At the outset I extend very warm & hearty greetings to the entire UW community.
I am deeply overwhelmed and humbled to be chosen for the 2011 University of Wisconsin Distinguished Alumni Award. I have always viewed UW -Madison as one of the best academic institutions in the world and it is of immense pride & honor to be associated with it as an alumnus. I am deeply grateful to the selection committee who have nominated me & to the distinguished jury of the Award Committee for selecting me to receive this once-in-a-lifetime recognition. I must acknowledge first and foremost the blessings of my mother, Vennamma, and the love & selfless support I received from my wife, Suchitra, during the tough years as a graduate student & throughout my professional career.
As a farmer’s son, I was encouraged to pursue higher education in agriculture. Instead, destiny made me pursue a career in the life sciences. Hard work & luck favored my acceptance to this prestigious College of Agricultural Sciences at the UW. I must also place on record that I could not have received this world class education & training but for the financial support from the Freedom from Hunger Scholarship, from the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, followed by the Research Assistantship from the department of Plant Pathology.
I spent my most memorable years from 1987 to 1993 on campus — in the department / Russell Labs with seamless exchange of knowledge in science, living in Apt. # 903A Eagle Heights, dropping off my daughter at Shorewood Hills Elementary School, the birth of my son at Meriter Hospital, changing diapers, cheering at Badgers games, campus bus rides, spring time walks to the Memorial Union, the Friday lab meetings with beer & cheese, Babcock ice cream across the street, vegetable plucking at Tree Farm, shopping at the Chinese store on E. Park St., the Wisconsin winters, the part-time job at Memorial Library, keeping up with the experiments 24-7, buying my used, red Toyota Tercel, all the weekend chores, shopping for groceries at Woodman’s — the list can go on.
I sincerely acknowledge & convey my special thanks to the support & encouragement of my guides / mentors Dr. John Helgeson, Dr. Christine Upper, Dr. Susan Hirano, my fellow graduate students, post docs, technicians & staff in my lab & in the Dept. of Plant Pathology. These wonderful human beings were always there to share problems and discuss solutions. It was indeed thought provoking to sit in the classrooms of National Science Academy members and Nobel laureates, and it is essentially those lectures that changed my thinking process in truly appreciating research in science. My experiences here helped in recreating new perspectives in me and encouraged me not to follow the beaten path.
In 1996, when I returned to India, I was ready to take risks. My wife Suchitra & I took the plunge to become first-generation entrepreneurs. We started a small lab in Hyderabad & later co-founded Bharat Biotech International, with a mission to serve the 5.8 billion population of the developing world & emerging markets in the arena of public healthcare. Today, our company has delivered more than 1.2 billion doses of vaccines worldwide.
I share this momentous occasion and this distinguished award with my family, my employees, my well wishers, my angel investors and all those who trusted me & continue to support me in my entrepreneurial journey to offer world class-vaccines, affordable to the common man.
I look forward to continue this beautiful relationship with my alma mater in the interest of mankind & public health.