School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine

Dr. Jena's pioneering cell discoveries capture Ranbaxy Award

Bhanu P. Jena, Ph.D.

Bhanu P. Jena, Ph.D.

Bhanu P. Jena, Ph.D., the George E. Palade University Professor and Distinguished Professor of the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Department of Physiology, has won the prestigious Ranbaxy Research Award.

The annual awards are presented by the Ranbaxy Science Foundation, a non-profit organization established by Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited to encourage and honor Indian scientists working around the world in the endeavors of medical and pharmaceutical research.

Dr. Jena received the Ranbaxy Award in the field of basic research in medical sciences.

“The cell is the unit of life. The curiosity to understand even a small aspect of the fundamental workings of the cell structure-function at the molecular, and ultimately at the atomic level, has always been a dream,” Dr. Jena said. “The major driving force (in my work) is the joy in knowing how nature works, while awards are pleasant distractions, and importantly, recognition by one’s peers.”

The foundation honored Dr. Jena for his discovery of a new cellular structure -- the porosome -- as well as his elucidation of the general molecular mechanism underlying cell secretion and membrane fusion. “Professor Jena's discoveries have resulted in a paradigm shift in our understanding of the secretory process in cells, profoundly impacting human health and medicine," foundation representatives said.

The porosome, discovered by Dr. Jena 14 years ago, is the universal secretory machinery in cells. Secretion is a fundamental cellular process that occurs in all living organisms. Cell secretion is responsible for numerous activities, including neurotransmission, and the release of hormones and digestive enzymes. Secretory defects are responsible for a number of debilitating conditions, including growth defects, diabetes and neurological disorders. Dr. Jena’s discoveries have opened a gateway for the possible development of future treatments for such disorders at the very basic level of life.

“Dr. Jena is deserving not only of this latest award, but of the accolades of researchers around the world seeking potential cures for a gamut of disorders and illnesses,” said Robert M. Mentzer Jr., M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and senior advisor to the president for medical affairs. “His body of work continues to set the stage for any number of untold future treatments that researchers and doctors will use to address conditions that now elude our grasp. His work puts Dr. Jena in that special sphere of medical science pioneers, and places the School of Medicine firmly at the forefront of cutting-edge science that will lead to new cures.”

The award will be presented March 19 in New Delhi, India, during the foundation’s 15th annual symposium. Dr. Jena said he will attend the symposium to receive the award.

“We discovered the porosome almost 14 years ago,” Dr. Jena said. “In the interim, we have gained much understanding of its structure, dynamics, composition and function at the molecular level, and of cell secretion and membrane fusion in general.”

Dr. Jena seeks to expand his research and work in cross-disciplinary partnerships in his position as founder and director of the Wayne State University NanoBioScience Institute. The institute’s overall objective is to prepare U.S.-trained scientists who can assume the “next generation of leadership roles in the U.S. academic and industrial environment.”

Nano technologies, Dr. Jena explained, are powerful emerging fields that facilitate research and understanding of the smallest molecular structures. The understanding of how cells and biomolecules function will lead to the development of nanoscale devices that assist biological processes and assist in developing “smart drugs” and drug delivery systems. The merging of medical science and engineering science is crucial to the field.

The center has three primary objectives: research, collaboration and partnerships, and education and knowledge transfer. Dr. Jena and the center seek to train a “new breed” of researchers with a cross-disciplinary background. This new wave of scientists will have backgrounds in medicine, engineering, physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics.

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