Developmental Biology in India has its roots in the mid-1950s, with pioneers such as Leela Mulherkar, Sivatosh Mookerjee, and I. A. Niazi.

Leela Mulherkar, a teacher at a college in Pune, won a scholarship from the Government of India to do her PhD in Edinburgh with the renowned philosopher-developmental biologist, C H Waddington. She returned to Pune to start a master’s course in Experimental Embryology at the University of Pune where she used locally available animals such as chick, toads, garden lizards, molluscs, sponge, and hydra both for her teaching and research.

The course became a huge success and some of her students even took up doctoral research in this field. Sivatosh Mookerjee, who also did his doctoral work with C.H. Waddington in the early 1950s, returned to India and began using sponge and hydra for the study of development at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

In the 1960s, Iqbal Ahmed Niazi, who had done his doctoral work on regeneration in lamprey at McGill University, returned to University of Rajasthan where he took on the study of amphibian regeneration and made important discoveries, such as the role of retinoic acid in limb generation.

As the community of such scientists grew in India so did the need for a forum to discuss and exchange ideas. The idea of forming an academic society for developmental biologists was converted into reality through the efforts of Leela Mulhelkar, and her colleagues Suresh Goel, also at Pune. The Indian Society of Developmental Biologists came into existence in 1977 at a meeting in Bhubaneswar and was formally registered in 1979 at Pune. The number of life members, most of them from India (and some from abroad) grew slowly. Members continue to join each year with the increasing pool of research labs in the country.

InSDB members now meet once in 2 years to present their work and exchange new ideas. The meetings have been organized in almost all parts of the country such as Delhi, Bhubaneswar, Ajmer, Pune, Kanpur, Dharwad, Mahabaleshwar, Rohtak, Meerut, Kalyani, Mumbai, Jaipur, and many other places. Apart from Indian participants, many developmental biologists from Japan, Europe and the USA have participated in the meetings as members.

Several scientists, teachers from universities and colleges have guided the activities on InSDB over the years in the capacity of its office bearers and board members. Some of the past presidents of the InSDB include Leela Mulherkar, Suresh Goel, P.N. Srivastava, K. Vasudeva Rao, P. Mohanty-Hejmadi, Sohan Modak, Veronica Rodrigues, Subash Lakhotia, J.K. Pal, Surendra Ghaskadbi, K. VijayRaghavan, Vidyanand Nanjundia, Pradeep Sinha and Jyotsna Dhawan.

In 2020, the International Journal of Developmental Biology brought out a two-part special issue on developmental biology in India, guest edited by Vidyanand Nanjundiah and Surendra Ghaskadbi (a.k.a. ‘Suren’).

Suren also spoke about this at the Bangalore Developmental Biology Club in 2021.

Edited by: Surendra Ghaskadbi and Vidyanand Nanjundiah

Edited by: Surendra Ghaskadbi and Vidyanand Nanjundiah

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