American Philosophical Society
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Resident (1)
209. Neurobiology[X]
1Name:  Dr. Inder M. Verma
 Year Elected:  2006
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  209. Neurobiology
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Living
 Birth Date:  1947
Inder Verma has made many sustained contributions to biological sciences in the last 30 years. In 1972, while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Verma carried out the first complementary DNA (cDNA) synthesis to eukaryotic messenger RNA using reverse transcriptase, which is one of the basic tenets of modern biotechnology. Starting in 1974 at The Salk Institute, Dr. Verma characterized the biochemical properties of the seminal enzyme, reverse transcriptase - a set of studies that are now in biology textbooks. In early 1980, Dr. Verma's laboratory began to study the molecular architecture of RNA tumor viruses. His laboratory determined the complete nucleotide sequence of the first transforming virus and identified the transforming gene. More importantly the sequence revealed the molecular mechanism of how normal cellular sequences (proto-oncogenes) can be acquired by seemingly innocuous viruses to become cancer genes (oncogenes). Dr. Verma's laboratory also discovered a new transforming gene, Fos, which turned out to be a transcriptional factor, essential for the induction of a wide variety of genes in response to a plethora of external signals. These studies established the principle that acquisition of cellular genes capable of transcription of other genes is an important mechanistic event to subvert the normal cellular transcriptional machinery. These studies were extended to novel transcription factors like NF-KB and their role in the neoplastic transformation of the cell. More recently Dr. Verma's laboratory has cleverly exploited the use of mouse genetics to pinpoint the role of many of these oncogenes/transcription factors in normal cellular growth, differentiation, and development. Dr. Verma's laboratory in 1983 developed the first viral delivery system to transfer therapeutic genes to cells and animals. Dr. Verma's laboratory laid the basis for the use of mouse RNA tumor viruses as delivery vehicle, which has become the mainstay of the field of gene therapy. Dr. Verma's laboratory over the last 15 years has continuously refined the use of viral vectors for successful gene delivery. His laboratory has shown that mice and dogs suffering from hemophilia (a clotting disorder) due to deficiency of factor IX gene product, can be cured by a single injection of viral vectors making factor IX gene product. These results have formed the basis of current clinical trials with hemophiliacs. In his quest for an efficient, safe, and versatile delivery system, Dr. Verma's laboratory has tamed the dreaded AIDS virus (HIV) to become an efficient and safe delivery vehicle. His pioneering work in this area has lead to the generation of a highly efficient and versatile gene delivery system to cure a wide variety of genetic diseases. Dr. Verma, though a basic scientist, has been an ardent supporter of translational research, "bench to bedside". He was a founder of one of the first gene therapy related biotech companies in the world, Cell Genesys. Presently he serves on the board of this company and chairs their scientific advisory board. Cell Genesys is presently embarking upon seven cancer related clinical trials, and is gearing up to treat hemophiliacs. Dr. Verma has been on the editorial boards of a number of international scientific journals, including serving as editor-in-chief of Molecular Therapy, a journal specializing in gene therapy. He is also handling editor for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA). Exploiting the knowledge in the area of signal transduction, Dr. Verma founded another biotech company, Signal Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (now CellGene) to try to identify small molecules capable of interfering with diseases like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, etc. Dr. Verma firmly believes that a rational drug design based on the precise knowledge developed by working on model systems is the way of future molecular medicine. Because of his pioneering work in the biotechnology arena, Dr. Verma is on the scientific advisory boards of several biotech companies. More recently Dr. Verma has been helping a number of Indian information technology (IT) companies to enter the field of biotechnology to begin to mine enormous biological information. Dr. Verma has had a long-standing association with the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and has helped it to formulate its cherished goal of starting a biotechnology revolution in India. Dr. Verma's scientific contributions have been widely recognized by a number of honors, which include the American Cancer Society Professorship (lifetime), an Outstanding Investigator Award from the NIH, membership in the Third World Academy of Science, the National Academy of Science, India, the National Academy of Sciences (USA), the Institute of Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and an associate member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). Dr. Verma has also received numerous awards, including the 2008 Vilcek Foundation Prize, and invited lectureships at various national and international organizations. Dr. Verma combines the best of basic science with its applications to medicine. He has, by example and as a spokesman, championed the cause of biotechnology for the benefit of the common man. Dr. Verma strongly believes that the purpose of science in the long run is to improve the quality of life of humankind.
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