Areas of Specialization:

• Metabolic engineering of plants and microbes for value added products
• Enzyme/ microbes based bioprocesses for value added products from biomass
• Synthetic biology and omics approaches for improving metabolic pathways or enzymatic proteins.
• Use of nanobiology approach in improving enzyme based bioprocesses for biomass conversion.

Research Experience:

20 Years

Educational background:

• PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from CCS Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar in 2002
• MSc in Biochemistry and Microbiology from CCS Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar in 1999
• BSc with Chemistry, Zoology and Botany from University College, MDU, Rohtak in 1996

Positions held:

• Scientist-F: CIAB, Mohali 12-04-2016 to till date
• Principal Scientist: CSIR-IHBT, Palampur from 10-12-2011 to 11-04-2016
• Senior Scientist: CSIR-IHBT, Palampur from 10-12-2008 to 09-12-2011
• Scientist: CSIR-IHBT, Palampur from 10-12-2004 to 09-12-2008
• Visiting Scientist: IIGB, University of California Riverside (UCR), CA, USA from 28-4-2008 to 27-04-2009
• Post-doctoral fellow: ICGEB, New Delhi from 01-08-2002 to 09-12-2004
• Research Associate: CCS HAU, Hisar from 29-08-2001 to 31-07-2002

PhD Students Guided: 7      MSc Students Guided: 10      Trainees: 20
Publication: 120                     Patent: 10     
Citations: 6000                       h-index: 40

Awards and recognition:

• INSA-Young Scientist Award-2008
• NASI-Young Scientist Platinum Jubilee Award-2009
• CSIR-Young Scientist Award-2010
• Haryana Yuva Vigyan Ratna Award-2011-12
• Prof. Hira Lal Chakarvarty Memorial Award by ISCA 2012-13
• Fellow Associate of National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS)- 2013
• BOYSCAST Fellow, DST, GOI-2008
• Fast Track Young Scientist Award, DST, GOI-2012
• University Merit Scholarship during Master degree
• Col. Vijay Singh and Madam Ram Kaur Fellowship Award during Graduation
• State Merit Scholarship during Metric

Administrative Responsibilities:

• SAC member of CIAB, Mohali
• CVO, CIAB, Mohali
• Coordinator Academic Programme, CIAB, Mohali
• Chairman SPC, CIAB, Mohali
• Editor, Annual Report, CIAB, Mohali
• Coordinator of Regulatory Research Centre of CSIR-IHBT, Palampur (2010-2016)
• Coordinator of Nanobiology R&D Activities at CSIR-IHBT (2006-2016)
• Coordinator, Academic Affairs of CSIR-IHBT & AcSIR (2014-2016)
• Member of Management Council CSIR-IHBT, Palampur
• Member of Advisory Committee to Library and Information CSIR-IHBT, Palampur
• Member of IBSC, HPKV Palampur

Contribution to the Scientific Advancement:

• He has significantly contributed in the area of metabolic engineering, synthetic biology, bioprocess technology and nanobiology for crop improvement and production of value added molecules. He has extensively worked on understanding the regulation of key metabolic pathways of crops like tea, stevia, rice and horsegram.
• Developed low caffeine Kangra jat tea through silencing of caffeine synthase gene. Our study has proved that three genes CsF3H, CsDFR and CsANR from tea play important role in yield enhancement and stress tolerance. We have developed seed less/ low seeded fruits through PTGS of flavonol synthase mRNA. Our research has first time demonstrated the epigenetic control of flavonoid biosynthesis and antioxidant pathway during salinity stress. Our findings have provided deep insights into global transcriptome, small RNAs and proteome reprogramming associated with development and seasonal variation in tea.
• Molecular regulation of steviol glycosides (SGs)) in stevia has been unraveled and achieved enhanced GAs production through silencing of SGs pathway genes. The transformation of SGs pathway genes in alternate plants has been proven to be a commercial source for SGs production.
• Molecular regulation of glyoxalase pathway and its role in providing stress tolerance to crop plants has been deciphered by maintaining homeostatic levels of glutathione and a cytotoxic methylglyoxal. Also, developed the protocol for detection of methylglyoxal in plants and documented the elevation in its level during stresses for the first time.
• Conducted detailed characterization of transcriptome, DNA methylation polymorphism, protein-protein interactome and small RNAs for a drought sensitive and a drought responsive horsegram. Five potential genes from horsegram have been identified and characterized for their role in stress tolerance. Our study has also documented the host-induced silencing of pathogenicity genes (FOW2 and chsV genes) in tomato to enhance resistance against Fusarium oxysporum Wilt.
• Developed safe nanoformulations of bioactives such as podophyllotoxin, quercetin, curcumin, picroliv, catechin and epicatechin. An innovative approach based on in situ functionalized nanobiocomposites dressings of bamboo and Syzygium cumini cellulose nanocrystals and silver nanoparticles has been demonstrated for accelerated wound healing. We have also demonstrated the sustained delivery of BSA/HSA from biocompatible plant cellulose nanocrystals for in vitro cholesterol release from endothelial cells. These nanoformulations with improved efficacy and bioavailability have applications in food and pharma industries.

Current Research Activities:

Exploration of new niche metagenome for applications in bioprocesses: With a focus to identify potential hydrolytic enzymes for their use in bioprocesses for value added products development from agro-biomass, a metagenomics approach is being followed. One of the applications of hydrolytic enzymes is in the transformation of xylan rich hemicellulose of lignocellulosic biomass into xylooligosaccharides (XOS). XOS have profound prebiotic effect when consumed as a part of diet. Potential enzymes are being improved for sustainable bioprocesses for value added products development from agro-biomass through metabolic engineering and synthetic approaches.
Transformation of rice residues into value added products: Mechanization of agriculture in the developed and developing countries generates lot of secondary agricultural waste. Efforts are being carried out to use such waste in production of energy, fuel and platform chemicals. Such technologies/processes would have two fold benefits. First, they are based on utilization of waste and thereby providing protection to the environment. Second, they produce value added products from waste and thereby providing additional income source. In this regard, rice is one the highly cultivated crops across the world and therefore generates huge waste in terms of straw, husk, bran etc. Since rice/paddy straw and husk contains significant content of silica, it could be a potential source of silica/nano-silica recovery in addition to various other valuable compounds such as functional sugars, proteins, dietary fibers etc.
Utilization of liquid whey for the production of valuable products: Large amount of wastewater (liquid whey) emerges from milk processing in dairies as well as small scale producers of milk products, which form one of the largest sources of industrial effluents. Thus, waste water and organic residues produced from dairy production have potential to be converted into products of large economic value if the proper process technology is employed. With this perspective, process(es) are being standardized for maximum recovery of value added ingredients as well as transformation of other ingredients into high value compounds such whey proteins, whey protein hydrolysate, bacterial cellulose, tagatose etc.
Utilization of tomato/tomato processing by-products for value added products: Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) is one of the most widely cultivated vegetable crops in the world including India. There is often tomato glut due to its production being much more than the immediate need. Shelf life of tomato is very short and to avoid wastage it needs to be processed/used collaterally for new products. Also, tomato pomace and juice generated at the tomato processing industries is under-utilized. We are exploring the use of tomato/tomato processing by-products for value added products such as bakery products, beverages etc.

Selected Publications:

• ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng., 6 (5):6296–6304, 2018
• Journal of Cleaner Production, 194:158-166, 2018
• Bioresource Technology, 244:793-799, 2017
• Carbohydrate Polymer 155:152-162, 2017
• Int J Biol Macromol. 104:748-757, 2017
• Bioresour Technol, 2017
• Int J Biol Macromol. DOI: S0141-8130(17)31200-X, 2017
• Nature Scientific Reports 6:37244, 2016
• Journal of Proteome Research 15:1794-809, 2016
• Journal of Experimental Botany 66: 5959-5969, 2015
• Journal of Experimental Botany 66: 3907-3916, 2015
• Plant Molecular Biology 85: 551-573, 2014
• Colloids Surf B Biointerfaces 117: 505-511, 2014
• BMC Genomics 14: 647, 2013
• Plant Molecular Biology 76: 523-534, 2011
• The Plant Journal 62: 92-99, 2010
• Plant Physiology 140: 613-623, 2006