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Brief Profile of the Awardee


Dr Niyaz Ahmed A S

  • 2016
  • Medical Sciences
  • 25/12/1971
  • Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Award Citation:

Dr Niyaz has made outstanding contributions to the functional epidemiology of chronic pathogens such as enteropathogenic bacteria and Mycobacterium tuberculosis by successfully combining the rigours of genome inspired epidemiology and decipherment of bacterial virulence mechanisms.

Academic Qualifications:
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Details of CSIR Fellowship/ Associateship held, if any or from other sources/ agencies.
Significant foreign assignments:
(a) Significant contributions to science and/ or technology development by the nominee based on the work done in India during most part of last 5 years:
Dr Niyaz Ahmed’s contributions are internationally known in the context of Functional Molecular Infection Epidemiology of bacterial pathogens. His research group has over the last several years systematically unraveled molecular epidemiology based on genome dynamics of pathogens namely H. pylori, M. tuberculosis and enteropathogens entailing spectrum of human diseases occurring in geographically distinct patient populations (Ahmed et al., 2008. Nature Rev Microbiol. 6:387-94; Kumar et al, 2015. Nucleic Acids Res. 43:324-35; Baddam et al., 2014. Scientific Reports 4:7457). Dr Ahmed generated and harnessed clinical, genomic and demographic data in the form of a unified epidemiological approach to define the H. pylori pan genome in an evolutionary context and to understand the boundaries and vertices of the plasticity region cluster of H. pylori that has been traditionally assumed to shape and shelter several novel genes imparting virulence based fitness advantage to the pathogen. Apart from plasticity, the conserved genomic information was systematically used to analyze genome evolution patterns of more than four hundred distinct Helicobacter isolates to dissect natural history in the context of peopling and human anthropology in different countries (Kumar et al., 2015. Nucleic Acids Res. 43:324-35, Ahmed N et al., 2008. Nature Rev Microbiol. 6:387-94; Devi SM et al, 2006. BMC Genomics 7:191; Devi SM et al, 2007. BMC Genomics 8:184). Some of the major observations from these pioneering studies of Dr Ahmed comprised of the Indian H. pylori’s ancestral relationships with the western isolates and that H. pylori in some multiethnic settings such as Malaysia evolve and adapt in a host specific manner. This has bearing on our understanding of the host – pathogen coevolution and co-migration. Similarly, Dr Ahmed’s group has developed and maintained a rigorous model of chronological evolution of bacterial genomes in the form of serial isolates of H. pylori obtained from different niches of the stomach of a single patient, obtained across a decade (Prouzet-Mauleon et al., 2005. J Clin Microbiol 43:4237-4241 and Alvi et al., 2007. J Clin Microbiol. 45:4039-4043). Whole genome sequences of these isolates have now been completed by Dr Ahmed (GenBank Genomes IDs: CP002184, CP002571, CP002572) and these genomes have been viewed by the community as an invaluable tool in understanding chronological evolution of H. pylori and have a great bearing on the understanding of pathogen survival and adaptation through genomic recasting (Devi et al., 2010 J Bacteriol; Avasthi et al., 2011 J Bacteriol). Further, a series of putative virulence factors were gleaned by Dr Ahmed from the plasticity region cluster and elsewhere from the maximum common gene pool of H. pylori and were functionally characterized including those from the core (Hussain et al., 2008 PLoS ONE 3:e1481) and the flexible genome compartments (Rizwan et al., 2008 J Bacteriol. 190:1146-1151; Alvi et al., 2011 PLoS ONE, 6(7): e22530). Important among these are the virulence factors encoded by the genomic plasticity region genes which constitute a putative type IV secretion system, acquired horizontally. Two of these virulence factors (JH940 and HP986) potentially interacted with the human immune system. The HP986 appears to be involved in Helicobacter persistence. Most persistent microbes seemingly evolve strategies to foil host responses and gain niche. However, it seems that there is fine tuning between microbial immune evasion and maintenance of the growth fitness.
(b) Impact of the contributions in the field concerned:
Over the years, Dr Ahmed’s contributions in the area of molecular epidemiology have famed him as internationally acclaimed scientist who contributed extremely valuable state of art in the area of genomics, epidemiology and disease biology of major human and veterinary pathogens, namely, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Helicobacter pylori, Leptospira interrogans and pathogenic Escherichia coli. Ahmed’s work unraveled novel pathogenic mechanisms and survival strategies of the above pathogens while rendering immense contribution to microbial research in India, a country embattled and challenged with infection burden. In particular, Dr Ahmed’s work based on adaptive evolution of single H. pylori strains in individual stomachs over extended periods of colonization has given impetus to the emerging field of ‘chronological evolution’ (Prouzet-Mauleon et al., 2005, J Clin Microbiol; Alvi et al., 2007, J Clin Microbiol, Kumar et al., 2012, J Bacteriol). Recently, Dr Ahmed’s group has ushered into the next generation sequencing of pathogenic bacteria and has completed whole genome sequences of the three H. pylori isolates hierarchically obtained from a single patient (Devi et al., 2010 J Bacteriol; Avasthi et al., 2011 J Bacteriol, Kumar et al., 2012, J Bacteriol); this is especially relevant to the adaptation mechanisms of chronic pathogens such as H. pylori. The H. pylori research community including clinicians and researchers are very enthusiastic about this novel contribution and that these genomes will form basis for a new discipline of ‘replicative genomics’ of pathogens in single patients in future studies (Ahmed N, 2010 Gut Pathogens). Technologically, this work has potential implications for genetic stability testing of bacterial vaccine vehicles during colonization. Dr Ahmed’s work resulted in important strategic funding instruments and collaborative networks as follows: 1. Indo-German IRTG 1673: An International Network of Excellence funded by the German Research Foundation wherein Dr Ahmed is the Speaker from the Indian side (2010-2014). 2. University of Malaya High Impact Research Grant – Molecular Genetics (Dr Ahmed is the Principal collaborator also with Prof. Barry Marshall, Nobel Laureate) (2010-2015). 3. Department of Biotechnology, GOI: Helicobacter pylori genome program under the Infection Biology Task Force. Another work of Dr Ahmed and colleagues demonstrating population structure of M. tuberculosis in India (Ahmed et al., 2004 J Clin Microbiol) and that the ancestral strains of M. tuberculosis are predominant in this part of the country (Gutierrez+Ahmed et al., 2006 Emerg Infect Dis) led to the popular working hypothesis that these ancestral strains could be more responsive to antitubercular therapy because of their possible adaptive evolution. Studies have been designed to validate this, especially, the treatment success rates under DOTS program in India are highly suggestive of this possibility (WHO Report on TB, 2010). In appreciation of this fact, the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India has established a Centre of Excellence on tuberculosis (CoE TB) in Hyderabad wherein Dr Ahmed’s studies form an important component.
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The Awardee a fellow of the Indian National Science Academy/Indian Academy of Sciences/National Academy of Sciences/Others:
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List of Awardee's 10 most significant publications.
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Contact Details

  • Department of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, School of Life Sciences, South Campus
    University of Hyderabad
    Prof. C R Rao Road, Gachibowli
    Hyderabad - 500 046
  • 040-23134585
  • 040-66794585
  • ahmed[dot]nizi[at]gmail[dot]com
29 Mar 2017, http://ssbprize.gov.in/Content/Detail.aspx?AID=518