Dr Shams Said Yazdani has a strong background in chemistry and biology and is an internationally recognized researcher. After earning his BSc in chemistry, he completed his MSc and PhD in biotechnology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. That’s where he was when we were able to interview him while at his office at the ICGEB, asking for his perspective on the field together with an overview on the research going on in a rapidly growing country like India.
After completing his studies Dr Yazdani started his research as part of the Malaria Group at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. In those years he was inspired by the work of researchers such as Jake Kisling and Craig Venter and in 2007 he contacted Dr Gonzalez from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering of Rice University, Houston. The result was a year as a Postdoctoral Associate, with an exciting research on a “microbe able to convert glysterole (author’s note - a by-product of bio-fuels) to a fuel molecule”. Once back in New Delhi, he was able to convince both his director and the Department of biotechnology to invest in this new area of research, basically importing synthetic biology to India by transferring his knowledge and experience from the States.
In the last years, Dr Yazdani has contributed to several important online and offline publications such as Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Protein Expression and Purification, Microbial Cell Factories and Genome Announcements. He is currently directing the research at the DBT-ICGEB Centre for Advanced Bioenergy, in an “effort to develop a cost effective process to produce second generation biofuels, we are isolating novel enzymes with higher specificities towards cellulosic biomass”. His team is working on “production of bioethanol from pretreated lignocellulosic biomass, with the help of metabolic engineering and system biology approaches to bring down costs”. In relation to this, they have “identified few natural bacteria from guts of insect (living on plants) that degrade lignocellulosic biomass with high efficiency and are exploring the possibility of engineering these bacteria to produce bioethanol from lignocellulosic biomass”. Also, they are “engineering a laboratory bacterium that can produce butanol, an alcohol that has properties closer to natural petroleum, from agricultural biomass”.
When asked about his perspective on synthetic biology, he pointed out how huge the opportunity for growth in the incoming years is, but also the need for “a certain amount of troubleshooting to be done before we actually get to products ready for commercialization”. As he remarks: “a gap has to be filled, mainly created by the difficulty to reach the right scale and costs to be ready for the market”. However, he is convinced that this field will bring great results and believes the DBT-ICGEB Centre can play an important role: “the Indian government now more than ever recognizes the importance of research on synthetic biology, and we have an increasing number of qualified students ready to take part to it”. Differently from the past in fact “they are less likely to bring their skills abroad”, thus helping India trying to close the gap with Europe and the US.
We wish India to keep growing in the field, and Dr Yazdani to continue his great work: some of his long list of publications can be found below.
- Gupta, S., Adlakha, N., Yazdani, S.S. 2012. Efficient extracellular secretion of an endoglucanase and a b-glucosidase in E. coli. Protein Expres Purif. In press
- Adlakha, N., Ritturaj Kushwaha, H., Rajagopal, R., Yazdani, S.S. 2012. Draft genome sequence of the Paenibacillus sp. ICGEB2008 (MTCC 5639) isolated from the gut of Helicoverpa armigera. Genome Announc 1(1):e00026-12. doi: 10.1128/genomeA.00026-12
- Munjal, N., Mattam, A.J., Pramanik, D., Srivastava, P.S., Yazdani, S.S. 2012. Modulation of endogenous pathways enhances bioethanol yield and productivity in Escherichia coli. Microb Cell Fact.11(1):145. [Epub ahead of print]
- Adlakha, N., Sawant, S., Anil, A., Lali, A., Yazdani, S.S. 2012. Specific fusion of β-1,4- endoglucanase and β-1,4- glucosidase enhances the cellulolytic activity and helps in channeling of the intermediates. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 78:7447-7454
- Adlakha, N., Rajagopal, R., Kumar, S., Reddy, V.S., Yazdani, S.S. 2011. Synthesis and characterization of chimeric proteins based on cellulase and xylanase from an insect gut bacterium. Appl Environ Microbiol. 77(14):4859-66