Prabodhika Mallikaratchy joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at Lehman College as an Assistant Professor and doctoral faculty of the CUNY Biochemistry PhD program in 2012. Professor Mallikaratchy’s current research is focused on developing nucleic acid aptamers as molecular tools to decipher interactions in the immune system and utilize this knowledge to develop therapeutic molecules.
After completing her undergraduate degree in Chemistry in Sri Lanka, Professor Mallikaratchy explored and synthesized novel organotellurium heterocyclic compounds during her Master’s thesis at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. She then joined Weihong Tan’s group at the University of Florida for doctoral studies, where she studied DNA aptamer selection methods and their applicability as a tool for finding new biomarkers in human leukemia and lymphoma cells. She was part of the team that introduced the groundbreaking cell-SELEX method, which is now used by scientists worldwide, to discover aptamers against cell surface markers. Recognizing that basic science can be more innovative with an extensive understanding of translational research, she joined physician-scientist David Scheinberg’s group (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center) as a postdoctoral fellow with the goal of investigating the preclinical applications of nucleic acid molecules. At MSKCC, she investigated biochemical and pharmacological properties of nucleic acid molecules and investigated multimerization of DNA aptamers to obtain structures with superior pharmacological and biological functions. During both her doctoral and postdoctoral, work she focused on nucleic acid aptamers and their properties in vitro as well as in vivo.
Taking advantage of her full range of expertise, spanning organic chemistry, biochemistry and molecular pharmacology, Professor Mallikaratchy continues her focus on nucleic acid aptamers and plans to engineer nucleic acid molecules to understand and modulate interactions in the immune system. She believes that the information gained from this work should prove useful in designing molecules for medical diagnostics and therapeutics. At Lehman College, along with her students and postdocs, she has already introduced the innovative technology termed Ligand Guided Selection (LIGS), which, for the first time, allows researchers to selectively identify synthetic ligands against cell membrane receptors in their native form. Professor Mallikaratchy is currently planning on expanding this technology to produce an array of synthetic nucleic acid ligands against key receptor molecules expressed in human lymphoma, leukemia cells and human T cells.
She has been awarded grants from the NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences to expand her LIGS technology and to develop novel immunotherapeutic molecules based on DNA aptamers. She is also the recipient of a Lauri Strauss Leukemia Foundation grant, and she was one of the runners-up for the Junior Faculty Research Award in Science and Engineering sponsored by The Sloan Foundation. Along with her colleague Professor Ray Tu in Chemical Engineering at CCNY, she is also studying how DNA aptamers can be engineered into liquid crystals to develop robust nano-sensors. She is currently teaching Introductory Biochemistry at Lehman College, and Biochemistry at the graduate level in the Fall of 2017.
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