Dr Nityanand: A legend who was in love with Lucknow - Hindustan Times
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Dr Nityanand: A legend who was in love with Lucknow

By, Lucknow
Jan 28, 2024 05:32 AM IST

Padma Shri Dr Nityanand, a renowned scientist in Indian drug research, passed away at the age of 99. He is remembered for his scientific excellence and his contributions to India's pharmaceutical industry. Dr Nityanand's determination to do more for his country remained strong until the end. He leaves behind a legacy of inspiring young scientists and mentoring future generations.

Padma Shri Dr Nityanand (1925-2024), the scientist par excellence and a legendary figure on the Indian drug research scene who gave India its first non-steroidal oral contraceptive, will continue to inspire scientists across the world by his knack for doing more for his country and the mankind.

Padma Shri Dr Nityanand , 99, passed away in Lucknow on Jan 27. (HT file photo)
Padma Shri Dr Nityanand , 99, passed away in Lucknow on Jan 27. (HT file photo)

He used to work in his office-cum-bedroom even before falling sick for one last time. Apart from his scientific excellence, his love for Lucknow is also well known.

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Even in his 100th year, his determination to do more for India remained undiminished as his scientific accomplishments remain alive in the hearts of his students and scientists he mentored before leaving behind a shocked scientific community here on Saturday.

“To become a scientist, it is a must to know Dr Nityanand whose life revolved around science. He gave 6 or 7 hours daily to reading and discussion on science even till his last days. And what would inspire most the young scientists was the fact that despite obtaining degrees in chemistry, he did not limit himself to the subject,” said Dr Alok Dhawan, director of Centre for Biomedical Research, one of the many institutions that Dr Nityanand gave concept for. The concept of National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research or NIPER was also that of Dr Nityanand.

“Most of his professional and personal life was spent in Lucknow. He was known world over but he stayed in Lucknow for majority of his life,” said Dr Dhawan.

“There are several home grown directors of top scientific institutes who have worked with and learned from Dr Nityanand. One incident I will share where he organised a party and cake cutting for three directors who had joined three premier scientific institutes and all of them had worked with him,” he added.

Family of Dr Dhawan and Dr Nityanand knew each other since 1967. Dr Nityanand, who is credited with helping crores of families in India to follow the “hum do hamare do” concept, would flips the pages of scientific journals and review them almost every day in his bedroom-cum-office.

Over 100 books and journals were on shelf that he personally selected and could pick them instantly when required. He worked in microbiology lab for a year just to understand bacteria because he later had to work on anti-biotics.

“You can call him father of Indian pharmaceutical industry for his contribution in the field of medicinal chemistry. This is because at all big pharma companies you will find top bosses who have either worked with Dr Nityanand or learned from him as his students,” said Dr PK Srivastava, a retired scientist who joined Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI) in 1981 when Dr Nityanand was the director (1974-84) there.

A scientist par excellence, the man thought in 360-degrees. Not just about discovery of new drugs but a government policy on it for easy acceptability and implementation, and industry readiness to provide the drug at affordable cost to common man was what made Dr Nityanand different from other scientists.

Born at Lyallpur (now Faislabad in Pakistan) on January 1, 1925, Dr Nityanand saw the Partition closely. He had to fly to Lyallpur from Mumbai to rush his family to India. “The country was just starting and we had realised what pharmaceutical science can do for the nation,” Dr Nityanand had told in one of his interviews to HT in January 2023.

He went to Cambridge for his second PhD to know more about biological science but came back to India and joined CDRI soon after it started and worked as its director also.

He has published around 400 research papers, jointly authored two books on “Art in Organic Synthesis”, written around 30 chapters for standard text books and edited two books on parasitic diseases.

He was instrumental in around 150 national and international patents. He also played a major role in government science policy issues for development of pharmaceutical industry in India. He had been a consultant to WHO on tropical diseases and reproduction and chairman of the steering committee for chemotherapy of malaria for WHO.

On behalf of UNCTAD & UNIDO, he was also an advisor/consultant for the pharmaceutical institutes and industry of many developing countries.

Despite his international recognition, Dr Nityanand never thought of settling in any other place than India. “His thoughts for India and its people always pre-occupied him,” said Dr Srivastava, who gives credit to Dr Nityanand for helping him innovate ‘science-toon’--a way to explain science via cartoon.

“Indians have to be committed to India’s social setting. We should focus upon diseases which are of greater importance for the country,” the scientist, whose contribution to the growth and development of the CDRI is remarkable, had once said.

He felt the need was to focus more upon virology, immunology, medical mycology (study of fungus infection) as this would pave the way for more preventive medication. Prevention is always better than treatment, he believed.

Centchroman was developed by him in 1981 and he was in touch with several scientists and researchers for its used in various ailment. He thought and was working on the concept of a ‘wonder drug’ in India as this compound was found useful for several chronic ailments, including breast and cervical cancer. A research paper in China mentioned ‘Centchroman’ as one of the finest contraceptive discoveries of the world done in India.

Dr Nityanand is survived by three children. One of them is Prof Soniya Nityanand, the vice chancellor of the King George’s Medical University, Lucknow, and two sons who are settled abroad.

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