In Memory of a life well-lived

16 Jul 2020

On January 26, 2020, Professor Maharaj Kishan Bhan, who conceived and developed the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute  (THSTI) passed away. The community of THSTI has lost its founder, mentor and enthusiastic champion.

For the pediatric community, Dr. Bhan was a clinician-scientist who changed pediatric policy and practice with his studies on oral rehydration, zinc and nutrition. As the Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology, he developed biotechnology for agriculture and energy as well as for health, through transformative enabling structures and the creation of institutions focused on biological science that was no longer the business-as-usual approach of investigator led research at multiple government supported institutions. Without neglecting blue skies research, he facilitated the development of programs that focused on health deliverables important for India, whether for biomedical genomics or a dedicated strategy for development of appropriately trained manpower.

THSTI was born of discussions between scientists and medical researchers in India and internationally. Dr. Bhan sent his team to explore global best practice and recruited the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a thought and hiring partner. He spent many Saturdays for iterative conversations with colleagues to conceptualize what an institute aimed at translational health should be and do. The need for scientists, doctors and engineers was clear but models for such inter-disciplinary teams within an institute were deemed unworkable within the constraints of governmental structures. It was emblematic of his out-of-the-box thinking that he not only managed to create the institute and identify priority areas that were ambitious, but also embedded it in the National Capital Region Biotech Science Cluster to be the nidus from which strong science and products would flow. He built for a future beyond his time.

He did this not only with institutions but also with people. There are few people at THSTI who have no personal stories of their time with Dr. Bhan. The mentoring, the insights and the direction he provided to each one of us changed how we thought about a field of research and the approaches we took to solve problems. His generosity with his time and his mind were foundational to THSTI and its people. As with his family, friends of all ages, colleagues and students, we will miss him and will cherish every memory of a remarkable man, always our friend and guide.