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Scientist who developed India’s first indigenous vaccine dies at the age of 72.

Dr. M.K. Bhan addressing a Press Conference to apprise on the two significant R&D results emanating from DBT support, in New Delhi on May 31, 2012.

The scientist who developed India’s first indigenous vaccine dies at 72. He was born in 1947, the year when India got independence and he passes away on 26th January, when India was celebrating its 71st Republic day. He was destined to be part of the country’s history.

Maharaj Kishan Bhan is an Indian pediatrician and clinical scientist who developed the vaccine for rotavirus, the first indigenous vaccine produced in the country. He was born on 9th  November 1947. He completed his MBBS degree from AFMC, Pune and M.D. Degree from Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh. As a faculty in AIIMS, Delhi he worked extensively on childhood diarrhea and nutrition. Childhood diarrhea is caused by rotavirus infection. The infection kills at least 100,000 children every year.
It was during his time in AIIMS, which helps him in making the first indigenous vaccine. While he was working on diarrhea and nutrition in AIIMS, he coincidently discovered a weakened strain of rotavirus from a child patient. That becomes his golden ticket. He isolated the strain and used it to develop a vaccine for rotavirus. He built teams and collaborated with a biotech company and work extensively during the whole process of clinical trial and the vaccine was later licensed to sell in 2014.

His tenure as a secretary of Department of Biotechnology, GOI
Maharaj Kishan Bhan also served as the secretary of DBT, Government of India from 2005 to 2012. While he was the secretary, he was involved in many endeavors. The most notable is the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), a center dedicated to vaccines and infectious diseases, pediatric biology, biodesign, and drug development. The THSTI is modelled the Health-Science-Technology (HST) program between MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It brings together all research institutions, teaching hospitals and universities in the Boston area to collaborate in solving human health problems. Engineers and scientists take their expertise from the lab to the bedside and bring back learning from the bedside to their benches. His idea was to link this to existing institutions such as AIIMS, IIT, Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biology and the National Institute of Plant Genome Research.

Forbes called him India’s biotech messiah. As a scientist and administrator, he has contributed enormously to science and the people. His death is a great loss for the Indian scientific community and the people.


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