BENGALURU: Chemistry was presented in the most fascinating way in college, and the enthusiasm it sparked only grew over the years, said professor G Mugesh, recalling his first tryst with inorganic chemistry back in Government College, Athur. He has won the Infosys Prize for Physical Sciences. Mugesh, who is a faculty at the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), was recognised for his work on chemically synthesising small molecules and nano-materials for biomedical applications. Simply put — drug discovery.
Parents, being farmers, provided a different environment, he said, that helped him stay grounded to real problems. Several years and three dozen awards on, Mugesh has set up a fully functional interdisciplinary laboratory for chemistry and biology students, passing on his zeal to students. The laboratories link the two disciplines at the Indian Institute of Science, to address socially relevant problems, he said.
Since 2003, Mugesh has been studying anti thyroid drugs at the levels of molecules — to understand how they function and the effect they have on the human body. With the existing drugs, Mugesh observed a cycle of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism — “Anti-thyroid drugs meant to treat hyperthyroidism block the thyroxin synthesis and eventually lead to hypothyroidism. Likewise, the synthetic thyroxine that is infused into hypothyroid patients, eventually produces thyroxin in excess and leads to hyperthyroidism,” he said.
If his research comes through, small molecules will be introduced locally into the cells. These molecules will mimic the functioning of the natural enzymes (which are not functioning to their capacity). These molecules will “regulate” the generation of thyroxin itself, instead of (chemically) increasing or reducing it. Mugesh believes there is a long way to go before the novel drug is discovered. To address another growing health concern, he is looking at a breakthrough in preventing neuro degeneration -- which takes place after a stroke -- by getting the artificial enzymes (in the form of small molecules) to substitute for the native enzymes in the cells that may have been effected by the stroke.