2003 Amersham Biosciences Award: Sharad Kumar

KumarSharad Kumar obtained his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Adelaide, under the supervision of Professor Don Nicholas. From Adelaide he moved to Brisbane to work with Professor Martin Lavin as a postdoctoral fellow at the Biochemistry Department of the University of Queensland, followed by a stint as a research scientist at the CSIRO Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong. In 1989 Sharad received a Japanese Science and Technology Agency Fellowship to spend two years as a visiting fellow at RIKEN Tsukuba Life Science Centre (Tsukuba, Japan). At the end of this, he took up a position as an Associate Member at the Cancer Institute (Tokyo, Japan), before returning to Adelaide in 1994.

Sharad's broad research interests lie in biochemical and molecular basis of developmental pathways, cell survival, differentiation and apoptosis. He cloned a number of developmentally regulated genes (named Nedds). Of these, four Nedds are particularly noteworthy: Nedd2 (caspase-2) is the first known apoptotic mammalian caspase, Nedd4 is the first WW-Hect type of ubiquitin-protein ligase, Nedd5 (Sept2) is the first characterised mammalian septin, and Nedd8 is a ubiquitin-like protein involved in a protein modification pathway, now widely known as neddylation.

Currently, his research team studies the molecular regulation of apoptosis in mammals and in Drosophila, and the regulation of ubiquitin-mediated protein turnover via the Nedd4 family of ubiquitin-protein ligases. His laboratory has worked extensively on the mechanisms of activation of initiator caspases, and in collaboration with Dr Helena Richardson, on the cloning and characterisation of various components of the Drosophila cell death machinery. His group, in collaboration with Professor David Cook, has also demonstrated the function of Nedd4 family of proteins in regulating the epithelial sodium channel. Sharad is a past Wellcome Fellow (1996-2000) and currently holds a NHMRC Principal Research Fellowship. He heads the Molecular Regulation Laboratory at the Hanson Institute and is an affiliate Professor of Medicine at the University of Adelaide.