Collaboration is crucial for the progress of the scientific enterprise. Not only does it enable the sharing of knowledge and resources, saving time and funds, it can also enhance cooperation among scientists with common goals, rather than fostering competition. Consequently, working together may generate new ideas, discoveries, and solutions, thereby significantly contributing to scientific advancement overall. 

Recognizing the significance of collaboration in neuroscience, IBRO seeks to foster international scientific collaboration and development of human resources within and across IBRO regions through the Collaborative Research Grants. Exploring the interaction between human and microbial amyloids and their impact on neurodegenerative diseases, Dr. Neha Jain saw the IBRO Collaborative Research Grant as a great opportunity to establish a collaboration with a pioneering group in the field. In this interview, she shares her experience and the grant’s influence on her career.  

What is your background?

I am a trained microbiologist who has later diversified into advanced research in biophysics and biochemistry. After my postdoctoral training in the US, where I expanded my research in the field of biochemistry and microbiology, I returned to India in 2018 with an independent faculty position. I had a short stint at Ahmedabad University, following which I joined the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Jodhpur in 2019. At IIT Jodhpur, my group is primarily curiosity driven with research interest in the field of microbiology, biochemistry and biophysics.

Could you give us a brief summary of your research? 

Our research focuses on exploring the altered folding and conversion of proteins into unique structures called amyloids. Amyloids play functional roles but also contribute to progression of diseases, being the hallmarks for various deadly neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. In our lab, we are trying to understand the cross-talk between human and microbial amyloids, and how these interactions influence the initiation and development of neurodegenerative diseases. We are also keen in investigating the immune response to such hetero amyloids. Additionally, we look into how microbial amyloids contribute to microbial communities known as biofilms that are resistant to host immune defense and antibiotic treatment, and study their formation and develop strategies to combat biofilm-related infections. Overall, our aim is to identify and understand the early progression of diseases and develop drugs that can target both microbial and human amyloids.

Dr. Neha Jain

What is the research project funded by an IBRO Collaborative Research Grant about?

We proposed a unique project for the IBRO Collaborative Research Grant that shed light on differential activation of the immune system in response to human amyloids when cells are primed with bacterial amyloids. We planned to identify novel immune-modulatory signals that will establish the role of host-microbe interactions in neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease (PD). The immune response to hetero-amyloids may serve as a biomarker and open new avenues to target inflammatory pathways as new therapeutic intervention for PD.

With which lab were you aiming to establish a collaboration supported by an IBRO Collaborative Research Grant? What motivated you to apply for this grant and choose this lab?

I aimed to establish a collaboration supported by an IBRO Collaborative Research Grant with the Tükel lab at the Temple University, Philadelphia, USA. I was motivated to apply for this grant due to the opportunity and flexibility it offers to collaborate with an established research group working in the field. The primary reason for choosing this lab is its expertise and pioneering work on immune response to bacterial amyloids and biofilms. Prof. Cägla Tükel’s lab has extensive expertise in understanding the human immune system in the context of bacterial infections. Their expertise was complementary to ours, which made a perfect combination for collaboration. The Tükel lab is renowned for its contributions in discovery of immune responses to amyloids (both human and bacterial) that revolutionized the field.

What was the grant helpful for?

The grant was a big support to cover my international and local travel and stay. Additionally, having a funded project made it easy to apply for a visa and collaborate with an international collaborator.

Dr. Neha Jain and her team in the lab at the Indian Institute of Technology. From left to right: Vishaka (PhD candidate), Ritu (Intern), Khushboo (PhD candidate), Neha (PI), Bhumika (PhD candidate), Bharat (Project Assistant) and Harshita (PhD candidate).

How has the grant helped your career?

I believe this grant provided me with both personal and professional development experiences, as it not only helped me but my lab as well, since I brought the expertise and training gained there to further extend our research focus. The project funded by this grant has opened a new area in my research group to work on. As far as I know, no one in India is looking at this problem right now, giving a competitive edge to our group. This grant also helped me to establish another collaboration. For instance, I was invited to give a research seminar at Rutgers University. With Prof. Tükel, I already have one manuscript accepted and one under preparation. Last but not least, the data generated in this grant was used to write a proposal through which I got selected as one of the four EMBO Global Investigators from India.

Do you have any recommendations for future applicants?

I would suggest the applicants to be thoughtful while selecting your collaborator as that plays a significant role. Also, preparing the application and proposal well ahead of time will allow both the host and applicant enough time for discussions and improvement.

Join Dr. Neha Jain and apply for an IBRO Collaborative Research Grant. Applications for the current open call are open until 31 March 2024.


If you are an IBRO awardee and would like to share your experience, contact the IBRO Communications team at