P Balaram obtained his BSc (1967) from Poona University, MSc (1969) from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur and PhD (1972) in chemistry from the Carnegie-Mellon University, USA. He worked as a Research Associate at the Harvard University (1972-73) with Professor RB Woodward of the Department of Chemistry. On return to India, he joined the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore as a Lecturer (1973), and then became Assistant Professor (1977), Associate Professor (1982) and finally a Professor in 1986. Presently he is Director of IISc.
Academic and Research Achievements: Balaram has made outstanding contributions towards the understanding of the structure and function of voltage gated transmembrane peptide channels. His major contributions may be classified into three areas: (i) studies on transmembrane peptide channels, (ii) conformational models for peptide folding and (iii) biophysical and chemical studies on membranes and model systems. He has elucidated the structural chemistry of ?-aminoisobutyric acid peptides related to alamethicin. He has carried out detailed studies on synthesis, conformational analysis and biological activity of channel peptides and have provided the basis for postulating the helix dipole model for these channels. Dr Balaram has made valuable contributions in the general area of design and synthesis of model peptides, particularly disulfides. These studies have provided a means for developing bioorganic models for redox proteins containing active disulfide loops. Balaram's contributions in the area of biological membranes and in developing florescent probe methodology for examining membrane structure are highly significant. This aspect is exemplified by work establishing regional differentiation of sperm plasma membranes. In his most recent work, he has demonstrated the use of disulfide crosslinking as a means of thermally stabilizing multimeric proteins, using thymidylate synthase as a model. He has published over 240 papers in peer-reviewed journals.
Other Contributions: Balaram has delivered lectures extensively at different Universities and Institutes of the country. He has made significant contributions in the area of popularization of scienece and scientific policy. He was Associate Editor of Indian Journal of Chemical Education (1977-82) and currently is the Editor of Current Science. He was on the Editorial Board of several national and international journals such as International Journal of Peptide and Protein Research; Indian Journal of Chemistry, Section B; Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics; Proceedings of Indian National Science Academy, Section B, etc.
Awards and Honours: Professor Balaram is a recipient of several awards and honours, notable among them are: INSA Medal for Young Scientists (1977); UGC Career Award (1979); UGC National Lecturer (1986-87); SS Bhatnagar Award (1986); Alumni Award for Excellence in Research by IISc (1991); DAE-CV Raman Lecturer (1991); GD Birla Award (1994); TWAS Award (1994); Jawaharlal Nehru Birth Centenary Lecture (1995) and Jawaharlal Nehru Birth Centenary Visiting Fellowship (1996) of INSA. He is a Fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore (1980); and the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS).