M K Bhan, the man behind rotavirus vaccine, passes away

Maharaj Kishan Bhan, the man behind rotavirus vaccine, passes away

Maharaj Kishan Bhan, the man behind India's successful rotavirus vaccine.

Maharaj Kishan Bhan, the man behind India's successful rotavirus vaccine passed away on Sunday following his unsuccessful battle with cancer for the past few months. He was 72.

Way back in 1985-86, Bhan then a practising doctor and medical researcher at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi discovered and isolated the vaccine strain (116E) from a diarrhoea episode in Delhi.

The strain showed exceptional promise because infants infected with it manifested strong immunity against subsequent infections. Also it was capable of providing immunity from other diarrhoeal strains.

As a professor at the AIIMS and later as the Department of Biotechnology secretary, Bhan nurtured and guided the rotavirus vaccine project, leading to the development of Rotavac, an indigenous vaccine now widely used by the Union Health Ministry in the universal immunisation programme.

“Rotavirus vaccine is the only Indian vaccine developed here from the scratch,” Renu Swarup, incumbent DBT secretary told DH. “The vaccine was fathered by Bhan. Without him it would have not been possible for us to produce the vaccine,” added Krishna Ella, the chairman and managing director of Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech that manufactures the vaccine.

As the DBT secretary for more than eight years, Bhan established new institutes, biotechnology clusters and innovation support agencies like BIRAC to attempt a transformation of the Indian biotechnology sector. “He was a visionary who transformed the landscape of the biotechnology sector in India,” said Swarup.

Bhan is survived by his wife, son and daughter.

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