Rajeev Kumar Varshney
Rajeev Kumar Varshney
|Alma mater||IPK-Gatersleben, Germany|
Chaudhary Charan Singh University
Aligarh Muslim University
|Known for||Whole genome sequencing, |
Integration of genomic innovations in crop improvement,
Capacity building in developing countries
The University of Western Australia
|Doctoral advisors||P K Gupta and P C Sharma|
Rajeev Kumar Varshney (born 13 July 1973) is an agricultural scientist, specializing in genomics, genetics, molecular breeding and capacity building in developing countries. He is engaged in discovering, developing, and delivering innovative R&D solutions to tackle wicked problems facing global agriculture. Varsheny is currently the Research Program Director- Genetic Gains that includes several units viz. Genomics & Trait Discovery, Forward Breeding, Pre-Breeding, Cell, Molecular Biology & Genetic Engineering, Seed Systems, Biotechnology- ESA, Sequencing and Informatics Services Unit, and Genebank (until 2020); and Director, Center of Excellence in Genomics & Systems Biology at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), a global agricultural research institute. He holds Adjunct/Honorary/Visiting Professor positions at 10 academic institutions in Australia, China, Ghana, Hong Kong and India, including The University of Western Australia, University of Queensland, West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (University of Ghana), University of Hyderabad, Chaudhary Charan Singh University and Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University.
Varshney, in his research career spanning for >20 years, has made significant contributions to improving food security in Asia and Africa by creating genomic resources of major “orphan” tropical crops. He has developed and deployed DNA marker technologies for the identification of useful genetic variation in tropical crops. Varshney, together with his colleagues, collaborators, and partners, has used these resources and technologies to identify genetic loci/candidate genes for drought and pest tolerances in key staple crops for sub-Saharan Africa and India. He has initiated and led major international programs that are creating and delivering superior crop varieties to some of the world’s poorest farmers.
By serving several organizations in the science leadership/ management role since 2007, Varshney has supervised large international teams representing a range of diversity in ethnicity, nationality, and gender. In these roles, Varshney provided expertise in R&D management, product development, innovative ideas, and promoted inclusive culture and inter-disciplinary and collaborative research ecosystem to team members for high-performance to develop and realize their potential as teams and individuals. His leadership efforts and research contributions have led mainstreaming of genomics in crop breeding programs at many institutes in several countries.
Varshney, a highly cited researcher for 7 consecutive years (2014-2020), is a highly prolific author and frequently invited speaker including TEDx speaker. Varshney has presented research and novel concepts related to food and nutrition security in several high-level fora such as: G8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture on Open Data in Genomics and Modern Breeding for Crop Improvement, organized by US and UK Governments in the World Bank (2013); Brainstorming session on Digital Revolution for Agriculture at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in (2012); Brainstorming session on DNA Fingerprinting for Impact Assessment, BMGF, USA (2018); FAO's international conference on Agricultural Biotechnology in Developing Countries in Mexico (2010); FAO's Regional Conference on Agricultural Bio technologies in Sustainable Foods Systems and Nutrition in Asia-Pacific Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2017), etc. Varshney’s research and interviews have been published in many Indian/ International print and electronic media including TV channels and radio programs. He has been honored with elected and honorary fellowships from a dozen academies/ societies and >20 prestigious awards from USA, Germany, China, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Philippines, UAE, including Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award, the most prestigious science and agricultural sciences awards from Government of India in 2015 and 2019, respectively.
Education and Professional career
Varshney received his bachelor's degree (B.Sc. Honours) in Botany and master's degree in Botany (Genetics, Plant Breeding and Molecular Biology) from the Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh in 1993 and 1995, respectively. He then joined the laboratory of Professor P K Gupta at Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut and earned doctoral degree (PhD) in 2001 in Agriculture (Molecular Biology) based on work done on a Wheat Biotechnology Project sponsored by Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. In addition, Varshney has undertaken several high-performance leadership and management courses from the leading business and management schools in Singapore, Malaysia and The Philippines.
After receiving his PhD degree, Varshney took up an assignment of Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter (Research Scientist) in 2001 at Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics & Crop Plant Research (IPK), Gatersleben, Germany. He worked there for five years in the area of structural and functional genomics of barley and comparative genomics of cereals. He then accepted the assignment of Senior Scientist for Applied Genomics at ICRISAT in late 2005. While working at ICRISAT, he took up a half time appointment with Generation Challenge Programme, hosted at CGIAR CIMMYT, as SubProgramme Leader for SubProgramme 2- Genomics towards Gene Discovery in 2007. With an objective to accelerate genomics research in dryland crops, he as a Founding Director established Center of Excellence in Genomics in 2007, with support from Department of Biotechnology Government of India. Later in 2017, this center transformed into Center of Excellence in Genomics & Systems Biology. He was promoted to the position of Principal Scientist (Applied Genomics) at ICRISAT in 2008. He had a dual appointment with ICRISAT as Principal Scientist and GCP as SubProgramme Leader from 2007- 2013. He served as Research Program Director– Grain Legumes for a period of three years (2013-2016) and since 2016 is serving as Global Research Program Director– Genetic Gains, after restructuring of the Research Programs at ICRISAT in 2015.
- Elected Fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore in 2019
- Elected Fellow of American Society of Agronomy (ASA) in 2018
- Elected Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) in 2016
- Elected Fellow of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) in 2016
- Elected Fellow of German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 2016
- Elected Fellow of Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) in 2015.
- Elected Fellow of Indian National Science Academy (INSA) in 2013.
- Elected Fellow of The National Academy of Sciences, India (NASI) in 2015.
- Elected Fellow of National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, India (NAAS) in 2010.
- Elected Fellow of AP Akademi of Sciences (APAS) and Telangana Academy of Sciences (TAS), India in 2014.
- Elected Fellow of Indian Society of Genetics and Plant Breeding in 2015.
- Elected Fellow of Association of Biotechnology & Pharmacy (ABAP), India in 2015
Based on his research contribution, he has received several awards/ fellowships such as:
- Scientific and Technological Co-operation Award by Government of Guangdong Province China, 2020
- Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award for Outstanding Research in Agricultural Science 2019
- Honorary Fellow of Indian Society of Pulses Research & Development 2019
- Professor Jayashankar (PJTSAU) Life Time Achievement Award 2019
- G. D. Birla Award for Scientific Research for 2018
- Prof. Lalji Singh Achievement Award by ADNAT/ CSIR- CCMB, 2019
- JC Bose Fellowship from Science and Engineering Research Board, 2018
- Honorary Professorship of Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences (ZAAS) in 2018
- Certificate and Honor for Outstanding Science Contribution by Uttar Pradesh Government, 2018
- One of the “40 Most Influential Foreign Experts” by The Association for International Exchange of Talents in Shandong, China, 2018
- Faculty research Awards 2018: Outstanding Authors 2018 for 2018.
- Doreen Margaret Mashler Award by ICRISAT for 2016.
- IPGI Award for leadership & contribution to peanut research by the International Peanut Genome Initiative for 2017.
- Qilu Friendship Award by the People’s Republic of China for 2016.
- Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize - Biological Sciences, the most coveted award from Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) on behalf of the Government of India in 2015.
- Research Excellence India Citation Award 2015 by Thomson Reuters
- The Illumina Agricultural Greater Good Initiative Award, 2013
- Young Crop Scientist Award by Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), 2013
- Young Scientist Award in Agriculture in 2010 by National Academy of Sciences, India and Elsevier South Asia
- INSA-Young Scientist Medal by the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), 2008
- NASI-Young Scientist Platinum Jubilee Award by the National Academy of Sciences, India (NASI), 2007
Significant contribution to crop genetics and breeding
Varshney has made significant scientific contributions including the following:
- Reference genome sequence assemblies for 13 plant species: namely pigeonpea, chickpea, diploid progenitors and cultivated groundnut, pearl millet, sesame, mungbean, adzuki bean, longan, Jatropha, Soybean and Celery
- Integration of genomic innovations in breeding for development of improved varieties: Drought tolerance and Fusarium Wilt resistance in Chickpea in India and Ethiopia, High Oleic groundnut variety
- Genomic resources for genetics and plant breeding: catalogues of genome variations, gene expression atlases, high density and low density genotyping platforms, >50 genetic maps, QTLs/molecular markers for >20 traits in legumes crops
- Novel concepts and approaches: Genomics-assisted breeding, Genic micro-satellites, Translational Genomics for crop improvement, Super-Pangenome, 5Gs for crop genetic improvement and haplotype-based breeding
- Decision support tools and pipelines for genomics research and breeding applications: ISMU, CicArVarDB, CicArMiSatDB
- Improved seed delivery system: Contributed to seed system by providing strategic guidance and support to replace old varieties in farmers’ fields and strengthening seed system in developing countries in Africa and Asia
Service to the scientific community
Varshney has served/ serving Editorial Board of several journals like Plant Biotechnology Journal, Theoretical and Applied Genetics, Molecular Genetics & Genomics, Plant Breeding, The Plant Genome, Frontiers in Plant Sciences, Crop and Pasture Science, BMC Plant Biology, BMC Genetics, Molecular Breeding, Euphytica, Plant Genetic Resources, Journal of Plant Biochemistry and Biotechnology, etc. He has been a Guest Editor for Special Issue for several journals like Current Opinion in Plant Biology, Molecular Breeding, Plant Breeding, Briefing in Functional Genomics, Frontiers in Plant Sciences, Plant Genetic Resources, etc.
Varshney has served/serving Steering Committee/ Organizing Committee/ Programme Committee for several international conferences including FAO Conference on Application of Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10), Plant & Animal Genome Conference Asia. As a Chair, Varshney organized several conferences including ICLGG, five editions of NGGIBCI and InterDrought
Varshney has delivered invited presentations in several high-level meetings related to international agricultural research including: (i) G8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture on Open Data in Genomics and Modern Breeding for Crop Improvement, organized by US and UK Governments in the World Bank 29–30 April 2013], (ii) brainstorming session on Digital Revolution for Agriculture at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in July 2012, (iii) brainstorming session on DNA Fingerprinting for Impact Assessment, BMGF, USA (2018), (iv) FAO's international conference on Agricultural Biotechnology in Developing Countries in Mexico (2010), (v) FAO's Regional Conference on Agricultural Bio technologies in Sustainable Foods Systems and Nutrition in Asia-Pacific Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2017), (vi) Scientific Advisory Committee Meeting on Article 17 (Global Information System) of International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food & Agriculture of United Nations' FAO (2016), (vii) Quality of Research Workshop organized by CGIAR (2017), (viii) Science Forum of CGIAR in Wageningen, The Netherlands (2009). While serving international agriculture in developing countries, Varshney had privilege to meet several high profile and influential personalities from science, society and politics that includes Noble Laureate (Late) Dr Norman Borlaug, Mr Bill Gates, Co-Chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Mr Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India.
Research projects and grants
Varshney's research has been funded by research grants from several international funding agencies like Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, United States Agency for International Development, Generation Challenge Programme, US National Science Foundation, Indo-German Science and Technology Centre and leading Indian funding organizations like Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Department of Biotechnology, and Department of Science and Technology (India).
Rajeev a prolific author and world renowned researcher have published more than 450 research papers/articles in high impact research journals. Some of these journals include Nature, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Genetics, PNAS-USA, Genome Biology, Trends in Plant Science, Current Opinion in Plant Biology, Trends in Biotechnology, The Plant Journal, DNA Research, Plant Biotechnology Journal, Molecular Plant, Functional & Integrative Genomics, Theoretical and Applied Genetics, Plant Breeding, etc. He is the youngest (47) agricultural/plant scientist and 4th Indian who have achieved an h-index of 100 as per Google Scholar. For more info visit his Google Scholar profile.
List of Books
Varshney has edited/ co-edited several books that makes significant contribution to agricultural science, plant genomics, molecular breeding etc. field and serves as good resource for Early Career Researchers. Select list of Varshney’s books are available at Amazon
- "Professor Rajeev Varshney". University of Western Australia. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
- Google Scholar profile Google Scholar profile
- Genomics for Food & Nutrition Security
- Dr Rajeev Varshney Speaking at G-8 (Open Data for Agriculture)
- Extract from a ‘genomicist’s’ diary: Excited in Seattle!
- Biotechnology: Potential boon for smallholder farmers, if prioritized
- FAO Regional Meeting on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition in Asia-Pacific
- FAO’s Regional Meeting on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition in Asia-Pacific, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, story by ICRISAT
- Center of Excellence in Genomics & Systems Biology (CEGSB)
- 2019 Indian_Academy_of_Sciences Fellows, List of Fellows and Honorary Fellow elected during 2018 (effective 2019) of Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore Retrieved on 2 January 2019
- 2018 ASA Fellows, " 2018 ASA Fellows " Retrieved on 4 October 2018
- 2016 AAAS Fellows approved by the AAAS Council, " 2016 AAAS Fellows approved by the AAAS Council." Retrieved on 25 November 2016
- TWAS adds 40 new Fellows, "The election of 40 new TWAS Fellows took place at the Academy's 27th General Meeting in Kigali." Retrieved on 19 November 2016
- List of Members, "German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina" Retrieved on 9 September 2016
- ICRISAT scientist receives topmost honor from Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), "ICRISAT press release" Retrieved on 2 December 2015.
- Prestigious Indian National Science Academy (INSA) fellowship conferred on Rajeev K Varshney, "ICRISAT newsletter happenings no. 1605" retrieved on 10 January 2014.
- Agri scientist Rajeev Varshney conferred award, "zeenews online portal". Retrieved on 10 January 2014
- Rajeev Varshney receiving fellowship from The National Science Academy, India, 2015 retrieved on 7 July 2020
- ICRISAT scientists receives National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) India, award "ICRISAT Newsletter Happenings no. 1419" Retrieved on 18 June 2010
- TAS - LIST OF FELLOWS as on 20-02-2019  Retrieved on 7 July 2020
- ISGPB Elected Fellows  Retrieved on 7 July 2020
- List of Awardees for ICAR Awards 2019, Retrieved on 19 July 2020
- ICAR recognizes ICRISAT scientist with prestigious Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award, Retrieved on 19 July 2020
- ISPRD Honorary Fellowship to Dr Rajeev K Varshney for contribution to pulses research, Retrieved on 23 September 2019
- Rajeev K Varshney gets PJTSAU Life Time Achievement Award for exemplary scientific contributions and research leadership ". Retrieved on 23 Sep 2019.
- Rajeev Varshney gets 28th GD Birla Award for Scientific Research ".Retrieved on 12 March 2019.
- 2018 JC Bose Fellowship, from Science and Engineering Research Board, Retrieved on 4 May 2019
- Dr Rajeev K Varshney, received Honorary Professorship of ZAAS, China ".Retrieved on 1 Nov 2018.
- Felicitation of Dr Rajeev Varshney by Uttar Pradesh Government
- Faculty research Awards 2018: Outstanding Authors, "News Career360 website". Retrieved on 14 Aug 2018.
- Dr Rajeev K Varshney, received Doreen Margaret Mashler Award for 2016 for his leadership in increasing ICRISAT's international visibility in the area of genome science and molecular biology, "Dr Varshney’s facebook post". Retrieved on 23 April 2017.
- Dr Rajeev K Varshney, recognized and felicitated for his leadership in the development and application of genomic tools and pipelines that facilitate sequence-based breeding methods for improvement of Arachis cultivars, ICRISAT Newsletter happenings no. 1739. Retrieved on 24 March 2017.
- Qilu friendship award 2016 for his contribution to groundnut research, "ICRISAT media update". Retrieved on 14 October 2016.
- Brief profile of Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize awardee, "website of SSB prize award ". Retrieved on 8 September 2016.
- 11 selected for Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award, "The Hindu". Retrieved on 27 September 2015.
- Thomson Reuters Research Excellence - India Citation Awards 2015 awarded to Dr Rajeev Varshney, "ICRISAT Newsletter happenings no. 1695" retrieved on 1 October 2015.
- ICRISAT 2013 Illumina Greater Good Initiative Award Winner , 2013 retrieved on 17 August 2020.
- Young Crop Scientist Award conferred to Rajeev Varshney  retrieved on 17 August 2020.
- One more feather in Rajeev Varshney's cap, NASI-Scopus Young Scientist Award for 2010, " ICRISAT newsletter happenings no. 1460" Retrieved on 1 April 2011.
- Draft genome sequence of pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan), an orphan legume crop of resource-poor farmers 
- Draft genome sequence of chickpea (Cicer arietinum) provides a resource for trait improvement 
- Draft genome of the peanut A-genome progenitor (Arachis duranensis) provides insights into geocarpy, oil biosynthesis, and allergens 
- The genome sequences of Arachis duranensis and Arachis ipaensis, the diploid ancestors of cultivated peanut 
- The genome sequence of segmental allotetraploid peanut Arachis hypogaea 
- The genome of cultivated peanut provides insight into legume karyotypes, polyploid evolution and crop domestication 
- Pearl millet genome sequence provides a resource to improve agronomic traits in arid environments pearl millet
- Genome sequencing of the high oil crop sesame provides insight into oil biosynthesis 
- Genome sequence of mungbean and insights into evolution within Vigna species 
- Genome sequencing of adzuki bean (Vigna angularis) provides insight into high starch and low fat accumulation and domestication 
- Genome-wide sequencing of longan (Dimocarpus longan Lour.) provides insights into molecular basis of its polyphenol-rich characteristics 
- Genome sequence of Jatropha curcas L., a non-edible biodiesel plant, provides a resource to improve seed-related traits 
- Construction and comparison of three reference‐quality genome assemblies for soybean 
- The celery genome sequence reveals sequential paleo‐polyploidizations, karyotype evolution and resistance gene reduction in apiales 
- Pusa Chickpea 10216 variety
- First ever high-yielding chickpea variety developed using marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC) released in Ethiopia
- India’s first ‘high oleic’ groundnut varieties ready to go commercial
- Whole-genome resequencing of 292 pigeonpea accessions identifies genomic regions associated with domestication and agronomic traits
- Resequencing of 429 chickpea accessions from 45 countries provides insights into genome diversity, domestication and agronomic traits
- The RNA‐Seq‐based high resolution gene expression atlas of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) reveals dynamic spatio‐temporal changes associated with growth and development
- Arachis hypogaea gene expression atlas for fastigiata subspecies of cultivated groundnut to accelerate functional and translational genomics applications
- Genomics-assisted breeding for crop improvement
- Genic microsatellite markers in plants: features and applications
- Translational Genomics in Agriculture: Some Examples in Grain Legumes
- Super-Pangenome by Integrating the Wild Side of a Species for Accelerated Crop Improvement
- 5Gs for crop genetic improvement
- haplotype-based breeding haplotype-based breeding
- ISMU Integrated SNP mining and utilization (ISMU) pipeline
- CicArVarDB CicArVarDB database
- CicArMiSatDB database
- [https://www.icrisat.org/12-years-of-research-on-tropical-legumes/ 12 Years of Tropical Legumes: 25 Million smallholder farmers now grow improved varieties) access to high yielding varieties to farmers.
- Member Steering Committee, FAO, Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries Conference, Mexico, 1–4 March 2010, " from the FAO website ". Retrieved on 1 August 2016.
- VI International Congress on Legume Genetics and Genomics
- Next Generation Genomics & Integrated Breeding for Crop Improvement
- InterDrought-V conferences.
- Rajeev Varshney and Norman Borlaug at the Green Revolution Conference, Bologna, Italy, May 2003 Retrieved on 17 August 2020
- PM Modi congratulated group of scientists conferred with various awards  Retrieved on 17 August 2020
- Youngest Indian (47) scientist to achieve an h-index of 100 as per Google Scholar "Interview with Prof Rajeev K Varshney" Retrieved on 23 January 2021
- Selected list of Varshney's books Retrieved on 6 August 2020