VJ PhotoVijayendran Chandran, PhD

FARA Young Investigator Awardee. Dr. Chandran has developed a novel FA mouse model that can be used to study the effects of frataxin-deficiency and model paradigms of frataxin restoration.

By David Woods, PhD

From India to Germany to the US: An internationalist pursuing science, and working for human well-being.

Vijay, as he prefers to be called, grew up in the delightfully named town of Ooty, a tourist venue in the South India region of Tamil Nadu. He went on to acquire a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology and a Masters in bio informatics from Bharathiar University, named for Subramania Bharathiar, one of Vijay’s favorite poets.

From there, it was off to Germany to do his PhD studies at the University of Bielefeld, which he chose because of its eclectic mix of students from Brazil, Japan, Australia, and the UK before crossing the Atlantic to join UCLA's Department of neurology where he is at present a project scientist in neurogenetics. 

Vijay has garnered enough international prizes and awards to occupy a pretty wide mantelpiece. These include FARA’s new investigator award which, according to his extensive CV, supports the growth of the FA scientific field through funding competitive research grants to leading young scientists. He also received an award for advanced research in bio informatics and molecular biology from his Bielefeld Alma Mater.

His research interests are in peripheral and central nervous system regeneration, which he pursued in collaboration with scientists from UCLA and Harvard, including his postdoctoral advisor, Prof. Daniel H. Geshwind; and understanding FA by generating an appropriate mouse model with temporal knockdown of frataxin to control and reverse the onset and progression of the disease.

Also in conjunction with Dr. Geschwind, Vijay has made the FA mouse model available for other academic labs and pharma companies to accelerate FA research and treatment options. He has also patented the genes, proteins and small molecule networks that lead to nerve regeneration. In addition, the 34-year-old scientist has taken part in a course on entrepreneurship for science, medicine and technology, given several talks on neural repair, and served as a reviewer for several international journal articles, and also for grant proposals for the UK’s Medical Research Council.

Besides all this heavy lifting, Vijay is an enthusiast of yoga and meditation which, he says, he loves because it engenders calmness, focus and enhanced clarity. In fact, he jokes, it’s paradoxically a bit of a high. He also enjoys cooking with his wife, Brinda, a childhood friend with whom he also enjoys traveling and trekking – recently to the Himalayas -- and such outdoor sports as soccer and cricket, although he acknowledges that opportunities for the latter are not exactly huge in Los Angeles.

With Germany and the United States stamped on his passport, Vijay is very much an internationalist. He especially appreciates the freewheeling nature of university life in the US… the freedom to ask questions, to challenge.

For the future, he would like to establish his own research laboratory, and to further his strong commitment to working towards human well-being.