Issue in Honor of Dr. Rama Rao ARKIVOC 2005 (iii) 1-4
Dr. Rama Rao has proved to be an outstanding scientific administrator too. Under his leadership (19851995) IICT emerged as CSIR’s most reputed institution in chemical sciences and technology. Sir John Madox, Editor, “Nature” (Nature 366,626, Dec. 16th 1993) wrote thus: ‘‘the most improved laboratory in India must be the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology at Hyderabad. The difference is not so much the change of name, but the arrival as Director of Dr. Rama Rao, a vigorous no-nonsense organic chemist of distinction.”
Dr. Rama Rao is the leading light of the Indian Scientific horizon. He is extremely honest, frank, naturally blunt and fearless. His career is an example of vision and creativity, culminating in scientific excellence, which has won for him many accolades. He is a fellow of all National Academies and the Third World Academy of Sciences. He holds memberships in several international bodies and committees. He has served the Government of India as Chairman and as a member of various policymaking bodies. Among other distinctions, he has received the P C Roy medal, the Dr. Y Nayudamma Gold medal, the UDCT Diamond, the Om Prakash Bhasin Foundation Award, the Durga Prasad Khaitan Memorial Medal (Asiatic Society), the Viswakarma Medal (INSA), the Ranbaxy Research Foundation Award, the FICCI award, the VASVIK Award, etc. He is the first Indian to receive the technology award from the Third World Academy of Sciences. In recognition of his contributions to organic chemistry, the Government of India honored him with a civilian award, the “Padma Shri”.
Dr. Rama Rao’s research program on Organic Synthesis has found worldwide recognition. A number of budding scientists were associated with him over the years and they have all greatly benefited by their association with him. I am proud to say that I am one such beneficiary. I therefore have first-hand experience of Dr Rama Rao’s outstanding and remarkable mentoring. His priority has always been to place the academic interest of his students, science and the nation above his own. He has earned fullsome praise both in India and abroad for constantly producing scholars of the highest calibre.
Age has not subdued him. He is still full of life, energy, enthusiasm and ideas. He left IICT on superannuation in 1995, with a dream to not only continue his first love, research, but also to create an institution which can train scientists and chemical technologists. This dream of his did not take much time to materialize when he was invited by Dai-ichi Karkaria to do research for which they themselves provided the space and the necessary infrastructure. They also invested in all preliminary requirements of the laboratory. It also received a boost through a contract grant of $200,000/- from the US Drug major, G D Searle. CSIR too provided a research grant of Rs 1.5 million for the purchase of analytical equipment.
Dr.Rama Rao spurred on by his unending zest for research in science and technology and his keenness to cater to the needs of pharmaceutical companies, went on to utilize these facilities fruitfully and established AVRA Laboratories. However the real challenge came when Cytomed, a US company, assigned him the task of stabilizing a molecule with anti-asthmatic properties. Dr. Rama Rao succeeded in making 100gms of the compound and stabilizing it. He says with a note of triumph that this has proved that “Indian expertise in process technology is second to none”. AVRA Lab was thus the first to demonstrate its capabilities in innovative contract research. He is probably the most outstanding ‘technopreneur’ India has produced in the postindependent era with the unusual combination of world class academic excellence, skills in developing globally competitive technologies and entrepreneurship in setting up a flourishing knowledge- based industry. His faith and confidence, his expertise, and his demonstrated excellence in technology management have made AVRA a preferred global partner for collaborative and contractual R & D projects with some of the best names the world over.
My tribute to him will remain incomplete if I do not mention Smt. Hymavathi Rama Rao, his wife, who stood behind him all throughout and sacrificed some of her own personal desires to fully support Dr. Rama Rao in his extraordinary career. With all my heart, I wish them a very healthy, fruitful and rewarding life ahead.
Dr. J S Yadav Director of Indian Institute of Chemical Technology Hyderabad – 500 007 Tel.No. 91-40-27193030 / 27193234 Email ID: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
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