Ramakrishnan in contention for CCMB director post

Proud Indian: His name was presented before the Nobel feat

The selection panel headed by N K Ganguly, former director general of Indian Council of Medical Research will meet on Friday to zero in on a renowned scientist to head the premier institute carrying out cutting edge research in biology.

Ramakrishnan is one of the scientists whose name will be presented in front of the panel, sources told Deccan Herald.

The Nobel connection, however, is purely serendipitous. Venki’s nomination as CCMB director came a few days before the Nobel announcement, which made the diminutive Chidambaram-born, Vadodara-educated scientist a global face overnight.

After the retirement of Lalji Singh, the last director of CCMB, a search was on for the new director. Some of the veterans suggested bringing back reputed scientists of Indian origin to head the prestigious Hyderabad laboratory under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan from the UK’s Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Shankar Subramaniam from the University of California are the two scientists whose names were nominated. A handful of Indian scientists are also in contention.

Final decision

Even if the selection committee selects the 57-year-old Nobel laureate, the final decision to return to India remains with him.

In case he decids to return, he may not feel constrained because the laboratory facilities currently available in India – including CCMB – at the moment are at par with that of the laboratories abroad. But that was not the case in the 1980s and 1990s when Venki worked abroad.     

For year,s Venki has been in regular touch with his colleagues in Indian laboratories. He is a visiting lecturer at the Indian Institute of Science and was selected as a foreign fellow of the Indian National Science Academy in 2008.

Ramakrishnan shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Thomas A Steitz and Ada Yonath for mapping the protein-making mills of every living cell called ribosome atom by atom.

Congratulating Venki who did his early studies in Maharaja Sayajirao University, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said, “It is a matter of great pride for India that a brilliant scientist, who has gained the highest international recognition, should have done most of his education in India.”

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