Byline: Mangesh. Gokhale, Sara. Cherian, Priya. Abraham
Dr Kalyan Banerjee, an internationally acclaimed virologist and a pioneering director (1988-1997) of the ICMR-National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, is no more. He breathed his last on April 14, 2021 at a private hospital in Pune.
Dr Banerjee initially joined the then Virus Research Centre (VRC) as a Senior Research Fellow on April 4, 1962. He completed his Ph.D. under the guidance of Dr Charles Anderson (Director, VRC, 1958-1961) in 1967 and joined the centre as a Research Officer in 1969. He was one of the 'Titans' of the VRC with his stellar academic qualifications of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Doctor of Philosophy from the prestigious University of Kolkata. At the ICMR-National Institute of Virology, he started a fascinating and challenging career that lasted almost 36 years. His lifelong love in this field was initiated with his early readings on the 'slow virus' disease, leading to his abiding passion towards fundamental studies on the natural history of viruses and their public health perspective. Over a period of three decades, he established comprehensive field and the laboratory study platforms for research in different domains of virology using conventional and molecular methods. He always maintained that virology cannot be done by sitting in 'Ivory Towers', and he always 'walked the talk' in this context. During his career span, he contributed significantly on many facets of virology such as immunology, serology, diagnostics and virus isolations, field virology, virus and host interactions, vector-virus interactions and vaccines and their social and economic impacts.
Dr Banerjee's achievements and his traits can be characterized as multidimensional. His work transformed his talent into a genius. He had over 200 publications, book chapters, compendium contributions, etc . that were documented across the spectrum of many important scientific journals and books. Of these, in more than 60 he was the first author and many of these are cited world over in virus research. Over a period of more than three decades, Dr Banerjee along with his small and talented team of students and colleagues contributed towards the basic building blocks of the discipline of virology, the niche area of public health for the institute and the nation.
During the initial phase of his service and career, he worked extensively in the field and on laboratory aspects of many unique arboviruses prevalent in India. He had stellar research achievements in outbreak investigations, viral vaccine and efficacy studies. During this period, his major interests and contributions were focussed on diseases such as Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD), Japanese encephalitis (JE), West Nile virus (WNV), dengue and chikungunya. His research interests later on shifted to other major non-arbovirus diseases such as poliomyelitis, hepatitis, AIDS, measles and influenza.