While Sharma was growing up in small town in India, his father would read in newspapers about the discoveries that scientists were making around the world. He wanted his son to be one of them.
“He would say, ‘You have to become a scientist,’” Sharma said.
His father’s wishes came true. Sharma went on to complete his PhD in biochemistry at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, and later moved to Boston, Mass., for a post-doctoral fellowship at Tufts University.
In 1976, he moved to Canada—first to Winnipeg and then to Calgary. Sharma was then hired at USask in 1991 to rejuvenate basic science research within the College of Medicine’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
Throughout his career, Sharma’s lab has purified and characterized more than two dozen proteins from various species. Through the purification process, he discovered close to a dozen new activator and inhibitor proteins, and established their biological and physiological functions.
The distinguished professor continues to excel in the field of cutting-edge colorectal cancer research, among other areas.
In 1995, Sharma and his team discovered that a protein enzyme labelled N-myristoyltransferase (NMT) is active and present in cancerous colon tissues, and appears in the early stages of colorectal cancer, which has a high mortality rate worldwide.
“My idea was to identify a marker for the early detection of cancer. We can save lots of people from undergoing a colonoscopy, that is expensive and painful,” Sharma said.
While there is no replacement for the procedure, Sharma and his team created a way to use the enzyme as a marker to see if colorectal cancer is present. This test has been licensed and is currently being developed at Bertech Pharma Ltd., an Edmonton company that is conducting clinical trials.