Shashwati da Cunha
As a student of engineering in Atlanta, it’s an interesting challenge to connect my scientific exposure with the Indian way of life of my hometown, Bangalore. This is why Atrimed Biotech caught my eye. It blends these two modes of thinking by combining Ayurvedic expertise on Indian flora with the precision of
biotechnology to develop medicines. The opportunity to intern here deepened my understanding of both – and taught me far more.
Drawing from the extensive plant knowledge contained in Ayurveda, Atrimed begins by digitally screening compounds from plants used in Ayurvedic remedies, to identify active molecules that can be used as therapeutics. My inner chemist was thrilled to play around with biomolecule structures to prepare them for docking. Even more fulfilling, I could run extractions on these very plants. It was exciting to know that molecules identified as potential drugs were hidden in the bright pigments separating from the extracts after flash chromatography.
Moving on in the drug development process, the efficacy and mechanism of these compounds were validated. It took weeks to observe and understand the
intricacies of simulating the human body in a 96-well plate, but my mentors were always generous with their time and feedback. My proudest moment was
completing every step of an in vitro assay spanning a week, from isolating cells to quantifying protein expression. Molecules that cleared all biological testing were passed on to the formulations department, where I stirred liquids that transformed into soaps, lotions and serums like magic.Here, the plant metabolites, somewhere in the chopped leaves I’d soaked in solvent, could make their way into the foam cleaning my hands.
I learned techniques for cell culturing and gel electrophoresis, but my true learning encompassed much more. Atrimed showed me the value of sophisticated LCMS and qPCR machines, and of every microliter of ELISA reagents. It also taught me how to befriend a cranky multichannel pipet –
and people who spoke different languages from me. Lastly, I learned what to do when things don’t go according to plan. My mentors would discuss what might have gone wrong, narrow down the possibilities and quickly sketch out newexperiments to check their hunches. And then, with a smile, they’d turn to me: “You can try that and see.”