruses by studying in details the signalling mechanisms and cellular pathways involved in successful virus infection. She has also shown how these viruses exploit cellular proteins for completing their life cycle. Her work has led to the identification and characterization of several cellular proteins which could be developed as drug targets for anti-viral therapeutics. Dr. Chawla- Sarkar has published > 85 research papers in top international journals and has written two book chapters in the area of Molecular biotechnology, Immunology and Virology.
Other Contributions: In addition to the Basic Virology research, she has made vital contributions towards viral disease surveillance. Her lab is the nodal lab for Influenza virus and Rotavirus testing in the eastern India. During the Influenza A/H1N1/2009 pandemic and H1N1outbreaks in 2009, 2015 and 2017, her lab that provided the full laboratory diagnostic service to the West Bengal State health department leading to efficient patient management and low mortality. As a referral lab of Eastern zone in National Rotavirus Surveillance network, her lab contributed to the national disease burden data collection which paved the path for introduction of the indigenously developed RV vaccine in the Universal Immunization Program (UIP) in 2016. She has trained laboratory technicians, medical technicians and microbiologists from medical colleges for real time PCR based diagnosis of Influenza viruses and Enteric viruses through workshops conducted by the Virus Research and Diagnostic Lab at ICMR-NICED. In addition, she has mentored 15 PhD students in field of molecular virology.
Awards and Honours: Dr Chawla-Sarkar is a recipient of DBT Women Scientist (Young category) award (2013) and ICMR’s Kshanika Oration Award (2017). She is a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences India, Allahabad ( FNASc), Fellow of West Bengal Academy of Science and Technology ( FWAST) and Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi (FNA).