NEW YORK – January 29, 2020 – IAVI was deeply saddened to learn of the death of eminent scientist Maharaj Kishan Bhan, M.D., a longtime friend of IAVI. Dr. Bhan died on January 26, 2020, in New Delhi, India, at age 72.
Dr. Bhan earned a medical degree from the Armed Forces Medical College in Pune, India, and an M.D. in pediatrics at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research in Chandigarh, India. While serving as faculty member at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, Dr. Bhan developed a live attenuated rotavirus vaccine, Rotavac, that was approved in India in 2014 and prequalified by the World Health Organization in 2018. The Government of India introduced rotavirus vaccine in India in 2016 and in 2019 announced a plan to vaccinate all Indian children for rotavirus. Rotavirus is a leading cause of severe diarrheal disease in young children, and Dr. Bhan’s low-cost vaccine will likely soon be used to reduce the burden of rotavirus disease in many other countries.
IAVI president and CEO Mark Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., said, “Dr. Bhan was a friend, mentor, and trusted advisor who had an indelible effect on many lives. His contributions to public health reach far beyond the beneficial effects of his rotavirus vaccine. He was uniquely effective at getting things done, navigating complicated circumstances, and inspiring people to work together. Everyone who knew Dr. Bhan never doubted that he was focused solely on doing the right thing for people. The quality of his thinking and his quiet, humble demeanor made him a force for good in the world.”
Among Dr. Bhan’s other significant roles, he served as secretary of the India Department of Biotechnology (DBT) from 2005 to 2012. There he launched and supported many key initiatives, including the establishment of the Translational Health Sciences and Technology Institute (THSTI), a research organization with activities that span basic, clinical, and applied medical sciences. IAVI collaborated with DBT and THSTI to establish the HIV Vaccine Translational Research Laboratory, housed at THSTI, and Dr. Bhan played an instrumental role in that collaboration.
Dr. Bhan’s professional accomplishments were significant, and we know they will continue to reverberate throughout the world. IAVI’s Rajat Goyal, M.D., Country Director, India, worked closely with Dr. Bhan over many years. He said that, even more than Dr. Bhan’s specific scientific and bureaucratic achievements, “Dr. Bhan was one of the most generous, open-hearted people I’ve known. He left something noble of himself in every person who knew him. I’m deeply saddened by his passing, but I take comfort knowing that he inspired and mentored legions of scientists, administrators, and physicians to carry forth his passion for serving humanity.”
Dr. Bhan is survived by his wife, Mrs. Girija Bhan, and two sons and a daughter..
IAVI expresses its deepest sympathies to Dr. Bhan’s family and to all those who loved our dear friend. We dedicate ourselves to his spirit and to fulfilling his vision of a more just, healthier world.