Dr. Sameena Khan started her research career as a PhD student in International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB). Here she initiated a new project on the structural, functional and cellular characterization on the protein translation machinery proteins known as aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum (Pf). Her early work provided a bioinformatics based platform for genome-scale investigations of these proteins, which is now being employed by many laboratories worldwide. Subsequent analysis of these enzymes led to the discovery of unequal distribution of aaRS editing activities in the three translationally active compartments of Pf. Sameena then built on these findings by solving crystal structures of the tryptophanyl-tRNA synthetase (WRS), and the lysine-tRNA synthetase (KRS). Notably, She further complemented these structural studies with a detailed analysis of the cellular and biochemical properties of the enzymes. This comprehensive approach led to novel and significant key insights. In addition to revealing how the unusual architecture of the WRS protein was critical its proper functioning, she also identified the KRS enzyme identified as an important drug target. Her structure determination studies then set the foundation for rational inhibitor design. This pioneering work made a significant impact in the field. Her work was recognized both by the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and the National Academy of Sciences (NASI), which independently conferred her with the “Young Scientist Award”. She was also elected as an “Associate” by the Indian Academy of Sciences. After her PhD she continued at ICGEB for one and half year as a Postdoctoral fellow, where she further honed her expertise in structural biology, biochemistry and cell biology. Sameena was then awarded with two career start fellowships: the Biocare DBT Young Scientist Fellowship and the prestigious DST-INSPIRE Fellowship. With the latter she joined DDRC in 2014, to bring her expertise to bear on the problem of metabolic syndrome. Here Sameena works on a novel approach of exploring crosstalk between the ubiquitination machinery and insulin signaling pathways in an attempt to find the novel drug targets. Sameena is also a team leader of the target validation group at DDRC. She has established the spectrum of capabilities that are required for defining molecular details of drug-protein interactions, which include the cell and molecular biology expertise. Specific areas of expertise that her team incorporates are: cloning, protein expression and purification, X Ray crystal structure resolution, and enzyme-based assays. Sameena has also established the Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) facility at DDRC to study protein-protein, and protein-drug interactions. Her efforts at DDRC are to support the drug discovery research programs, which include the identification and characterization of new targets for drug discovery.

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