Dewan Singh Bhakuni earned his BSc, MSc and DPhil degrees from Allahabad University. In 1958 he took up a teaching assignment. He joined Central Drug Research Institute (CFRI), Lucknow (1959), then moved to National Botanical Garden, Lucknow (now NBRI, Lucknow) (1962). He subsequently obtained DIC and PhD degrees under the supervision of Sir Derek Barton at Imperial College of Science & Technology, London. After returning to India he joined CDRI, Lucknow (1965). He was awarded DSc degree of London University (1978) for contributions to alkaloid biosynthesis. He was Visiting Professor in Concerpcion University, Chile, South America (1972-73). Bhakuni retired from CDRI (1990) as Director General Grade Scientist and became a CSIR Emeritus Scientist.
Academic and Research Achievements: Bhakuni undertook chemical investigation of Indian medicinal plants. He isolated several biological active compounds, established their structure and stereochemistry. He was one of the pioneers in India in alkaloid biosynthesis and studied a large variety of biologically active alkaloids. He demonstrated stereo-specificity of enzymatic reactions using radioactive and optically active precursors. He introduced a new approach for determining the absolute configuration and studied aberrant biosynthesis of alkaloids in higher plants. He initiated and coordinated a research programme entitled 'Anticancer agents from Indian Medicinal Plants'. Bhakuni investigated plants with confirmed anticancer activity and isolated several anticancer compounds. He also synthesized nucleoside, rationally designed as inhibitors or substrates of enzymes involved in the metabolism of nucleosides of Leishmania parasites and of enzymes involved in viral multiplication. Several of these nucleosides exhibited high order of anti-leishmanial, antiviral and antiallergic activities. He developed mass spectrometric and NMR spectroscopic techniques for characterization of compounds. Later on, he started working on marine organisms. He evaluated and chemically investigated the active extracts of marine organism that furnished several compounds of interest, and thus significantly contributed to the chemistry of marine organisms. Bhakuni has published 300 research articles and written a book entitled Bioactive Marine Natural Products (Springer, NY). He has mentored a large number of students including 40 PhD students.
Other Contributions: Bhakuni initiated a multidisciplinary programme entitle 'Bioactive Substances from Indian Ocean' at CDRI, Lucknow which is still continuing. He served as an INSA Council Member (1982-84).
Awards and Honours: Among the several honours and prizes that he received are: Dr Sukh Dev Endowment Lecture of NCL, Pune (1951); the SS Bhatnagar Prize (1975); Ranbaxy Research Award (1988); Sir CV Raman Award (1989); Acharya PC Ray Memorial Award (2000); UGC Lecturer (1982); Platinum Jubilee Lecture of ISCA (1993); and Dr RC Shah Memorial Lecture of Bombay University (1993). He has been President, Indian Chemical Society (1996-97); President, Sectional Committee of ISCA (1994) and is a Fellow of National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad.