Episode 05: Molecular virology, Hepatitis C, and sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 in India

Interview with Prof. Saumitra Das

In Episode 05 of IDRF Speaks we caught up with Prof. Saumitra Das, Professor at the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology of the Indian Institute of Science. He is a molecular virologist who works on Hepatitis C Virus and was among the first scientists to describe iRNA or host RNA elements that can restrict replication of certain viruses by sequestering away proteins they need to make copies of themselves.


In this interview, you will hear his passion for understanding how viruses cause disease (molecular pathogenesis). We also spoke about his role in bringing together the consortium of labs – INSACOG, for the genomic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 across India as the Director of NIBMG (National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Kalyani). Prof. Das has infectious enthusiasm for science and believes in bringing people together to work on problems that will benefit science and society.

We talk about Prof. Das’s journey to studying viruses, then and a deep dive into virology, specifically the efforts to understand some molecular mechanisms that restrict virus replication in host cells. Dr. Das was a contributor to early efforts which showed that some cells (such as yeast) have an RNA elements that can sponge out proteins needed by the virus for its replication, thereby restricting viral replication in them. We discuss a little bit about this as a protective mechanism – and the efforts to develop antivirals using this understanding.

We then speak about jaundice, and the history of hepatitis and hepatitis viruses. This is a diverse class of viruses belonging to different viral families all of them cause hepatitis. Both the disease they cause as well as their modes of transmission are different. Following this we focus on Hepatitis C– the challenges in knowing the burden hepatitis C in India, why we don’t have a vaccine and the challenges the field faces in terms of growing the virus.

In the rest of the interview, we speak about the setting up of the Indian consortium for sequencing of SARS-CoV-2. In this discussion we touch upon variants and the importance of looking at genomic sequencing in their epidemiological context to assess the level of concern.

Prof. Das also shares his thoughts about the scientific enterprise, pandemic preparedness and the need for a center to dedicated to the study of molecular pathogenesis of viruses that cause disease in humans. Happy listening!

#molecularvirology #pathogenesis #transformationalResearch #indianScience #IISc #NIBMG #INSACOG #hepatitis #hepatitisC #SARSCOV2 #variants