Research is his first love
G.B. Rama Sarma. -- Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam
"Had Jawaharlal Nehru opted for the Adam Smith's model of economy instead of trying to replicate the Harold Laski's socialism model, India would have been on par with Japan or any other developed nation, especially in the fields of technology and research and development."
That is the firm view of the octogenarian and former managing director of Rapatakos, Brett and Company Limited, Gollakota B. Rama Sarma.
"I openly advocated for patent protection all through my career spanning over six decades. But unfortunately the fetish of socialism left us way behind in the world of patented drugs. It is not that India is making waves by marketing its brains through the service sector today. Even then we had the best brains and the ideas to manufacture patented drugs that could compete with the best in the world," he avers.
Mr. Rama Sarma blames the malady on the lack of infrastructure, proper R&D facility, good work environment, stringent patent laws and inadequate funding.
"This prevented us from competing with our Western counterparts. And by the time the patent laws were changed thanks to globalisation, the Indian pharmaceutical industry has been reduced to a mere copier of Western drugs rather than being the inventors, except for a few companies like Ranbaxy, Cipla and Dr Reddy's Lab."
Apart from being the contemporary of the foremost captains of the Indian pharmaceutical industry like Parminder Singh of Ranbaxy and Yusuf Hameed of Cipla, Rama Sarma has always been a research-oriented bio-chemist in the garb of a managing director.
Born in Yelamanchili in 1915, he earned his B.Sc.(Hons) in chemistry from Andhra University in 1936 and did research in the Biochemistry Department of Indian Institute of Science (IIS), Bangalore.
Recalling his days in AU, he says, "My batch was the first to pass out with a degree in chemistry from the university. At that time Vizagapatam was a beautiful place and the university was an ideal place for higher studies. Apart from the sylvan settings, the academic environment on the campus was intellectually very high. We were fortunate to come under the influence of great personalities and teachers like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (the then Vice-Chancellor), Hiren Mukherjee, Humayun Kabir, T.R. Seshadri and Koyaji. Whatever I achieved in life I dedicate a major portion of it to these eminent teachers."
After completing his research stint in IIS, he joined as a biochemist in Rapatakos Brett in 1943. Subsequently, he earned his Ph.D. from Bombay University.
"Research had always been my focus. In the very first year at Rapatakos I suggested a small change in the formula for the Hepataglobin drug by which the company could double its profits. This caught the attention of the Greek promoter, Apostolos Rapatakos, and he gave me a bonus of Rs.1,000 for three times in the same year. He also sponsored my trips to the universitis of
Wisconsin, Illinois and Washington for post-doctoral research between 1948 to 1951."
On return from the US, Mr. Rama Sarma was appointed as the head of the R&D in the company and he slowly rose to the position of managing director. He held the position from 1972 to 1975 and continued to be its consultant till 1995.
Apart from serving as a member for several research bodies like the Development Council for Drugs and Pharmaceuticals, the Pharmacy Council of India and the Pharmaceutical and Drug Research Committee of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, he is the proud owner of over half-a-dozen patents, which he authored during his research days in the US.
He has contributed over 30 papers on subjects like nutrition, biochemistry and pharmaceutics, and was elected as the Rellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry.
At 90, his mind is fresh and energetic as an ever young research scholar. "That is because of my mentor and former employer, Mr. Rapatakos. He gave me a free hand to do research, and I still cherish that memory."
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