Rajeev Kumar Varshney
|Rajeev Kumar Varshney|
13 July 1973|
Bahjoi, Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
The University of Western Australia
|Alma mater||IPK-Gatersleben, Germany
Chaudhary Charan Singh University
Aligarh Muslim University
|Doctoral advisors||P K Gupta and P C Sharma|
|Known for||Genic micrsatellite markers
Genomics assisted breeding for crop improvement
Translational genomics for agriculture
Whole genome sequencing Molecular breeding
Rajeev Kumar Varshney is a geneticist or genomicist with a research experience of >20 years in the area of international agriculture. He is currently working as global Research Program Director–Genetic Gains that includes several units viz. Genebank, Pre-Breeding, Cell, Molecular Biology & Genetic Engineering, Genomics & Trait Discovery, Forward Breeding, Seed Systems and Biotechnology- ESA at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Patancheru, India. He is Founding Director for Center of Excellence in Genomics at ICRISAT and a Winthrop Research Professor with The University of Western Australia.
Before heading the Research Program Genetic Gains, he served/serving ICRISAT in various capacities including Research Program Director- Grain Legumes (2013-2016), Principal Scientist- Applied Genomics (2008- to date), Senior Scientist (2005- 2008). He also worked with CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme (GCP), hosted at CIMMYT, Mexico as Theme Leader - Comparative and Applied Genomics (CAG) from 2007-2013.
Varshney has research experience in the area of crop genomics and molecular breeding. He has interest in development and application of genomic tools and strategies for applied breeding of the legume and cereal crops of the semi-arid tropics.
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 Agricultural Botany (Molecular Biology) based on work done on a Wheat Biotechnology Project sponsored by Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.
After receiving 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. 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. In 2010, he was appointed as Adjunct Professor - Plant Biology in The University of Western Australia. In 2012, he was conferred Visiting Professorship at Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China and Adjunct Professorship at Beijing Genomics Institute Hong Kong. In August 2013, he assumed responsibilities as Research Program Director, Grain Legumes at ICRISAT and since February 2016, Varshney is serving ICRISAT as Global Research Program Director, Genetic Gains.
- Elected Fellow of German 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 State Akademi of Sciences (TSAS), India in 2014
- Elected Fellow of Indian Society of Genetics and Plant Breeding in 2016
- Elected Fellow of Association of Biotechnology & Pharmacy (ABAP), India in 2015
Based on his research contribution, he has received several awards/ fellowships such as:
- 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
- Highly Cited Researcher by Thomson Reuters in 2014 and 2015
- Research Excellence India Citation Award – 2015 by Thomson Reuters
- Young Crop Scientist Award of Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) in 2013
- Listed in World's Most Influential Scientific Minds by Thomson Reuters in 2015
- The Greater Good Initiative Award in 2013 by Illumina Inc.
- First NASI-Scopus Young Scientist Award in Agriculture in 2010 by National Academy of Sciences, India and Elsevier South Asia
- INSA-Young Scientist Medal-2008 of Indian National Science Academy (INSA)
- Associate Fellow (2008) of National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, India (NAAS)
- Young Scientist Platinum Jubilee Award-2007 of National Academy of Sciences (NASI), India
- Senior Scientist Award of Association of Biotechnology & Pharmacy (ABAP), India in 2015
- Promising Young Scientist Platinum Jubilee Award-2007 and 2008 by ICRISAT.
Significant contribution to crop genetics and breeding
Varshney has made scientific contributions including following:
- genome sequence of chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut (peanut) diploid progenitor A and B genome of peanut and, pearl millet, sesame, mungbean, adzuki bean
- first generation of molecular breeding lines for drought tolerance, resistance to Fusarium and Ascochyta blight in chickpea, oil quality and foliar diseases in groundnut
- molecular markers for assessing purity of hybrids in pigeonpea
- transcriptome resources in chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut and barley
- large-scale molecular markers like thousands of SSR and SNP markers in chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut, barley and wheat
- the first genetic maps in pigeonpea and groundnut and comprehensive genetic maps in chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut
- gene-based markers and transcript maps in chickpea, pigeonpea and barley
- molecular markers associated with drought tolerance related traits in chickpea, resistance to foliar diseases in groundnut, resistance to fusarium wilt and sterility mosaic diseases in pigeonpea and grain quality traits like grain protein content, grain size and pre-harvest sprouting tolerance in wheat
- bioinformatics tools and pipelines for genomics research and breeding applications, for example Integrated SNP mining and utilization (ISMU) pipeline, NGS-QC box and Raspberry pipeline, CicArVarDB database, CicArMiSatDB database, large-scale SNPs identification pipeline, Consensus based CbCC approach for SNP identification, LIMS for genotyping workflows, and Perl module and PISE wrappers for large scale sequence data analysis.
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 VI International Congress on Legume Genetics and Genomics, five editions of Next Generation Genomics & Integrated Breeding for Crop Improvement and currently organizing InterDrought-V conference.
Amongst several high-level meetings related to international agricultural research, Varshney presented in: (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 on behalf of G8 countries in the World Bank during April 29–30, 2013, (ii) a brainstorming session on Digital Revolution for Agriculture in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation chaired by Mr Bill Gates in July 2012, and (iii) a brainstorming session for developing the road map on use of genome sequence for pigeonpea improvement organized and invited by the then Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of India in December 2011.
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 has authored and published more than 250 research papers/articles in the research journals. Some of these journals include Nature, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Genetics, PNAS-USA, Genome Biology, Trends in Plant Sciences, 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. See Google Scholar.
List of Books
Varshnye has edited/ co-edited several books like Cereal Genomics,Cereal Genomics II, Model Plants, Crop Improvement, two volumes of Genomics-Assisted Crop Improvement namely Genomics Approaches and Platforms, Genomics Applications in Crops, Translational Genomics for Crop Breeding: Volume 1 Biotic Stress, Translational Genomics for Crop Breeding: Volume 2 Abiotic Stress, Quality and Yield Improvement, Diagnostics in Plant Breeding, Root Genomics, Genetics, Genomics and Breeding of Peanuts.