The Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) had its humble beginning on July 03, 1990, as Centre for Development of Education, Science and Technology (C-DEST), an autonomous society registered under the Travancore Cochin Literary, Scientific and Charitable Society Registration Act of 1955 (Reg.No.418/90) by a group of well-known professionals and social workers for undertaking and promoting research, field studies, action projects, etc., The then Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi had kindly consented to be Chief Patron of the C-DEST Society. It was our pride that Shri K.R. Narayanan, who was one of the first Governing Body Members, then became the President of India. Other distinguished members of the first Governing Body of the institute included, Shri G. Karthikeyan [Chairman of the Governing Body and Member, Kerala Legislative Assembly], Shri Pandalam Sudhakaran, [Former Minister, Govt. of Kerala], Shri R. Ramachandran Nair, IAS, [Former Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala], Dr. V.K. Sukumaran Nair [Former Vice Chancellor, University of Kerala], Dr. T. Navneeth Rao, [Former Vice Chancellor, Osmania University], Dr. (Ms.) D. Bengalee [Former Vice Chancellor, University of Bombay], Dr. T.K. Raveendran [Former Vice Chancellor, University of Calicut], Dr. M. L. Mehta [Former Additional Secretary, University Grants Commission, New Delhi], Dr. V.I. Subramaniam, [Former Vice Chancellor & Director, International School Dravidian Linguistics, Trivandrum], Professor Ninan Abraham [Former Vice Chancellor, Kanpur University], Dr. A.T. Devasia [Former Vice Chancellor, Gandhiji University], Dr. (Ms.) J.K. Pillai [Former Vice Chancellor, Mother Teresa Women’s University, Madras], Professor Muharjiri [University of West Indies, Barbados, West Indies], Dr. C. N. Purushothaman Nair [Former Professor & Head, Department of Commerce, & Dean, Faculty of Commerce, University of Kerala], Dr. K.A.L Narayana Swamy [General Manager, Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation, Trivandrum], Dr. Roy Varghese [Former Professor, Medical College, Trivandrum], and Shri Adoor Prakash [Legal Expert, Adoor]. Dr. A. Sukumaran Nair was the Director, C-DEST and Dr. R. Ashok its Registrar.
It was of great credit to the institute that it was given responsibility by the Central Government for grading standards of higher education institutions, colleges and universities in the country, an accreditation system to be administered through National Accreditation Board for Higher Education (NABHE), in the year 1990.
The institute was then renamed as Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Development of Education, Science and Technology (RGC-DEST), becoming the first institute in the country to be named after Sri Rajiv Gandhi following his tragic demise. It then became a “Grant-in-Aid” institution of the Government of Kerala on October 16, 1991. Realizing the potential and utility of services of Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Development of Education, Science and Technology to the state, Government of Kerala extended significant core support in the form of an establishment grant to the institute. The Government of Kerala reconstituted the Governing Body and Executive Committee of the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Development of Education, Science and Technology, in order to have more control on the management of the Centre with a view to bringing it under the State Committee on Science, Technology and Environment (STEC) umbrella, vide Government Order dated March 12, 1993. The constitution of the reconstituted Governing Body included Chief Secretary as Chairman and Dr. A. Sukumaran Nair, Dr. Roy Varghese, Dr. V.K. Sukumaran Nair, Shri K.A.L. Narayanaswamy, Dr. C.N. Purushothaman Nair, Seven academics/professionals to be nominated by the Governing Body, and the following representatives of the Government: Shri R. Ramachandran Nair, [Commissioner & Secretary of Forests], Shri M. Mohan Kumar, [Commissioner & Secretary of Finance], Shri K.V. Nambiar, [Secretary of Planning], Dr. R. Ravikumar [Secretary of Science & Technology], Shri C.V. Anand Bose, [Director of Nirmiti Kendra] and Shri K.K. Vijayakumar [Secretary of General Education] and as staff representative Shri S. Mohanan Nair, Programme Officer, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Development, Education, Science & Technology. Dr. N. Hrishi, former Director, CTCRI and Consultant FAO, United Nations was posted as the First Director of the institute after it became the Grant-in-Aid institution under STEC.
Subsequently the Government of Kerala appointed a high power commission to study the feasibility of making the institute a full-fledged R&D center of the Kerala State. The members of this commission included Dr. P.K. Iyengar, [Former Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, Govt. of India and the then Scientific Advisor to Government of Kerala, the then Chairman of State Committee on Science, Technology & Environment (STEC), Govt. of Kerala], Shri V. Ramachandran, IAS, [Vice Chairman, State Planning Board], Dr. M.S. Valiathan, [Vice Chancellor, Manipal University] and Shri K.V. Nambiar, IAS [Member, Planning Commission].
The Expert Commission examined all aspects of restructuring the RGC-DEST and submitted its recommendations to the Government of Kerala, to begin an institution devoted solely for biotechnology and in areas of modern biology. The Government of Kerala have accepted the recommendations and resolved to restructure the institute and upgrade it as an R&D Centre of Excellence in Biotechnology under STEC with the required additional inputs. The Government of Kerala took the landmark decision to restructure the institute into a comprehensive biotechnology centre and thus was established the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) on April 18, 1994. RGCB was the first research institute established for research and development in the field of Biotechnology, in India. Dr. P. Pushpangadan, Former Director of the Tropical Botanical Gardens and Research Institute was given charge of the Director, RGCB. Dr. M.R. Das, one of India’s finest molecular biologists was then appointed as the Director, RGCB as per recommendations of the Search Committee.