Anil Chandraker: NKF-Funded Researcher “Cracks Problems”

New York, NY
May 14, 2007

By the time Anil Chandraker graduated from Glasgow University Medical School, he couldn’t wait to leave medicine behind. “I had a dreadful time as an intern,” says Chandraker, 43. “I wanted nothing to do with medicine. Except that I had to earn a living until I could find what I did want to do.” His boss suggested he moonlight as a fellow in kidney diseases. Disenchanted, but broke, he took the gig. And fell completely in love. “Not only did I want to become a doctor, but I wanted to become a nephrologist!” says Chandraker, now an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard University Medical School and director of the tranplant clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He divides his time between teaching, seeing patients and research.

A 2006 NKF grant recipient and previous recipient of the NKF Young Investigator Award, Chandraker is using the funding to study the effects of a certain group of antibiotics, called Quinolones, on the BK virus, in transplant patients. Normally, the virus isn’t a problem for the general population, he says. In fact, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that increasing numbers of transplant patients were being diagnosed with the BK virus, likely due to usage of stronger immunosuppresents. Immunosuppresents are crucial to stop the body from rejecting the organ, but the drugs also weaken the immune system, which can allow the BK virus to take hold. The virus can lead to BK nephropathy, causing fully half of transplant patients to lose the organ within six months.

Among the many fascinating aspects of his research is that antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. Yet, Quinolones seem to work on the BK virus. A colleague at the University of Maryland was impressed enough with Chandraker’s lab results to try the antibiotics on 10 tranpslant patients with the BK virus. The antibiotics worked on seven. Chandraker cautions that this was an uncontrolled study, but his enthusiasm is clear in his voice. “Whenever I see a problem clinically, I want to crack it,” says the father of nearly 9-year-old twin girls, and husband to an immigration attorney. “That’s the whole reason I’m in research: We can always do better for our patients. We must do better for our patients.”