Public Release: 

The American Society for Microbiology honors Jayaraman Gowrishankar

American Society for Microbiology

Washington, DC--June 6, 2012 The 2012 Moselio Schaechter Distinguished Service Award will be presented to Jayaraman Gowrishankar, Ph.D., Director, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD), and leader of the Laboratory of Bacterial Genetics, CDFD, Hyderabad, India. This award, named in honor of Professor Moselio Schaechter, former ASM President, honors an ASM member who has shown exemplary leadership and commitment towards the substantial furthering of the profession of microbiology in research, education or technology in the developing world. Gowrishankar is honored for "his dual responsibilities as the Director of the DNA diagnostics facility as well as the leader of a team of scientists, and also for his direct contributions to basic microbiology," states his nominator, Laszlo Csonka, Purdue University.

Gowrishankar received his undergraduate degree in medicine at the Christian Medical College in Vellore, South India. In 1979, he took a step back from a future career as a physician and followed a love of basic research. He pursued graduate studies in bacterial genetics under Jim Pittard at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He received his Ph.D in 1983, and returned to India to begin his independent research career as a Scientist and Group Leader at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad. In 2000, Gowrishankar moved to the CDFD, where he has been Director for the last six years and head of the Laboratory of Bacterial Genetics.

Research in Gowrishankar's laboratory has covered different aspects of the physiology and genetics of Escherichia coli, including osmoregulation, the occurrence of spontaneous mutations in non-dividing cells, arginine export, replication fork progression, and factor-dependent transcription termination. With about fifty papers published in the peer-reviewed journals (most with no more than two co-authors), his has been one of the most successful E. coli labs outside of the developed world. In addition, several of his students have gone on subsequently to establish their own independent research programs in microbiology. His group was also the first in India to patent and earn royalties from a genetically modified organism, in the form of an engineered E. coli strain for salt-induced overproduction of recombinant proteins.

Gowrishankar is also known for his many contributions outside of the laboratory. "While continuing his research at CDFD, he also plays a key role as Institute Director to set up the diagnostic systems for DNA tests of heritable genetic disorders, and moreover to provide young scientists with the chance to train in bacterial molecular genetics," explains Akira Ishihama, Hosei University, Tokyo, Japan. Csonka elaborates, "CDFD houses approximately twenty scientists conducting basic research in diverse areas ranging from bacterial physiology to bioinformatics and structural biology, whose research is overseen and guided by Gowrishankar."

Over the years, Gowrishankar has been engaged in science-related public activities in India and beyond, including participating in training programs on intellectual property protection and exploitation, contributing to the Indo-Japan Collaborative Program on Modern Biology, and publishing a variety of articles on matters of science policy. In a letter in ASM News in 1994, he spoke of the inequity inherent in the imposition of page charges for papers published by groups from the developing world, and appealed for their waiver. He is an elected Fellow of the major Science Academies in India as also of the International Molecular Biology Network for Asia and the Pacific Rim, and has received several major national awards and honors in recognition of his achievements in science.

Max Gottesman, Columbia University Medical Center, summarizes: "I have been struck by his quick intelligence and his encyclopedic knowledge of scientific literature. For me, he has been a source of many useful suggestions. He is open and interactive--I have the utmost admiration for Gowrishankar, and support him without hesitation."

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To view Dr. Gowrishankar's biosketch, please visit: http://www.asm.org/index.php/awards-grants/current-moselio-schaechter-distinguished-service-award-laureate.html

The Moselio Schaechter Distinguished Service Award will be presented during the 112th General Meeting of the ASM, June 16 - 19, 2012 in San Francisco, California. ASM is the world's oldest and largest life science organization and has more than 40,000 members worldwide. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences and promote the use of scientific knowledge for improved health and economic and environmental well‐being.

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