Dr. Asoke Banerji
Dr. Asoke Banerji has made very significant contributions in diverse areas of biotechnology and basic bioorganic chemistry. He obtained Ph.D. degree under the supervision of Professor T.R. Seshadri, F.R.S. and Professor V.V.S. Murti from the University of Delhi in 1964. He was awarded a senior research fellowship by the International Atomic Energy Agency to work with Professor D.H.R. Barton and Professor E.B. Chain, both Nobel Laureates, at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London. Dr. Banerji joined Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai in 1967 and was Head of the Bioorganic Division from 1989-98.
Natural Product Research:
The main thrust of research activities of Dr. Banerji’s group has been directed towards emerging areas of natural product chemistry. Dr. Banerji gave a new direction to the natural product research by purpose-oriented investigation of plant extracts. Facilities for bioassay-directed fractionation of extracts were established and an array of different bioactive compounds were isolated and characterized. Some examples are: allitin (insecticidal, anti-tumour, HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor), bakuchiol and its derivatives (insect juvenile hormone mimics), ecdysone and ecdysterone (insect moulting hormones and anabolic activity), immunomodulators, anti-metabolites, and furocoumarins and furochromones (phototoxic, antiatherosclerotic and antifeedant agents) anacardic acids from waste from cashew industry (as MMP inhibitors, wound healing agent, anti-tumour compounds). Very recently some quinones isolated from ayurvedic plants, were found to have pro-apoptotic activity; the activity being induced through the generation of reactive oxygen species. Some of his discoveries such as indigenous insect growth regulators have been commercialized. Interesting lead molecules have been discovered by screening a large number of natural and synthetic molecules.
During the course of work, an array of natural products were isolated and characterized. Structures of natural products were elucidated using NMR (1H, 13C, 2H) spectroscopy, X-Ray diffraction and mass spectrometry. Structures of new class of chromone oligomers and terpenoidal glycosides were derived by using multi-dimensional NMR spectroscopy and supported by X-Ray diffraction analysis. A new conformer (polymorph) of ecdysterone has been identified and characterized by X-Ray analysis. Novel eco-friendly processes for isolation of bioactive natural products such as anacardic acid, cardol, cardinol, plumbagin,ecdysterone etc. have been developed.
Dr. A. Banerji has made notable contribution in the application of isotopes in the area of biosynthesis and biotransformation of natural products. Using single and multiple isotopically labeled substrates, he has elucidated the biosynthetic pathways to ecdysoids, bakuchiol, khellin and fusicoccin. He developed the syntheses of isotopically labeled compounds, which were useful in biological and chemical sciences. These activities were of particular interest to Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in their programmes on applications of isotopes.
Dr. Banerji has also contributed in synthetic organic chemistry. He has developed new synthetic strategies based on organometallics, sono- and photochemistry. These studies led to the invention of reactions of synthetic importance. His contribution on modulation of activity of low-valent titanium has led to a conceptual advancement in modern organic synthesis and has opened the fronts of many future scientific endeavors. Dr. Banerji has skillfully used the expertise of the basic research to the applied areas. He has developed the synthesis of organic ligands, which have multifarious applications such as in nuclear medicine (radiopharmaceuticals), chelation therapy (for decontamination of body from environmental toxicants), actinide extractants (for nuclear fuel processing) or Organo-magnets. Dr. Banerji has several patents to his credit.
Till 1998, Dr. Banerji was Head, Bioorganic Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai. After superannuating, he became Emeritus Professor of Natural Product Research at the Bhavan's S.P. Ayurved Research Centre (SPARC), Mumbai. Subsequently, he joined Regional Research Laboratory, Trivandrum as a C.S.I.R. Emeritus Scientist. Subsequently he was awarded the prestigious Raja Ramanna Fellowship of Department of Atomic Energy. One of his interest was in elaboration of mechanism of cytotoxicity of some naturally occurring quinones. In collaboration with Rajiv Gandhi Biotechnology Centre, Trivandrum, it has been established that that the apoptosis is induced by reactive oxygen species. Differential cytotoxicity on BG-1 ovarian cancer cells and BRCA 1 – blocked estrogen receptor positive BG-1 cells has been observed. Naturally occurring bioactive compounds such as anti-tumour agents, natural antioxidants, natural dyes, insect control agents are the other areas of interest.
In 2006, he was invited to join the Amrita School of Biotechnology, Amrita University as a Distinguished Professor. He is involved in the bioprospection plants of Western Ghats of Kerala. This work led to the identification of biosources of high-value phytochemicals which have importance in seri-culture and diseases like cancer and diabetes. More recently, he made elegant use of LC-MS for elucidating the complex molecular structures of tannins and flavonoid glycosides from seabuckthorn, using the newly created facilities at the Amrita Agilent Analytical Research Centre.
Dr. Banerji is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, London, Fellow of National Academy of Sciences, Former Vice Presidents of Indian Society for Bioorganic Chemistry, and Indian Chemical Society (Western Branch) and Fellow of Maharashtra Academy of Sciences. He has visited many countries in U.S. Europe and Asia in the capacity of visiting professor or adviser and delivered many plenary lectures at National and International meetings. He has about 300 research publications. Dr. Banerji is associated with many institutions in advisory capacity such as Defense Research and Development Organization, Department of Biotechnology, Indian Council of Medicine Research, Centre for Medicinal Plant Research, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology etc.
- A. Banerji, Biotechnical potential of natural products, Plenary Lecture delivered at the seaweed research & utilisation meeting, Presidency College, Madras, June 1990.
- A. Banerji, A. D. Deshpande, D. L. Luthria and P. Pradhan, 2D-NMR Spectroscopy in Structure Elucidation of Natural Products, Invited lecture at the International Symposium on Natural Product Chemistry, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, May, 1991.
- A. Banerji, Novel Natural Products from Pimpinella monoica, Invited lecture, “International Symposium on Bioorganic Chemistry”, Delhi, December (1994).
- A. Banerji, “Natural Product Research in New Perspectives, Professor R.H. Sahasrabudhey Lecture Series, Nagpur University, Nagpur, (1995).
- A. Banerji, Plenary Lecture, “Pimpinella monoica – A Source of Bioactive Compounds,SAREC International Symposium on Bioactive Natural Products, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, (1996).
- A. Banerji, Plenary Lecture, “Changing Strategies towards Natural Product Research — Prospects for Biotechnology”, 48th Indian Pharmaceutical Congress, Chennai, (1996).
- A. Banerji, Plenary Lecture, New Approachs to Insect Control, “Golden Jubilee Celebration, Dr. H.S. Gour University, Sagar, (1996).
- A. Banerji, Invited lecture, “Potential of Plants for Human Needs”, University of Bombay, Mumbai, (1997).
- A. Banerji, Invited lecture, “Natural Product in Drug Industry”, Symposium on “Contributions of Science and Technology in economic progress,” National Institute of Oceanography, Panaji, Goa, 3-4, September, (1997).
- A. Banerji, Invited lecture Commomeration of 80th Birthday of Professor Asima Chatterjee, “Changing Strategies in Natural Product Research”, Symposium on Natural Product & Drug Development, Department of Chemistry, University College of Science, Calcutta University, Calcutta, September 23-25, (1997).
- A. Banerji, Invited lecture, “Emerging Trends in Natural Product Research”, Symposium on Recent Developments in Natural Products, School of Chemistry, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, July 11-13 (1997).
Patents and Publications
- Preparation of Insecticidal Principles of Garlic, Patent No. 144278.
- A. Process for the Preparation of an Immunomodulator from the Ayurvedic Medicinal Plant, Gulvel (Tinospora sp.) (57/BOM/98).
- Process for the Preparation of an Activated Titanium Reagent for Synthesis (56/BOM/98).
- A process for obtaining Phytoecdysteroid rich extract (1441/DEL/2008).