Lecture on "Women in Science and Technology"


WAGING WAR ON VECTOR-BORNE-DISEASES: A case study of kala-azar, a neglected malady of India

SPEAKER: Chandrima Shaha National Institute of Immunology New Delhi


Many diseases transmitted by insect vectors affect the human population. These afflictions strongly restrict the socioeconomic status and development in countries where the infection rates are high. Kala-azar is one such disease caused by a protozoal parasite transmitted by the sandfly and remains a problem in the Indian subcontinent as well as in African countries. Parasites causing kala-azar, first detected in the gut of 100 million year old sandfly fossils and later in Nubian mummies around 3500 BC, were one of the first mitochondrial eukaryotes. These interesting organisms are valuable tools for research to understand how complex eukaryotic systems evolved. A number of our studies unravel the mysteries of the unique defense and propagation mechanisms used by these parasites and the intricacies of the host-parasite dialogue for survival. For this disease, social, economic and behavioral factors are important for determining both individual and population wise vulnerability. The epidemic of kala-azar is strongly correlated with civil unrest and death of millions is an unfortunate outcome of war, conflict and terror. A silver lining in the scenario of kala-azar control in the Indian subcontinent is the success of the elimination programmes.


Dr. Chandrima Shaha is a biologist and ‘Professor of Eminence’ at the National Institute of Immunology. She is also the President-Elect of the Indian National Science Academy, the first woman in the 84 years of history of the Academy.

Dr. Chandrima Shaha’s primary interest in research focuses on death processes in rapidly proliferating cells where her laboratory attempts to understand how the cell death process contributes to survival. The major impact of Dr. Shaha’s work has been insights into the intricacies of cell death processes in various model organisms that can be used to modulate cell death for therapeutic purposes.

She is the Former Director of the National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi and an elected fellow of the World Academy of Sciences and all three Science Academies of India. She served as Vice-President of International Affairs of the Indian National Science Academy and as a member in the Councils of all three Academies.

Notable awards include, the Ranbaxy Science Foundation Award; the J.C. Bose Fellowship; the Indian National Science Academy medal in the name of Shanti-Swarup Bhatnagar; Om Prakash Bhasin Award; DP Burma Memorial Award, Archana Sharma Memorial Lecture Award; Darshan Ranganathan Memorial Award; Chandrakala Hora Medal of INSA and the Shakuntala Amir Chand Prize.

She did her M.Sc from the University of Calcutta and post doctoral studies at the University of Kansas Medical Centre and The Population Council, New York.

8th November 2019