Rajeev Kumar Varshney
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Rajeev Kumar Varshney
|Alma mater||IPK-Gatersleben, Germany|
Chaudhary Charan Singh University
Aligarh Muslim University
|Known for||Whole genome sequencing, Molecular breeding|
The University of Western Australia
|Doctoral advisors||P K Gupta and P C Sharma|
Rajeev K Varshney is an agricultural scientist with expertise in genetics, genomics, molecular breeding and capacity building. He has more than 20 years of research experience 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, and Sequencing and Informatics Unit at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), headquartered at Patancheru, India. He is Founding Director for the Center of Excellence in Genomics & Systems Biology at ICRISAT and Adjunct Professor with several universities including Winthrop Research Professor with The University of Western Australia, West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (University of Ghana), University of Hyderabad, Chaudhary Charan Singh University and Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University.
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. 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. 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 Indian_Academy_of_Sciences, Bangalore in 2019
- JC Bose Fellowship from Science_and_Engineering_Research_Board, 2018
- 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 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:
- 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
- Honorary Professorship of Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences (ZAAS) in 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
- 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.
- 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, pearl millet, sesame, mungbean, adzuki bean, longan
- 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 InterDrought-V conferences.
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 (Late) Dr Norman Borlaug, Noble Laureate, 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 has authored and published more than 350 research papers/articles in the 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. See Google Scholar.
List of Books
Varshney has edited/ co-edited several books like The Pigeonpea Genome, The Chickpea Genome, The Peanut Genome, 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.
- "Professor Rajeev Varshney". University of Western Australia. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
- SPL2 Position filled - welcome Rajeev Varshney, "Generation Challenge Program news update" Retrieved on 14 August 2007.
- 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 JC Bose Fellowship, from Science_and_Engineering_Research_Board, Retrieved on 4 May 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
- ICRISAT scientists receives National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) India, award "ICRISAT Newsletter Happenings no. 1419" Retrieved on 18 June 2010
- 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.
- Dr Rajeev K Varshney, received Honorary Professorship of ZAAS, China ".Retrieved on 1 Nov 2018.
- 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, 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.
- 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.
- Member Steering Committee, FAO, Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries Conference, Mexico, 1-4 March 2010, " from the FAO website ". Retrieved on 1 August 2016.