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Sunil Kumar Verma

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Sunil Kumar Verma
Photograph of Sunil Kumar Verma an Indian Scientist
Sunil Kumar Verma in Nov 2014
Born Sunil Kumar Verma
(1974-09-28) 28 September 1974 (age 42)
Uttar Pradesh, India
Residence Hyderabad[1]
Nationality Indian
Education D.Phil. in medical oncology
Alma mater University of Oxford
Doctoral advisor
  • T. S. Ganesan[2]
  • Peter J. Parker[2]
Known for Universal primer technology for wildlife identification
Notable awards

Sunil Kumar Verma (born 28 September 1974), is an Indian biologist and as of January 2015 the principal scientist at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India. Verma is primarily known for his contributions to the development of "universal primer technology", a DNA barcoding method, that can identify any bird, fish, reptile or mammal from a small biological sample, and satisfy legal evidence requirements in a court of law. This technology has revitalised the field of wildlife forensics and is now routinely used across India to provide a species identification service in cases of wildlife crime.

Verma received his D.Phil. in medical oncology from the University of Oxford, and has worked in the areas of signal transduction in cancer and on molecular biology applications in wildlife conservation. He is the recipient of several national awards, including the 2008 CSIR Technology Award, the 2009 NRDC Meritorious Invention Award and the 2009 BioAsia Innovation Award in recognition of his contribution to Indian science and technology.

Education and research career[edit]

Early life and education[edit]

Verma was born in a small village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Verma grew up primarily in Tikri and up to the twelfth standard studied at the government school in Tikri.[3] After completing his twelfth standard in the science group from this school in 1991, he attended the G. B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar to complete his Bachelor of Science in agriculture and animal husbandry.[3]

Research career[edit]

Lindau Nobel Laureates Meet 2003 – Memorabilia and Honor: Signed by – nine Nobel Laureates (center), Indian delegation of scholars (periphery) and President of India A. P. J. Abdul Kalam (bottom right). Verma attended the meeting and signed the document (bottom middle).

Verma started his research career at G. B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar, where he worked on the DNA fingerprinting of Indian scented basmati rice for identification of duplicate accessions.[4] In 1998, Verma was appointed as a scientist at the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) where he continued his research on the DNA-based identification system, and in 1999, he received the Emerging Forensic Scientist Continental Award from the International Association of Forensic Sciences at the University of California, USA for his work on DNA microsatellite based identification of wild animals.[5][6]

In 2000, Verma was appointed as a scientist at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, where in 2001, he and Lalji Singh invented universal primer technology for wildlife identification, for which he later received a number of international patents,[7][8][9] and several national awards including the CSIR Technology Award in 2008 (jointly conferred to Verma and Lalji Singh),[10] the 2009 NRDC Award (jointly conferred on Verma and Singh)[11] and the BioAsia Innovation Award in 2009.[12]

In 2003, Verma received a Lindau Fellowship to represent Indian scholars at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings in physiology and medicine.[1] During the same year, he also received a Commonwealth Scholarship to carry out his doctoral studies at the University of Oxford.[13] Verma completed his D.Phil. in medical oncology at the University of Oxford in 2007,[14] and in January 2008 returned to India to continue his work at the CCMB. In 2010, he subsequently became principal scientist at the CCMB and as of January 2015, he remains in that position.[15]

Verma was a visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology during 2010–2013.[5] Starting in 2010, as of January 2015 he is a research ambassador for the DAAD to promote bidirectional research collaboration between India and Germany.[5]

Along with his team, Verma's research in the area of wildlife conservation[15] led to the reclassification of the pygmy hog, an endangered endemic species, from Sus salvanius to Porcula salvania[16][17]

Universal primer technology[edit]

Sunil Kumar Verma receiving the CSIR Technology Award from the Minister of Science & Technology, Government of India for his contributions to the development of universal primer technology for wildlife identification

In March 2001, Verma and Lalji Singh claimed to have invented a method that they called "universal primer technology", which allowed the identification of any unknown biological sample and its assignment to a known species source.[8][9][18]

Through its ability to work across a large range of animal species, universal primer technology can identify any bird, fish, reptile or mammal and satisfy legal evidence requirements in a court of law.[19][20] Patents relating to this invention have been filed in several countries and the research papers published in various journals.[21][22][23] This technique of CSIR-CCMB revitalised the field of wildlife forensics.[24][25][26] It is currently being used routinely in LaCONES at the CSIR-CCMB to provide a wildlife forensics service across India in cases pertaining to wildlife crime.[19][27][28]

Verma's and Singh's contribution to the development of universal primer technology has been recognised by the Indian minister of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Earth Sciences in a written report to the Lok Sabha.[19]

Universal primer technology was also used by Therion International, an independent animal testing lab in New York, to uncover the noted seafood scandal in Florida and other parts of America.[29][30][31] Several undercover investigations carried out by the ABC7 Whistleblower[30][32] and WKRG News5 investigators,[33][34] revealed that almost half of the seafood was inaccurately labelled as a more expensive variety.[31] This method of species identification used by the Therion International to uncover the seafood scam, was cited as "gold standard" by various labs worldwide.[35][36]

Universal primer technology and DNA barcoding[edit]

In February 2015, a credit dispute between universal primer technology and DNA barcoding came to light.[37][38][39] Verma has argued that DNA barcoding, a technique independently described by zoologist Paul D N Hebert in 2003,[40] is essentially the same as universal primer technology (UPT) and that both utilize standardized, short stretch of DNA from mitochondrial genome, amplified using the specific universal primers, to assign the identity of an unknown biological sample to a particular species.[7][22][37] Verma claimed that UPT was described earlier than DNA barcoding in his patents,[7][9] and publication;[22] therefore, it should be fairly credited. However, Hebert argued that he was not aware of UPT because its patents were not visible to the broader scientific community due to a substantial interval from its filing in 2001 to grant in 2006.[37][38][39]


Wo desh ki beti' (The daughter of the Nation), poems written and narrated by Sunil Kumar Verma, depicting the national pain at the gang rape of its daughters

Verma has written several collections of Hindi poetry on social issues such as the 2012 Delhi gang rape.[41] In 2014, his work was showcased in Hyderabad by the Association of British Scholars.[42]

Awards and honors[edit]

Some notable fellowships and awards conferred to Verma are as follows:

Selected publications[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Brief biography of Dr. Sunil Kumar Verma (PDF). CDC, An autonomous Institution of DSIR, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India. p. 26. ISSN 0973-8312. Retrieved 7 January 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Official Curriculum vitae of Sunil Kumar Verma". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Verma, S.K., Biography & journey through Science". Indianscholars Press. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  4. ^ Verma, Sunil Kumar; Khanna, Vijay; Singh, Nagendra (1999). "Random amplified polymorphic DNA analysis of Indian scented basmati rice (Oryza sativa L.) germplasm for identification of variability and duplicate accessions, if any". Electrophoresis. 20 (8): 1786–1789. doi:10.1002/(sici)1522-2683(19990101)20:8<1786::aid-elps1786>;2-5. PMID 10435450. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Brief Profiles of DAAD Research Ambassadors in India". DAAD, New Delhi. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Thakur, Mukesh. "ROLE OF DNA FORENSICS IN CURBING ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE" (PDF). WWF-India. p. 14. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c Verma, Sunil Kumar; Singh, Lalji. "US Patent No 7141364: Verma and Singh 2001". United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Singh, Lalji; Verma, Sunil Kumar. "Australia Patent AU2001258719 – Verma & Singh". Intellectual Property in Australia. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c Verma, Sunil Kumar; Singh, Lalji. "Universal primers for wildlife identification: WO 2002077278 A1". Google Patents. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "CSIR Technology Awards – 2008". Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. 26 September 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  11. ^ a b "NRDC Awards 2009". National Research Development Corporation. Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "BioAsia Innovation Awards 2009". BioAsia. Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Directory of Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows: 1959–2009 (PDF). The Association of Commonwealth Universities, London. p. 375. ISBN 978-0-85143-195-6. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  14. ^ 49th Annual Report to the Secretary of State for International Development (PDF). Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the United Kingdom. p. 41. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  15. ^ a b "Academic Profile of Sunil Kumar Verma". Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  16. ^ Funk; Stephan M.; Sunil Kumar Verma; Greger Larson; Kasturi Prasad; Lalji Singh; Goutam Narayan; John E. Fa (2007). "The pygmy hog is a unique genus: 19th century taxonomists got it right first time round". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 45 (2): 427–436. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2007.08.007. PMID 17905601. 
  17. ^ "Durrell discover unique DNA". Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. 10 September 2007. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  18. ^ "Indian Inventors Discover Wildlife Identification Universal Primer". The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon. HighBeam Research. 7 December 2006. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  19. ^ a b c "CSIR-Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) had developed DNA barcoding technology". Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India. 6 August 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  20. ^ Singh, Lalit T. (10 February 2002). "It's only a leopard: lab finding". The Hindu. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  21. ^ "CCMB develops DNA test to identify animal species". The Hindu: Business Line. 30 April 2003. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  22. ^ a b c Verma, Sunil Kumar; Singh, Lalji (2003). "Novel universal primers establish identity of enormous number of animal species for forensic application". Molecular Ecology Notes. 3: 28–31. doi:10.1046/j.1471-8286.2003.00340.x. 
  23. ^ Verma, Sunil Kumar; Prasad, Kasturi; Nagesh, Narayan; Sultana, Mehar; Singh, Lalji (2003). "Was elusive carnivore a panther? DNA typing of faeces reveals the mystery". Forensic Science International. 137 (1): 16–20. doi:10.1016/S0379-0738(03)00277-9. PMID 14550608. 
  24. ^ WTI (14 May 2003). "DNA tests : A breakthrough for wildlife forensics". Wildlife Trust of India. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  25. ^ Theodore, Stanley (12 June 2003). "Was it a leopard or panther slinking by?: New DNA tool helps scientists identify wildlife species". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  26. ^ Padma, T.V. (5 June 2003). "Indian genetic test helps combat wildlife crimes". SciDevNet. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  27. ^ TNN (30 April 2003). "CCMB develops wildlife forensic test". The Times of India. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  28. ^ TNN (1 May 2003). "Checking wildlife crimes with DNA tests". The Times of India. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  29. ^ Casna, Nancy J. (8 November 2006). "DNA sequencing test for species identification, Project # 20220". Therion International, New York. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  30. ^ a b "Whistleblower: Is it grouper – or something else?". NBC2 News. 17 October 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  31. ^ a b Abraham, Tamara (13 September 2014). "A VERY fishy business: Undercover investigation reveals almost half of seafood is wrongly labelled as a more expensive variety". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  32. ^ Nohlgren, Stephen (6 December 2006). "How to prove it's grouper?". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  33. ^ "DNA sequencing test for species identification, Project # 20097" (PDF). Therion International, New York. 9 May 2005. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  34. ^ "Grouper DNA Testing". WKRG News5. 27 February 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  35. ^ Stockman, Dan (22 November 2007). "Lab says species ID method 'tried and true'". Fortwayne. Retrieved 28 December 2014. 
  36. ^ Hedlund, Steven (18 October 2011). "Q&A: LeeAnn Applewhite, Applied Food Technologies". SeaFoodSource. Retrieved 28 December 2014. 
  37. ^ a b c Jayaraman, KS (10 February 2015). "DNA-based animal identification technique in credit dispute". Nature India. doi:10.1038/nindia.2015.20. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  38. ^ a b IANS (11 February 2015). "Indian scientists peeved over credit grab". The Times of India. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  39. ^ a b IANS (11 February 2015). "Indian scientists peeved over credit grab". The Statesman. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  40. ^ Hebert, Paul DN; Cywinska, Alina; Ball, Shelley L; deWaard, Jeremy R (2003). "Biological identifications through DNA barcodes". Proc Biol Sci. 270 (1512): 313–321. doi:10.1098/rspb.2002.2218. PMC 1691236Freely accessible. PMID 12614582. 
  41. ^ Sharma, Charu (6 September 2014). "This is not art, this is pain". The Times of India. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  42. ^ "Wo Desh Ki Beti (वो देश की बेटी…!): showcasing the poetry of Dr. SK Verma at LaMakaan Hyderabad". Association of British Scholars. 5 September 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 

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