Estb. 1882

University of the Punjab

Prof. M. Waheed Akhtar

Professor Emeritus
Prof. M. Waheed Akhtar

After completion of his MSc degree in Chemistry, with specialization in Biochemistry, from the University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan in 1966, Dr Muhammad Waheed Akhtar joined the Institute of Chemistry, University of the Punjab, Lahore as a Lecturer. Three years later, Dr Waheed Akhtar went to the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK for his PhD studies, which he completed in 1973. On his return, an opportunity was available to Dr Waheed Akhtar to set-up an independent research laboratory with his own research group, relatively soon. From this laboratory outfit and the research work done with the facilities available in this nascent laboratory, he was able to produce some quality publications. This research produced results explaining some of the aspects of induction of lipolytic activities and lipid metabolism in fungal species. After becoming Professor in 1984, it was possible for him to plan and undertake research work more freely and effectively for strengthening teaching and research in the broader field of biochemistry. Earlier on, he also received a Diploma in 1981 on Biochemical Research Methods from Biochemicals Separation School, Uppsala, Sweden.
During 1984-1988, Dr Waheed Akhtar made several visits to the Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland as a UNIDO Consultant working on bacterial cellulases, where he was also involved in teaching as a Visiting Faculty. His visits to the Biotechnology Centre, Cornell University, USA as a Visiting Scientist in 1987, and then as a Visiting Professor under a US Senior Fulbright Fellowship during 1990 were highly rewarding for him professionally. On his return from these professional visits, efforts for starting degree programmes in Biochemistry and Biotechnology were reactivated. University of the Punjab finally agreed to support this proposal, later receiving the seal of government approval in 1993 and culminating in the establishment of an independent Institute of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, which would be the first in this region of the country. In 1996, the new Institute of Biochemistry and Biotechnology started functioning as a post-graduate teaching facility, with Dr Waheed Akhtar receiving the honour of being appointed its Founding Director. In 1997-98, the first admissions for MSc degree in biochemistry and biotechnology were made after organizing the essential infrastructure conforming to the modern trends of the time. The Institute shifted to its own newly constructed state-of-the-art building that provided a facilitating and efficient layout both for teaching and research. These were the challenges which required vision and extra efforts. It is heartening to see that well-trained graduates in biochemistry and biotechnology are now available for meeting the needs of teaching, research, industry, agriculture, and medical fields. Dr Waheed Akhtar was instrumental in providing opportunities, in several other capacities, that contributed immensely to the academic life of the University of the Punjab in many other areas conducive to the professional development of students. In addition to his responsibilities as the Director of a newly established Institute, he played an active role in some very demanding assignments as the Dean of Faculty of Sciences, Incharge of the University’s Planning and Development, Chairman of the Research Committee, Member of the Advanced Studies and Research Board, and Incharge and Member of several other administrative and management bodies of the University. His substantive contributions in these capacities were always respected and well-appreciated.
Besides establishing collaborative research programmes with several national research institutes, Dr Waheed Akhtar has undertaken collaborative research projects with a number of international institutions which include: Comparative Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis, USA; Department of Molecular Genetics, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland; UNIDO, Vienna, Austria; Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA; Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, UK; and William Harvey Research Institute, University of London, UK.
His participation as a member and office-bearer of several international scientific organizations, such as FAOBMB, IUBMB, and PSBMB provided opportunities to Dr Waheed Akhtar to work for the promotion of the sciences of biochemistry and molecular biology within the country, regionally, and internationally. He has organized several national and international conferences, seminars, symposia, and workshops over the years within the country, which have been instrumental in stimulating scientific activity, pticularly for the younger scientists, in the fields of biochemistry, molecular biology, and biotechnology. Formal collaborations with prestigious institutions within Pakistan and foreign countries, such as the UK and USA, have exposed national researchers to the international research environment, besides keeping the ongoing national research portfolios abreast with the work being carried out in the laboratories of advanced institutions. Presentation of invited and plenary talks in a large number of conferences within the country and foreign countries including USA, UK, China, Italy, Thailand, Philippine, Iran and Egypt, over the years, has been of a great advantage in projecting scientific endeavours of Pakistani scientists.
The contributions made in teaching and research by Dr Waheed Akhtar were recognized nationally and internationally, leading to several prestigious awards, including Tamgha-i-Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan, election as Fellow of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences, and King Báudouin Award for Science by International Foundation for Science, Sweden. Some of the other recognitions accorded to Dr Waheed Akhtar are his elevation to the status of Meritorious Professor and Emeritus Professor at the University of Punjab, and the HEC Best Teacher Award.
In keeping with the programme of the then government for promoting higher education in the country, the School of Biological Sciences was established in the University of the Punjab in 2002, which he joined immediately after its creation. The limitations posed by the demands of the administrative work were largely overcome after formally moving to the School on a whole-time basis after Dr Waheed Akhtar superannuated from the University service in May 2004. During his association with the School, he was instrumental in getting several research projects, funded by foreign and the national agencies, some in collaboration with foreign institutions, which he has pursued advantageously and professionally. During the conduct of these projects, he and his group made important contributions, not only scientifically but also in the form of costly equipment to the newly established School worth tens of millions of rupees. Having remained in the use of the entire facutlty, research staff, and the graduate students, these have been highly facilitating in the experimental work of the School, specifically during its initial years.
His research interests include engineering enzymes for the degradation of plant biomass polysaccharides, development of Mtb fusion antigens for diagnosis and therapeutics of tuberculosis, and the characterization of protein biomarkers in different forms of cancer. By positioning of the appropriate carbohydrate binding modules along the catalytic domains, and through directed evolution, activities of many enzymes have been increased several folds. Higher sensitivities of some of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis fusion proteins, produced in his laboratory, shall be of great significance in making serodiagnosis of TB more economical and reliable. His laboratory has also produced some importane data in the field of proteomics. Characterisation of many protein biomarkers and determining their levels in different cancer states are important in not only diagnosis of the disease but also in the assement of stage of the cancer.
The work done under these and other projects has resulted in the award of several dozens of PhDs. The results from this research are being published regularly in high impact journals. Also, from the research done in his laboratory, one patent has been granted while applications for several more patents are under process with the Patent Office, Government of Pakistan.
Research Interests:
1. Engineering enzymes for enhancing activity and other properties
2. Designing antigens for diagnostic and prophylactic applications in tuberculosis
3. Characterization of protein markers for early diagnosis of some forms of cancer

Designation:- Professor Emeritus