Alla Venkata Rama Rao received BSc (Chemistry) from Andhra University, BSc (Technology) (1960) in Pharmaceuticals and Fine Chemicals from Bombay University, and PhD (Technology) (1964) while working at National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune under the supervision of K Venkataraman. He spent two years as postdoctoral fellow with EJ Corey at Harvard University and worked on the total synthesis of maytansine, an antitumor macrolide. He was awarded the DSc (Chemistry) from Bombay University in 1987. Rama Rao joined NCL as scientist B and rose to the position of Scientist F and head of the organic chemistry division in 1980. He moved from NCL to the Regional Research Laboratory, Hyderabad as its Director in 1985 and subsequently renamed it as Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT). Under his leadership, IICT emerged as CSIR's most reputed Institute. His contributions to transform IICT into "The most improved laboratory in India" were recognized by Sir John Madox (Editor, Nature, December, 1993). He was visiting Scientist at Imperial College of Science and Technology, London where he worked with DHR Barton. After his retirement as Director IICT, he established AVRA Laboratories Pvt Ltd and became a scientist entrepreneur.
Academic and Research Achievements: During the early part of his stay at NCL, Rama Rao worked on the isolation and structural elucidation of plant and insect pigments, and on synthetic dyes. After his return from Harvard University, his researches were marked by some amazing achievements in the synthesis of biologically active natural products such as antitumor antibiotics, macrolide, immunosuppressants, cyclic peptides, etc. representing complexity, diversity and aesthetics of modern asymmetric synthesis. Rama Rao published more than 260 Research papers and mentored 109 Ph D students in organic synthesis.
Other Contributions: Rama Rao has served on several National and International policy making organizations, such as World Health Organization and Ozone Cell of United Nations Environmental Protection Agency. His outstanding contributions in industrial research helped the Indian drug industry not only to establish a strong base for indigenous production of several essential drugs at much cheaper price but also led to exports.
Awards and Honours: Dr Rama Rao was conferred Padma Shree (1991), Technology Award by the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) (1994), K G Naik Gold Medal (1982), VASVIK Award (1984), UDCT Distinguished Alumni and UDCT Diamond Award (1994), CSIR Technology Award (1993), CSIR Business Prize (1994) and Asiatic Society Medal (1992), Chemical Research Society Gold Medal (2006), Indian Science Congress Presidential Gold Medal (2007), Institute of Chemical Technology Platinum Award (2009). He was elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad and TWAS (1995).