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
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.
SEE MOVIE - KAPIL SIBAL PRESS CONFERENCE
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
Evolution of Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB)
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
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.
Time line for evolution of RGCB
On July 3, 1990, C-DEST (Centre for Development of Education,
Science and Technology) was registered as a Charitable Society.
On August 29, 1991, the name of the Centre was changed from C-DEST
to RGC-DEST (Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Development of Education, Science
On October 16, 1991, RGC-DEST became Kerala Government's
On March 12, 1993, the Government of Kerala took over the institute
under the administrative control of State Committee on Science,
Technology & Environment (STEC) vide its G.O. (MS) No.23/93/STED
reconstituted the Governing Body and Executive Committee, "in order
to have more control over the management of the Centre with a view to
bringing it under the State Committee on Science, Technology and
On April 18, 1994, the Government of Kerala brought RGC-DEST under
the umbrella of State Committee on Science, Technology &
Environment, Government of Kerala.
On March 21, 1997, the Government sanctioned the change of name of
the Centre from RGC-DEST to RGCB (Rajiv Gandhi Centre for
Biotechnology) vide its G.O. (MS) No.22/97/STED.
On November 18, 1995 the Honorable Prime Minister of India, Shri.
P.V. Narasimha Rao, laid the foundation stone for the main RGCB
On November 18, 2002, His Excellency, the President of India, Dr.
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, dedicated the Centre to the Nation.
On February 28, 2006, the Honorable Union Finance Minister
announced in the Union Budget speech, that RGCB will be taken over as
an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Science and Technology.
On February 08, 2007, Govt. of Kerala issued orders to hand over
RGCB to Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.
On August 2, 2007 the Union Cabinet chaired by Honorable Prime
Minister announced the decision on taking over of RGCB as a National
Institute under Ministry of Science & Technology (Department of
Biotechnology) with effect from April 1, 2007.
RGCB - About Rajiv Gandhi
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.
RGCB - Former Director
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.
RGCB - Former Director
Raghava Varman Thampan, PhD
Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology from December 2001 to February 28,
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.
RGCB - Former Director
Professor M. Radhakrishna Pillai, FRCPath, PhD, FASc, FNASc, FAMS, FNA
Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology from March 01, 2005 to August 20, 2020
Professor M. Radhakrishna Pillai joined RGCB as Director on March 1, 2005, following a successful career as Professor of Molecular Medicine at the Regional Cancer Centre, making him then at 44, the youngest head of a national research institution. A scientist with over 31 years of postdoctoral research experience in disease biology and clinical biotechnology, he is an elected fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists (London), all three Indian Science Academies and the Indian Medical Academy.
RGCB was in 2005, then a State Government institute with an ordinary performance index and limited infrastructure. A visionary distinguishes himself when he finds opportunity in what others find as adversity. Relative lack of infrastructure, personnel and funds welcomed Professor Pillai to RGCB when he initially took office. But he found this as a blessed freedom of possibilities to explore, conceive and execute ideas par excellence. It was his sheer articulation and direction that led to the Government of India taking over RGCB in 2007 as an autonomous institute of the Department of Biotechnology. The results are very clear to see. RGCB today is a center with significant standing, best known for its distinct Disease Biology programs with interdisciplinary sciences being effectively used to ask relevant questions in disease pathogenesis. Teaming up cell biologists with pathologists, polymer chemists and even plant biologists to develop viable successful programs in chronic and infectious diseases are a remarkable characteristic of RGCB now. The quantity and quality of publications and patents have substantially increased over the past years to international standards.
Professor Pillai also successfully piloted a second phase development of RGCB to create a unique Bio-Innovation Center (BIC). While emphasis in RGCB was hitherto primarily on Investigator driven science, the second phase concentrated on team driven science for accelerated discovery and early translation. This new innovation center has been conceptualized to interface very well with the present institute creating an excellent ecosystem for discovery science and translation. The Rupees 100 crore project is currently in its final stages. Professor Pillai convinced the state government to transfer 20 acres of land free of cost in the heart of the city for this project, a remarkable achievement, in that even the Indian Air Force and Department of Space had to pay for land. The RGCB Governing Council has also provisionally approved a master plan of Rupees 430 crores for a national institute for viral disease biology and vaccine development including high containment facilities.
Professor Pillai used RGCB's excellent expertise for nation building through new start up industries and utilization of infrastructure for education, research and testing facilities by managing a technology development incubator - BioNest at Kochi. Established in association with the state government, BIONEST, a bio-incubator facility serves to accelerate the commercialization of new technologies, to nurture emerging ventures and to assist new enterprises to forge appropriate link with other biotech companies, academia and government. BioNest aims to provide a viable mechanism for licensing new technologies to upcoming biotech/pharma companies, to start new local ventures and to achieve early state value enhancement of the technology with minimum financial inputs. The deliverables of BioNest are technology packages, new product portfolios, techno economic feasibility and project reports for new products, process/product patents, prototypes of new equipment and rich management experience. BioNest that already has 26 companies incubated will also be a creator of new jobs in technology development, scale-up and translational biotechnology.
It is not always groundbreaking scientific accomplishments that make a scientist great but how he turns even the most trivial achievements into effective means to serve humanity During the period 2006 to 2011, Kerala was swamped with very serious outbreaks of viral fevers including chikungunya and dengue followed by the H1N1 flu pandemic. The state did not have a laboratory to do molecular viral diagnostics and turned to Professor Pillai to provide RGCB's expertise in assisting the public health service of Kerala. True to his commitment and character, Professor Pillai established a special purpose vehicle called Laboratory Medicine & Molecular Diagnostics (LMMD). LMMD which started off with 3 viral diagnostics, now performs over 40 viral and bacterial parameters and currently is arguably the only facility in India performing these many parameters under one roof. It was in recognition of these services that the Government of India's Department of Health Research designated this laboratory as a National Virology Network Grade 1 laboratory. Further recognition came as the facility was accredited by both NABL and NABH. With the advent of Covid 19 pandemic, it was only natural that RGCB became a leader for both Covid 19 diagnostics and an approved accredited validation center for new diagnostic kits. Further to cap these achievements, with his experience in large vaccine field trials, Professor Pillai led RGCB to collaboration with Mayo Clinic and Tetherex, a biotech company that will soon initiate a novel candidate vaccine trial in India, where all immunity parameters will be carried out at RGCB. Again this was a remarkable achievement for any research institute.
Under Professor Pillai's leadership, RGCB continued its strong support to the state government for DNA Fingerprinting services. These services were nationally lauded in wake of two huge tragedies that struck the state of Kerala. The huge fireworks tragedy at Kollam and the Ochi cyclone required a large number of unidentified bodies to be distinguished and returned to next of kin. The small DNA fingerprinting facility which was upgraded to a full fledged Molecular Forensics laboratory worked overtime to identify the hundreds of bodies that were sent for DNA fingerprinting. This huge social service has earned RGCB tremendous public goodwill and appreciation. This laboratory now accredited by both NABL and NABH, is completely self-sustaining and serves the country for human DNA fingerprinting, DNA barcoding for wildlife forensics and a research facility for biologists all over India to outsource their DNA fingerprinting and barcoding based research projects. As a consequence of these achievements, RGCB is also now a senior partner in the India Human Genome Program that aims to DNA fingerprint various sections of India's population. True to his reputation, he opened the institute laboratories for support to flood relief measures in the floods that devastated the state. This includes working overtime to tackle post flood water borne diseases and arranging for funds and material to be distributed at various medical camps in the state.
Teaching has forever remained Professor Pillai's primary passion. He successfully created RGCB's PhD program to be one of the best and most competitive in the country and also initiated India's first exclusive PhD in Translational Science & Medicine (TSM) Program designed to train candidates with terminal degrees in medicine, dentistry, veterinary sciences and pharmacy to become leaders of the next generation of translational science. Twenty seven fortunate students took their PhD under Professor Pillai's mentorship. Another notable event was his inception of a Master's program in Biotechnology at RGCB, with unique specialisations in disease biology, genetic engineering and molecular diagnostics. This program has become one of the best and most sought after in India.
At RGCB, Professor M. Radhakrishna Pillai led the way for scientific excellence with a unique track record as a scientist and a perfect example of taking science from laboratories to direct public benefit. An excellent example is his work on cervical cancer, the most frequent cancer in women in India, caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Current estimates indicate approximately 132,000 new cases diagnosed and 74,000 deaths annually in India, accounting to nearly 1/3rd of the global cervical cancer deaths. Professor Pillai produced vast knowledge on the complex pathology of the virus; he deployed all his resources in molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry and epidemiology to redefine the empirical approach to HPV infection. Recognizing this, World Health Organization supported Professor Pillai to alleviate the huge economic and social burden of 3-dose vaccine against HPV in Indian women. These studies rationally proved the efficacy of 2-dose of vaccine, the first achievement of its kind in the world. He also went on to prove that one dose of vaccine also has significant potential to prevent infection. Published in the prestigious Lancet Oncology, this study changed international paradigms for cervical cancer prevention. The journal wrote in a commentary "The study will make a long-term contribution to understanding the role of HPV vaccines in preventing infection and disease in countries with high burdens of cervical cancer. The experience of Indian women participating in this vaccine study promises to lead the way in the assessment of one-dose HPV vaccination while formal randomized trials are being established".
Professor Pillai always encouraged scientists in the institute to be self sufficient in research funding with minimal dependence on the institute for funding. He personally set standards for this at RGCB through an exceptionally impressive track record in obtaining research grants. He a recipient of research funding from the International Agency for Research Against Cancer (WHO) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (₹ 25 Crores), the National Institutes for Health, USA funded program on measles vaccine failure (₹ 4 Crores), a Center for Excellence for Translational Breast Cancer Research from the Department of Biotechnology (₹ 4 Crores), a National Drug Design Center from Department of Science & Technology (₹ 4 Crores), a unique "glue grant" for translational cancer research with the Regional Cancer Centre (₹ 4 Crores), a national center for translation of tribal technology (₹ 4 crores) from Department of Science & Technology - in addition to a number of smaller grants ranging from ₹ 40 to 90 lakhs. With more than 220 peer-reviewed publications and an H index of 42, Professor Pillai by keeping himself thoroughly engaged in his pioneering research understands the current research enterprise in the country extremely well. This was the prime reason for his success as a scientific acolyte as well as institute commander at the same time, with the unique honor of heading a national research institution for a continuous tenure of 15 years.
Professor Pillai also streamlined administrative and financial management effectively and RGCB is today an extremely efficient institution. Among his achievements as an administrator is the fact that RGCB today has the best social welfare scemes in the country. It is the only institution of the Department of Biotechnology that has created a comprehensive pension scheme for its employees in service before January 1 2004 on par with the old pension plan of Government of India. This was done by getting LIC to manage the institute's self generated funds from clinical diagnostic, services & consultancies as well as EPF contributions, with no additional burden on Government of India. RGCB also boasts of one of the best medical care facilities for its empoyees including "cashless" access to the best of government and corporate hospitals.
Professor M. Radhakrishna Pillai who superannuated from RGCB on August 31, 2020 is undoubtedly one of India's best-recognized researchers and an exceptional individual who seeks knowledge for the betterment of humanity. RGCB is truly indebted to this leader for having placed the institute as among the best in the country.