From Curiosity to Discovery: A Young Scientist’s Journey in ICMR Research

Kanisha Shah, PhD
DHR – ICMR Young Scientist, Ahmedabad University

I did my schooling at Udgam School for Children, Ahmedabad (Nursery – 12th Grade). My educational experience has had a drastic influence on not only who I am as person, but has also done much to shape my goals and aspirations for the future. Although there have been some rough spots in my academic career, the knowledge that I have attained throughout the course of my time at Udgam School for Children has proved to be crucial in forming my passion for learning and my interests in developing my abilities and using them to make a difference in my community and in the lives of others. Not only have several teachers impacted my life in a positive way, but my educational experience as a whole has also taught me many important lessons and virtues. At some points in my academic career, there were times where I struggled with my attitude towards learning and towards my teachers for a variety of reasons. Yet, through these difficult times, I learned many lessons that can be applicable to all areas of my life. These struggles ultimately allowed me to attain a better understanding of virtues such as patience and perseverance, both of which I had very little of in the primitive stages of my educational development. Because without this profound educational experience, I would be missing some of the core values that have led me to become the person that I am today. The reason for taking up Biology as a subject was the sudden death of my grandfather to this deadly disease called – cancer. At that moment in my life I decided I wanted to help patients who severely suffer from cancer and its complications. After my 12th Grade I pursued Biotechnology (Biochemistry) from St. Xaviers College, Ahmedabad and Masters in Biotechnology from Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT University). I did my PhD (2014 – 2018) in Life Science (Cancer Biology) from The Gujarat Cancer & Research Institute (GCRI) and Gujarat University. I worked at GCRI as a Junior Research Fellow for 3 years (2014 – 2017) and then received a fellowship from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as a Research Associate (Post-Doctoral Fellow). After my PhD, my goal was to gain further training and expertise in translation cancer research which can directly benefit cancer patients. I was excited to join Dr. Rawal’s lab in Gujarat University as his lab primarily focuses on translational cancer research. More than primary tumors, secondary tumors lead to a lot of cancer related complications and death eventually. During my doctoral tenure and my post-doctoral years, I have designed an algorithm that consists of 5 gene that will predict secondary tumor in the liver (metastasis) in primary lung cancer patients non-invasively from blood. “We’ve got a mathematical equation that combines the activity levels of each of the five genes into a score — the higher the score the greater the chances of metastasis,” We have currently filed a patent for this above-mentioned algorithm and will be working on validating the results in a bigger cohort soon. I am currently working as a Young Scientist (DHR-ICMR) at the Biological Research Laboratory (BRL) at Ahmedabad University under the guidance of Dr. Vivek Tanavde. My future goal is to expand my scientific expertise and training experience to transition to a successful independent investigator committed to cancer research, which will make substantial contributions in therapeutics of cancer. As an independent investigator, I would like to focus on devising strategies to improve survival of cancer patients and reduce the side-effects of conventional cancer therapies. Moreover, I believe in a proverb that keeps me going is – “The best way to predict your future is to create it”. Apart from scientific research and teaching my other passion is cooking. When I am not keeping busy with the scientific work I enjoying baking and am professionally a home baker too. There is one last thing I would like to mention that has helped me reach where I am is to “Be creative and explore the opportunities available. Make good friends/ networks, as they may be your potential collaborators in the future”.