Sharad Kumar

THE 2013 LEMBERG MEDAL: SHARAD KUMAR

Centre for Cancer Biology, SA Pathology

Shard KumarProfessor Sharad Kumar is an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow and co-Director of the Centre for Cancer Biology at SA Pathology in Adelaide. He holds Affiliate Professorships in the Faculty of Medicine and School of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Adelaide, and an Adjunct Professorship in the Division of Health Sciences, University of South Australia.

After receiving his schooling and early university education (BSc in Biology and Chemistry and MSc in Microbiology) in India, Sharad obtained his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Adelaide (Waite Institute) working on nitrifying bacteria with the late Professor Don Nicholas. He carried out his postdoctoral work in Brisbane with Professor Martin Lavin in the Biochemistry Department of the University of Queensland. He moved to the CSIRO Animal Health Laboratory as a Research Scientist.

He then received a Japanese Government Science and Technology Fellowship to spend two years as a visiting fellow at the RIKEN Tsukuba Life Science Center in Japan, working with Dr Makoto Noda and Dr Yasuhiro Tomooka. Following this, he took up a position as an Associate Member at the Cancer Institute in Tokyo, before returning to Adelaide. The origins of his current research interests in cell death and ubiquitination go back to the five years he spent in Japan.

Sharad’s laboratory discovered, named and characterised a number of key regulatory genes, including the developmentally regulated Nedd genes, such as Nedd1 (a centrosomal protein required for g-tubulin recruitment); Nedd2 (caspase-2; one of the first known mammalian caspases); Nedd4 (the first and founding member of the WW-HECT type of ubiquitin-protein ligase family); Nedd5 (septin 2; the first characterised mammalian septin); and Nedd8 (a ubiquitin-like protein involved in a protein modification pathway, now widely known as neddylation). The laboratory also discovered a large part of the Drosophila cell death machinery and a number of proteins that regulate the function of Nedd4 ubiquitin ligases. His group now studies caspase biology and functions in cancer and ageing, mechanisms of developmentally programmed cell death, and the functions and regulation of the Nedd4 family members in physiology and disease.

His work, supported by many talented postdoctoral fellows, PhD students, outstanding collaborators and funded by the NHMRC, the Wellcome Trust and other bodies, has been published in over 190 papers. He was a Wellcome Senior Fellow prior to his NHMRC fellowship. He was awarded the 2003 ASBMB Amersham Bioscience Award and recently received the Ranbaxy Research Award for “seminal contributions to the understanding of programmed cell death and the regulation of the protein function by ubiquitination.”