Published 17 August 2023 by Amreen Khan

Scientific Nobility With Journey to Excellence: Amreen Khan #LINO23

Amreen Khan during a conversation with Nobel Laureate Peter Agre and other participants

Amreen Khan, a curious biomedical PhD researcher at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, is working on innovative materials to improve cancer treatment and wound healing. With wide expertise and multiple recognitions in the field of biomaterials and tissue engineering, she attended the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in summer 2023 as an aspiring Young Scientist. Learn more about her career and her #LINO23 experiences.

Anticipation and Eagerness Before #LINO23

Before attending the meeting, a wave of excitement and apprehension enveloped me. The chance of interacting with Nobel Laureates and other esteemed scientists filled me with awe and nervousness. I felt a sense of pride, knowing that I would have the opportunity to engage with the royals of science and share insights about our scientific discoveries. I was particularly keen on receiving feedback about my research and gaining valuable insights into its potential. However, with the tightly packed schedule and numerous lectures listed on the program, I questioned whether there would be sufficient time for meaningful discussions. To make the most of this extraordinary opportunity, I decided to prepare beforehand. I had a specific plan in mind to meet some Young Scientists and Nobel Laureates during the event. One of them was Morten Meldal, and I was fortunate to have an encounter with him on the very first day of the meeting. I eagerly shared details about my research and approach, and he showed genuine interest as we delved into further discussions.

With the meeting underway, my initial apprehensions began to dissipate, replaced by a sense of enthusiasm and eagerness to learn from the scientific luminaries around me. Later, I realised that the experience will be nothing short of extraordinary, as I looked forward to more inspiring interactions and valuable insights in the days to come.

Mingling with Nobel Laureates and Young Scientists

Meeting Nobel Laureates and Young Scientists left a profound impact on me and increased my curiosity and passion towards working for society in various ways. The problem-solving approaches, discoveries, and motivation they exuded revealed the vast opportunities that lie ahead. I observed their technical expertise, humility, gratitude, and their willingness to engage in discussions beyond scientific matters, providing answers I wouldn’t have found elsewhere.

Amreen Khan in a conversation with Nobel Laureate Sir Martin J. Evans and a Young Scientist
Amreen Khan enjoyed the exchange with Nobel Laureates like Sir Martin J. Evans and other Young Scientists.

The interactions that we were involved in made us more open to sharing our research as we could link our works. Even when we seemed a little curtailed in the beginning but I think as we moved on, that welcomed collaboration and a sense of helping each other in the research field. Even exchanges with the Laureates were sort of mingling, few said it’s not their area of expertise but they still look ahead to explore it and substantiate. As William G. Kaelin Jr. examined that his research area and my future goals are not so correlated but he definitely provided support in involving others as he found things on my side were interesting too. I am deeply grateful to everyone I had the opportunity to meet, as they wholeheartedly supported me. So overall, my #LINO23 journey started from aspirational and landed with inspiration.

My Academic Journey

Being inspired by other people is a recurring theme in my career. My interest in science began during my school years, although I initially struggled academically and had to put in extra effort to even pass exams. However, my father who himself is in science always believed in my potential to become a good scientist, even when I couldn’t understand how or why. One of the key figures who ignited my passion for biology was my school teacher, Dr. Jolly. Her teaching style and ability to convey the essence of biology in a captivating manner left a lasting impression on me. Meanwhile, at home, my mother nurtured my interest in mathematics, which later broadened my perspective and analytical thinking.

Amreen Khan working in the lab
Amreen is thankful to her supervisors for where she is now is due to their guidance and support. Photo/Credit: in courtesy of Amreen Khan (also below)

As I delved deeper into my academic journey, I found myself increasingly drawn to the intricate complexities of biology and ecosystems. The sheer beauty and convolution of these biological systems provoke interest in me, igniting a desire to explore more and deepen my understanding. However, it was a series of events that solidified my decision to pursue a career in science, particularly in the field of medicine. It all started when I encountered my mother’s struggle with migraines, prompting me to delve into the underlying causes and potential treatments. This exploration sparked my interest in medicine and the profound impact it can have on improving lives. During my bachelor’s degree, a life-altering encounter with an orphaned elderly woman left abandoned and suffering in a dilapidated room profoundly impacted me. Together with a friend, I took her to the nearby hospital where she was later diagnosed with terminal cancer. This incident struck a chord within me and compelled me to seek more affordable and accessible solutions for individuals facing similar challenges.

Biomaterial Design and Engineering

Amreen Khan sitting in front of a screen and a microscope in the lab
Amreen believes in welcoming new ideas and a diligent work environment.

In my research, I am actively involved in exploring novel and cost-effective solutions for cancer treatment and wound healing. My research commences with the identification of promising target biomarkers and drugs, laying the foundation for subsequent stages. Leveraging the art of strategic biomaterial design and engineering, I employ surface modification and biofunctionalisation techniques to optimise properties and enhance their performance. This process ensures increased stability, loading capacity, expanding the therapeutic window and enabling their application in diverse syngeneic tumor models even those involving personalised medicine. By embracing this therapy approach, I strive to deliver tailored treatments that resonate with individual patients. I delve into the intricacies of cancer, developing biomaterials that exhibit specificity in targeting cancer cells while mitigating immunotoxicity concerns by performing in vivo bioassays. Through synthesising and integrating targeting peptides into these biomaterials, I aspire to achieve effective drug delivery and unleash their full potential in combating cancer.

Amreen Khan during a presentation
Amreen presenting at a meeting of the Society for Biomaterials.

One of my research aspects follows an innovative approach towards incorporating photothermal therapy, harnessing the power of nanostructures carrying both drugs and lab-synthesised novel photothermal agents. Such strategic combinations ensure maximum efficacy while also providing a means to heal any potential tissue damage caused through the application of laser therapy, facilitated by my intricately designed wound-healing biomaterials. In the realm of wound healing, I focus on the synthesis of novel peptides that promote tissue regeneration and facilitate cell adhesion.

Ahead in my carrier, I want to secure a postdoc in bioprinting, propelling my research idea. I aspire to build a community that ensures healthcare accessibility for everyone, regardless of their status or economic background. By continuing in the scientific field, I seek to use my research to give humanity an advantage and contribute to a more equitable and inclusive healthcare system.

The attendance at the Lindau Meeting was an important step regarding these plans. Upon returning from the Nobel Laureate Meeting, I made sure to stay connected with everyone through various social media platforms. We shared pictures together, reminiscing about the memorable time we spent at the event. Additionally, we continued our conversations through online chats. For those with whom I developed a strong scientific bond, we have started exploring collaborative opportunities. We are enthusiastic about working together and aiming for breakthroughs in the research field. With a sense of optimism, we are hopeful for the best outcomes as we embark on these joint endeavors.

Amreen Khan

Amreen Khan, who began her academic journey with preliminary studies in pharmacy is currently part of the research team led by Rohit Srivastava and Jayesh Bellare at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. Her ongoing Ph.D. research is dedicated to developing biomaterials with a specific focus on cancer care and wound healing. She further plans to work as a postdoc in bioprinting. She attended the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in 2023 dedicated to Physiology/Medicine enthusiastically and enriched her knowledge.