RP Sharma obtained MSc (Botany) (1962) and PhD (1969) (Specialization: Cytogenetics) under the supervision of Dr MS Swaminathan. Thereafter, he did postdoctoral research at Biokemsika Institution, University of Stockholm, Sweeden (1970-71); and the Department of Biochemistry, Stanford University, and Biotechnology Centre, Ohio State University, USA (1988). Initially, he worked in the Department of Genetics, subsequently in the National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology (NRC), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi; becoming Professor of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and Project Director at NRC before superannuation (2000). He worked as FAO Chief Technical Advisor/Consultant at Agricultural Genetics Research Institute, Hannoi, Vietnam up to 1992; CSIR Scientist Emeritus up to 2005; and INSA Senior Scientist (up to 2010) at NRC coordinating the DBT-sponsored project on 'generation, characterization and use of EMS induced mutants of upland variety Nagina-22 for functional genomics of rice'.
Academic and Research Achievements: Sharma worked on number of related areas, such as genetics, mutation research, plant genetic engineering, molecular breeding, and GMO biosafety regulations and made notable contributions by: (i) demonstrating the synergistic interactions between gamma-rays and EMS induced mutational lesions using different parameters across the biological systems such as, sex linked recessive lethals and meiotic recombination in Drosophila, suppressor mutations and mitotic recombination in Aspergillus and chlorophyll and morphological mutations in barley; (ii) discovering unique developmental mutants, e.g. wingless (wg), now known as wint [wg+int] because of its close homology to the mammary tumour causing gene int, in mouse and behavioural mutants, e.g. sthumb, a temperature sensitive paralytic mutation and light induced homosexual mutant in Drosophila melanogaster; (iii) developing and releasing a few of the macro and micro mutants of distinct breeding value in barley and chickpea; (iv) developing insect resistant transgenic brinjal lines carrying Bacillus thuringiensis delta endotoxin crystal protein gene (cry 1Ac); (v) constructing molecular map of Brassica juncea and tagged white rust resistance gene with molecular markers for marker assisted breeding; (vi) and isolating and characterizing macro and micro mutants in rice for functional genomic studies. He edited several books and published more than 150 research papers.
Other Contributions: Sharma played a key role in the development and implementation of the current Biosafety Guidelines of the Department of Biotechnology for development and handling of the Genetically Modified Crops. He also served as Member of the INSA Council.
Awards and Honours: Professor Sharma won the Om Prakash Bhasin Award (1999); and Science Congress Millennium Plaque of Honour (2003). He was elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore; National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad; and National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi (Secretary, 2002-04).