The Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) is a growing phenomenon. Located in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala, RGCB began in 1990 amongst humble surroundings as a small charitable society called the Centre for Development of Education, Science and Technology (C-DEST). In 1991, recognizing its potential, the C-DEST was made a "Grant-in-Aid" institute of the Government of Kerala and renamed as Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Development of Education, Science and Technology (RGC-DEST), becoming the first institute in the country to be named after Sri Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minster of India. On April 18, 1994 the Government of Kerala took a landmark decision to restructure the institute into a comprehensive biotechnology center and thus was created the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology. The institute was first managed by the Government of Kerala's Committee for Science and Technology and Environment (STEC) and subsequently by the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment. The foundation stone for the new building was laid on November 18, 1995 by the then Prime Minister of India, Sri. Narasimha Rao. Exactly seven years later, on November 18, 2002 the then President of India, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam dedicated the comprehensive center to the nation. Under the guidance of the founding director, Dr M. Ramachandra Das and his successor Dr R.V. Thampan, RGCB rapidly grew in stature, infrastructure and research output. It had now also become apparent that the resources available to RGCB from the state government could not match the strides of progress the institute was making. Kerala's political leadership displayed its maturity and vision, with three successive Chief Ministers, Mr. E.K. Nayanar, Mr. A.K Antony and Mr. Oommen Chandy persisting with the Union government to develop RGCB into a national centre. By now the institute had also attained national and international recognition with leading discoveries and findings in medical and plant biotechnology.
On February 28, 2006 while presenting the Union Budget to Parliament, The Honorable Union Finance Minister, Mr. P. Chidambaram announced, "If agriculture is an ancient Indian skill, biotechnology is the new frontier that India will conquer. In order to foster research and development in biotechnology, the Ministry of Science and Technology has decided t o accord the status of an autonomous National Institute to the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala".
This was one of the greatest acknowledgements that any research center in India can get. RGCB had clearly stood up to the trust, confidence and faith put in it by the Government and people of Kerala as well as the Department of Biotechnology that had unflinchingly supported the center through research grants for almost a decade.Our long awaited tryst with destiny became a reality on August 2, 2007 when the Union Council of Ministers chaired by the Honorable Prime Minister approved the take over of RGCB from April 1, 2007. Addressing a press conference on the same day, Mr. Kapil Sibal, Honorable Union Minister for Science, Technology and Ocean Development thanked the Government of Kerala for allowing the Union government to develop RGCB into an institute of international standards. He went on to outline future plans for the institute including state of the art programs in cancer research emerging viral infections and nano-biotechnology.
The reincarnation of RGCB as a national institute and its subsequent development has allowed a redefining of its research and development programs. Our research programs are now designed clusters of investigations on the central theme of Disease Biology. This framework includes basic and applied programs in human disease, animal disease and plant disease. All RGCB research programs can now be designated to three program themes: Chronic Disease Biology, Tropical Disease Biology and Disease Biotechnology. Centered in these three programs are state of the art discovery research programs in Cancer Research, Cardiovascular & Diabetes Biology, Pathogen Biology, Neurobiology& Genetics, Chemical and Environment Biology, Reproductive Biology and Plant Disease Biology & Biotechnology.
The excellent performance of RGCB over the years following it becoming a national institute won recognition with a Rupees 100 Crore grant to build a Bio-Innovation Center. The Kerala State Government responded by very graciously transferring to RGCB 20 acres of prime land in the city. The Bio-Innovation Center will be a unique knowledge center and hub for mid and high level innovation founded on deep and advanced level technical platforms, multidisciplinary cores that will seed growth and innovation. The processes to begin construction of this complex are underway. The Foundation Stone for the new building was laid by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the then National Advisory Council to the Government of India along with the Honorable Union Minister for Science & Technology, Mr. Jaipal Reddy.
RGCB currently functions from three campuses. The main campus is located at Jagathy in Thiruvananthapuram where the bulk of our discovery research programs are implemented. The second campus located at the KINFRA Park in Thiruvananthapuram functions as the transit facility for the Bio-Innovation Center where RGCB's core Bio-Imaging, Genomics and Laboratory Medicine & Molecular Diagnostic core facilities are located in addition to laboratories for Chemical Biology, and Tropical Disease Biology. The third campus located in Kalamaserry, Kochi is called the Bio-Nest, a setting for translational biotechnology, including expert and high technology resources for potential clients and customers, platforms for productive and sustainable partnerships with biotechnology, life science, medical and pharmaceutical industry besides opportunities for consultancy, contract research and commercialization of potential products.
RGCB is thus all set to also make its mark as a key player in translation of biotechnology to knowledge economy.We are now all set to move at warp speed. Our horizons are clear and paths well defined. We will fulfill our task of contributing to making India a knowledge power in biotechnology. Our commitment to the state of Kerala continues with even greater dedication. In addition to providing the judiciary and criminal justice systems with DNA fingerprinting & DNA Barcoding services, RGCB provides state of the art molecular diagnostics for viral diseases, cancer markers and risk markers for cardiovascular and genetic-diseases.
RGCB will thus reflect the future of Indian Biotechnology and Health research
The Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) had its humble beginning on July 03, 1990, as Centre for Development of Education, Science and Technology (C-DEST), an autonomous society registered under the Travancore Cochin Literary, Scientific and Charitable Society Registration Act of 1955 (Reg.No.418/90) by a group of well-known professionals and social workers for undertaking and promoting research, field studies, action projects, etc., The then Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi had kindly consented to be Chief Patron of the C-DEST Society. It was our pride that Shri K.R. Narayanan, who was one of the first Governing Body Members, then became the President of India. Other distinguished members of the first Governing Body of the institute included, Shri G. Karthikeyan [Chairman of the Governing Body and Member, Kerala Legislative Assembly], Shri Pandalam Sudhakaran, [Former Minister, Govt. of Kerala], Shri R. Ramachandran Nair, IAS, [Former Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala], Dr. V.K. Sukumaran Nair [Former Vice Chancellor, University of Kerala], Dr. T. Navneeth Rao, [Former Vice Chancellor, Osmania University], Dr. (Ms.) D. Bengalee [Former Vice Chancellor, University of Bombay], Dr. T.K. Raveendran [Former Vice Chancellor, University of Calicut], Dr. M. L. Mehta [Former Additional Secretary, University Grants Commission, New Delhi], Dr. V.I. Subramaniam, [Former Vice Chancellor & Director, International School Dravidian Linguistics, Trivandrum], Professor Ninan Abraham [Former Vice Chancellor, Kanpur University], Dr. A.T. Devasia [Former Vice Chancellor, Gandhiji University], Dr. (Ms.) J.K. Pillai [Former Vice Chancellor, Mother Teresa Women's University, Madras], Professor Muharjiri [University of West Indies, Barbados, West Indies], Dr. C. N. Purushothaman Nair [Former Professor & Head, Department of Commerce, & Dean, Faculty of Commerce, University of Kerala], Dr. K.A.L Narayana Swamy [General Manager, Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation, Trivandrum], Dr. Roy Varghese [Former Professor, Medical College, Trivandrum], and Shri Adoor Prakash [Legal Expert, Adoor]. Dr. A. Sukumaran Nair was the Director, C-DEST and Dr. R. Ashok its Registrar.
It was of great credit to the institute that it was given responsibility by the Central Government for grading standards of higher education institutions, colleges and universities in the country, an accreditation system to be administered through National Accreditation Board for Higher Education (NABHE), in the year 1990.
The institute was then renamed as Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Development of Education, Science and Technology (RGC-DEST), becoming the first institute in the country to be named after Sri Rajiv Gandhi following his tragic demise. It then became a "Grant-in-Aid" institution of the Government of Kerala on October 16, 1991. Realizing the potential and utility of services of Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Development of Education, Science and Technology to the state, Government of Kerala extended significant core support in the form of an establishment grant to the institute. The Government of Kerala reconstituted the Governing Body and Executive Committee of the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Development of Education, Science and Technology, in order to have more control on the management of the Centre with a view to bringing it under the State Committee on Science, Technology and Environment (STEC) umbrella, vide Government Order dated March 12, 1993. The constitution of the reconstituted Governing Body included Chief Secretary as Chairman and Dr. A. Sukumaran Nair, Dr. Roy Varghese, Dr. V.K. Sukumaran Nair, Shri K.A.L. Narayanaswamy, Dr. C.N. Purushothaman Nair, Seven academics/professionals to be nominated by the Governing Body, and the following representatives of the Government: Shri R. Ramachandran Nair, [Commissioner & Secretary of Forests], Shri M. Mohan Kumar, [Commissioner & Secretary of Finance], Shri K.V. Nambiar, [Secretary of Planning], Dr. R. Ravikumar [Secretary of Science & Technology], Shri C.V. Anand Bose, [Director of Nirmiti Kendra] and Shri K.K. Vijayakumar [Secretary of General Education] and as staff representative Shri S. Mohanan Nair, Programme Officer, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Development, Education, Science & Technology. Dr. N. Hrishi, former Director, CTCRI and Consultant FAO, United Nations was posted as the First Director of the institute after it became the Grant-in-Aid institution under STEC.
Subsequently the Government of Kerala appointed a high power commission to study the feasibility of making the institute a full-fledged R&D center of the Kerala State. The members of this commission included Dr. P.K. Iyengar, [Former Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, Govt. of India and the then Scientific Advisor to Government of Kerala, the then Chairman of State Committee on Science, Technology & Environment (STEC), Govt. of Kerala], Shri V. Ramachandran, IAS, [Vice Chairman, State Planning Board], Dr. M.S. Valiathan, [Vice Chancellor, Manipal University] and Shri K.V. Nambiar, IAS [Member, Planning Commission].
The Expert Commission examined all aspects of restructuring the RGC-DEST and submitted its recommendations to the Government of Kerala, to begin an institution devoted solely for biotechnology and in areas of modern biology. The Government of Kerala have accepted the recommendations and resolved to restructure the institute and upgrade it as an R&D Centre of Excellence in Biotechnology under STEC with the required additional inputs. The Government of Kerala took the landmark decision to restructure the institute into a comprehensive biotechnology centre and thus was established the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) on April 18, 1994. RGCB was the first research institute established for research and development in the field of Biotechnology, in India. Dr. P. Pushpangadan, Former Director of the Tropical Botanical Gardens and Research Institute was given charge of the Director, RGCB. Dr. M.R. Das, one of India's finest molecular biologists was then appointed as the Director, RGCB as per recommendations of the Search Committee.
Rajiv Gandhi (August 20, 1944 to May 21, 1991) was Prime Minister of India from 1984 to 1989 and symbolized the new emerging Indian generation - bold, innovative and full of energy. He also proved that tradition is continuous and deep rooted. Like his grandfather, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister and his mother Mrs Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi firmly believed that science and technology was the cornerstone on which India's tryst with destiny will blossom. Science & Technology research and development also provided the backbone for Rajiv Gandhi's pet phrase "Mera Bharat Mahan" (My India is great). Always one to see the potential in India's assets he called the export of India intellectual manpower overseas as not brain drain but a brain bank which can be fallen back upon in a time of need and opportunity. India's position as an IT giant today was because of the path-breaking decisions of Rajiv Gandhi on computerization. He established the Ministry for Science & Technology and established five critical departments to oversee technology development - Biotechnology, Environment & Forests, Non conventional Energy sources, Scientific & Industrial Research and Ocean Developments. The results of these important creations are there for all to see today.
Director, Rajiv Gandhi Centre
for Biotechnology from August 1994 to December 2001
It was the vision, foresight and the untiring efforts of Mukkattu Ramachandra Das, one of India's finest molecular biologists that brought biotechnology as a mandate of Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB). With support of the Government of Kerala and Department of Biotechnology, he developed the institute into a national center for research in the frontier areas of modern and applied biology. M.R.Das also held the position of Chairman of the Science, Technology and Environment Committee (STEC) and ex-officio Principal Secretary, Government of Kerala. He played a vital role in rejuvenating scientific infra structure and research development activities in the seven science laboratories under STEC.
Ramachandra Das was born in Tiruvalla, Kerala on 2 July 1937. Young Ramachandra grew up in an environment that encouraged creative freedom, and early enough in school he developed a love for mathematics and science and also a keen interest in literature and the fine arts. M.R. Das, on completion of M.Sc degree in Chemistry, in first position in order of merit from the University of Kerala, joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Bombay, as Research Assistant for Ph.D preferring science to a career in the civil service. He spent 36 of the most impressionable and productive years of his scientific life, outside Kerala, at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, at Columbia and Cornell Universities, New York, at the Michigan Cancer Foundation, Detroit and then at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology,(CCMB), Hyderabad.
During the period 1958 to 1969, Das's research work concerned studies of understanding the geometry, structure and mechanism of interactions in certain biologically interesting molecules like quinines, using magnetic resonance methods such as Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) and Electron Nuclear Double Resonance (ENDOR). Das's best known work, in collaboration with Professor Sol Spiegelman at Columbia University in 1969, concerned with the unequivocal demonstration of nucleic acid homology between tumour viral RNAs of avian and murine origin, and their host DNA. This preceded the discovery of reverse transcriptase. These studies were published as a series of three papers in August, September and October issues of Nature in 1970.
Das was an elected Fellow of all National Science Academies in India. He was a recipient of numerous awards, which also include Hari Om Ashram Award for research in basic medical sciences, ICMR's Sandoz Oration Award for cancer research and the Ranbaxy Award for Medical Sciences. He was holding a Senior Scientist position of the India at the time of his sudden death on April 1, 2003.
Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology from December 2001 to February 28, 2005
Raghava Varman Thampan received his Masters degree in Zoology from the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, in 1968 and his Ph.D. from University of Delhi in 1973. He did postdoctoral training at the Department of Cell Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA and at the Molecular Biophysics Unit, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
Dr Thampan's research interests had its primary focus on research in molecular mechanisms in estrogen action, with emphasis on the structural and functional aspects of two proteins, the non-activated estrogen receptor (naER) and the estrogen receptor activation factor (ERAF). One of his major discoveries was the identification, isolation and characterization of the nuclear transport proteins involved in the nuclear entry of estrogen receptor α (ER α ). Extension of these studies further revealed the role of estradiol in the transport, with the involvement of the proteins p28 and p73. His research group was the first to demonstrate that ER α degradation was mediated by estradiol dependent ubiquitination of ER α. Another 'first' to the credit of this group is the purification of the plasma membrane localized estrogen receptor, the naER, the first ever steroid hormone receptor to function as a tyrosine kinase. During the course of these studies it was observed that the naER, a glycoprotein, moves into the nucleus and gets deglycosylated to be transformed into the nuclear estrogen receptor II (nER II) which apparently has it's major functional role in the nucleocytoplasmic transport of messenger ribonucleoproteins (m RNP).
During Dr Thampan's tenure RGCB increased its faculty strength and significantly improved its infrastructure. Most of the current main campus construction including the student residencies was completed during his tenure as Director.