Two prestigious international fellowships awarded to Indian scientist

A young Indian scientist has won two prestigious fellowships to embark on brain infections research with the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health.

Dr Chitra Pattabiraman, from Bangalore has been awarded the Royal Society-SERB Newton International Fellowship and a Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance Early Career Fellowship to identify viruses that cause acute inflammation of the brain (acute encephalitis) and understand how these viruses enter the brain to cause the disease.

Both grants fund scientific research which promote international skill sharing. The Newton Fund is managed by UK’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and promotes the economic development and welfare in partnering countries, through science and innovation partnerships. The Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance is an £160 million initiative funded equally by The Wellcome Trust, UK and Department of Biotechnology, India. The broad aim of the India Alliance is to build excellence in the Indian biomedical scientific community by supporting future leaders in the field.

Institutional collaboration

The success comes as part of the institutional collaboration between University of Liverpool and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, which includes a dual PhD programme, Exchange visits, and collaboration as part of the Wellcome Trust centre for Global Health Research.

Dr Pattabiraman said: “These are both highly competitive fellowships, and so I applied for both in the hope that I might get one. I received fantastic support and mentorship from the team in Liverpool, both the Institute of Infection and Global Health’s FLIGHT (Fostering Infection and Global Health Talent) programme, and also the Liverpool Wellcome Trust centre for Global Health Research. The mock interviews were especially useful.”

Professor Tom Solomon, Director of Institute of Infection and Global Health, said “Chitra is an extremely bright young scientist, and since she first approached our group a couple of years ago I knew she was perfect for our joint initiative with NIMHANS. In addition I think the funders should also be commended for their flexibility, allowing Chitra to modify her proposals and produce a six year programme between Liverpool and Bangalore.  I am sure she will be a leading academic in the future and will have a real impact on some of the major brain infection problems which India faces.”

Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Global Health Research, Professor. David Lalloo added: “NIMHANS, Bangalore became a partner in our renewed Centre in 2013 and Chitra is the first Indian scientist we have been able to support all the way through her fellowship application. We expect she will be the first of many.”

Professor B.N. Gangadhar, Director of NIMHANS, sees this as a way of strengthening the links between the centres: “NIMHANS – University of Liverpool collaborations started from a common and shared interest in neuroinfections. Chitra’s fellowship awards are an outcome of this close interaction. There is substantial scope for extending this academic dialogue to other areas that include mental health in general and psychosis in particular, molecular biology, neuroimaging and the psychology of music.”

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