Academic / Scientific contributions:
Credited with Ph. D. and D. Sc. degrees in Zoology, Professor Dash has significantly contributed in the field of biomedical science, particularly on transmission biology of tropical diseases affecting the poorest of the poor. Prof. Dash has devoted his career in developing various tools / technologies / strategies in biomedical science. His notable contributions include: establishing Anopheles annualris as an important vector in rural areas and identification of telomerase activity in gametocytes of Plasmodium falciparum. He demonstrated efficacy of drug combinations. He was instrumental in proving the efficacy of Mass Drug Administration (MDA) in India. He has also shown that supplementing MDA with Integrated vector management can prevent LF transmission more efficiently than MDA alone. This strategy has now been included in the LF elimination strategic plan by the World Health Organisation. He has contributed in developing an animal model for chemotherapeutic and immunological studies for parasitic diseases. Dr Dash also has developed a simple technique for detecting dengue virus antigens in desiccated mosquitoes which serves as an important tool for surveillance. His contributions on climate change impact on infectious diseases are noteworthy. He has played an important role in involving community in control of diseases like malaria, lymphatic filariasis, visceral leishmaniasis, dengue and chickungunya, and soil transmitted helminthiasis. His contribution in the field of ecological succession of mosquito species distributed in India is most striking. Specially, the research output correlating the change in vector borne disease epidemiology to the change in climate parameters are exemplary. His work on impact of climatic changes on tropical diseases is considered to be models in implicating climatic fluctuations to changes in these diseases.
His contribution on modern biology of disease vectors is especially significant and meaningful. For example, he was a part of research that sought answers to the question on the molecular taxonomy of Indian mosquito vectors. Employing the multiple genetic fragments with DNA sequencing studies Prof. Dash has contributed in inferring the phylogenetic interrelationships among Indian malaria vectors. Interestingly, the findings corroborated the inferences based on the traditional cyto-taxonomical approaches. Besides research on malaria vectors, he researched on malaria parasites which includes elucidation of uniqueness of the evolutionary patterns of the chloroquine-resistant gene in P. falciparum. Prof. Dash has contributed in comparative genomic studies of genomes of malaria parasites, P. vivax and P. falciparum. The results, for the first time have revealed significant genomic similarities between the two genomes in comparison to essential differences between these two species in terms of epidemiology and pathogenicity. He has also contributed in developing novel genomic markers to understand the population structure and demographic history of Indian P. vivax. Prof. Dash’s contribution in scanning the whole genome of the African malaria vector, An. gambiae has been remarkable. Through whole genome scan of this species of malaria vector, which is a model organism for other species of Anopheles has revealed interesting genomic organization of this species. To be noted that such information has been widely used in inferring many evolutionary phenomena of the genomes of Indian malaria vectors. The genomic study of Indian isolates of P. falciparum and P. vivax has become a benchmark. Prof. Dash has also contributed in developing novel genomic markers to understand the population structure and demographic history of Indian P. vivax. In this context, he has contributed into unraveling the interesting genomic organization functional gene in the malaria parasite, P. falciparum. Such information is unique and has provided baselines for the study of genetic pattern of drug resistance and virulence associated genes in field populations of this species. He has also contributed in understanding the genomic organization of many human genes that are responsible for providing resistance to malaria infection. Using comparative genomic approaches he has contributed in the basic understanding that how such genes are evolving in humans. One of the major contributions Prof. Dash has made in the field of molecular epidemiology is the determination of high proportion of mixed-species malaria parasite infections in India. Applying an array of molecular protocols and using PCR diagnostic approaches, he has contributed to the understanding that mixed infections of the two principal malaria parasites, P. falciparum and P. vivax can be very high.
Apart from laboratory level research activities, he also undertook field trials of various intervention measures. These activities were a unique experience to translate science into deliverable products and testing them for actual use to monitor the performance under field conditions. He has also made significant contributions on epidemiology of malaria in India and the challenges faced by the Indian programme to control this disease. He also studied along with his colleagues the histopathology of fatal respiratory distress caused by P. vivax malaria in India. All these contributions are reflected in his publication list attached. He has published more than 250 papers in reputed peer reviewed journals; with high citation index, ‘h’ index and ‘i10’ index. Prof. Dash has contributed in developing human resources in India. This is evidenced by the fact that he has guided as many as 12 Ph. D. students and several post-doctoral fellows who have become successful scientists.
About 40 years ago, Dr Dash had the opportunity of being trained as a biologist. The early days of investigations from a purely basic biological point of view did result in greater understanding of infectious diseases in human communities. But it also rapidly led to the realization that he needs to broaden his knowledge base as well as approach into other emerging areas of biology. His long years of experience in ICMR and a stint with Department of Biotechnology, Govt of India offered opportunities to specialize and address a variety of issues such as parasite biology, epidemiology, transmission biology, immunology and molecular biology of tropical diseases. The journey through these years made him play diverse roles:
As a field biologist he worked amongst tribals in remote areas like in remote areas of Orissa / Bihar border complex for nearly 5 years. These long years of experience in the field at a grass root level in the early phase of his career enabled him to understand the intricacies of field biology. It also made him realize the ground realities and challenges associated with the ‘system’ through which one needs to work in order to implement health related research and control activities. It was a humbling phase to understand the real problems of rural India – this experience has been a source of strength and inspiration in his contributions to evolve improved health policy at global, regional and national levels in later years.
The next phase was as an academician and bench level scientist at the Regional Medical Research Centre, an ICMR unit at Bhubaneswar. Prof. Dash spent about 15 years in training and teaching Ph.D. students and publishing research papers in peer reviewed journals of international repute; this was a phase during which all the departments of the new ICMR institute at Bhubaneswar had to be built from scratch. He had the privilege of building the Divisions of Medical Entomology & Parasitology to make them one of the most productive units in the country. All through this phase he was a master trainer of trainers in the area of malaria and lymphatic filariasis, imparting practical working knowledge to health care professionals as well as grass root level investigators in government and non-government organizations. Extending consultancy services to national and international agencies were part of his routine activities. This was the time when he was matured enough to take responsibilities of premier research institutes of the country and moved to Institute of Life sciences, Bhubaneswar as its Director.
Leadership and administrative capabilities:
Prof. Dash has spent almost 12 years as Director of different research institutions under Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Department of Biotechnology, Government of India – this phase of his career started as Director of Institute of Life Sciences at Bhubaneswar which has been the most challenging phase in his scientific leadership. This ambitious institute was addressing issues like molecular biology of aging, malaria, cancer; stress biology and environmental biology. Five years of his stay led to unprecedented progress of the institute in terms of its performance. The momentous occasion was when the then Prime Minister of India dedicated the Institute of Life Sciences to the nation during the last part of his tenure there on 15th July 2003. After this successful tenure he resumed the Directorship of the Regional Medical Research Centre (now National Institute for Research on Tribal Health) at Jabalpur, when the centre’s building was destroyed by a big earthquake and was to be made functional by establishing the institute which he successfully did. He made many tremendous successful efforts in unserved tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh in India arranging work elements deep into Naxal terror affected areas. He assumed the Directorship of the prestigious National Institute of Malaria Research, New Delhi which had 12 field stations all over the country with a huge staff strength. He was responsible for total reorganization and effectively demonstrated malaria control in many areas, developed new tools / products and transferred them to the national disease control programmes. He gave tremendous insight into bio -environmental control and desert malaria. He was also in charge of other institutes under ICMR like Centre for Research in Medical Entomology, Madurai and Desert Medicine Research Centre, Jodhpur, where he introduced good research acumen.
During his tenure as a Director at different institutes, he established state of the art laboratories and each institute showed tremendous growth during his tenure. He created a brand name for the institutes; nurtured and provided opportunities for a new group of academicians who have excelled in innovation and research; created students who are valued not only in the country but internationally; steeped in communities seeking their involvement in research and disease control programmes of the country; created world class infrastructure and innovative research methodologies which were enabling factors for academicians to become an important part of the community; concentrated on enhancing communication skills as well as IT skills of academicians and emphasized on gender enabling and human rights access and value ethics and equity in its actions. Worked with a vision in these institutes with proven leadership qualities, administrative capabilities as well as teaching and research credentials.
Creating platforms for academicians / scientists:
An important activity he has passionately pursued over the last 20 years has been creating platforms for academicians / scientists to come together and share their ideas. A number of National and International seminars and / or workshops have been organized by Prof Dash under the aegis of different societies and academies: National Environmental Science Academy and National Academy of Vector Borne Diseases etc. Long years of association in Science with a balanced blend at both the bench level and in the field and as an organizer and science / academic manager have taught him not only the power of modern biology for solving real issues on health care but also to be sensitive to all categories of people (from a field level worker to a scientist addressing cutting edge issues) involved in this noble activity.
After working in research and guiding Ph.D. for more than 35 years at the Institute of Life Sciences and Indian Council of Medical Research, he joined the South East Asia Regional Office of the World Health Organisation as Scientist and Regional Adviser and spearheaded the programmes on neglected tropical diseases, climate change etc. at the international level. Pioneered in developing several technical strategies and guidelines followed by many countries. Dr Dash played a key role in strengthening and establishing research and academic capacities; and networking of centres of excellence in in tropical diseases in many countries in South East Asia Region. He delivered plenary lectures at several meetings at global level and organised a number of international meetings in many countries. During this tenure; Sri Lanka, Thailand and Maldives reached the point of elimination of lymphatic filariasis, a disease affecting the poorest of the poor. The burden of this disease was also significantly reduced in many countries including India. Strategies developed under his leadership are now adopted for elimination of Kala-azar and control & prevention of dengue. Dr Dash contributed to the development of the global strategies for malaria control and elimination and also the global strategy on dengue. During this period, Dr Dash demonstrated exceptional organizational ability, accomplishing many complex tasks in complicated situations in many countries including India, through diligence, foresight and sound judgment. Through his capable leadership, he inspired all personnel who worked with him to such an extent that all assigned missions were performed consistently in an exemplary manner in management of neglected tropical diseases in marginalized communities.
Distinguished Scientist Chair: After superannuation from the World Health Organisation, Dr Dash occupied the “Distinguished Scientist Chair” at the Institute of Life Sciences (Department of Biotechnology, Government of India), Bhubaneswar since 11th May 2015.
Current Position: On 6th August 2015, Dr. Dash joined the Central University of Tamil Nadu as Vice Chancellor
Ranking among top ten authors in the area of immunology & microbiology, and medicine:
Elsevier has recently reported in their SCOPUS database the ranking of Indian Scientists from their publication for the year 2002-14 based on various evaluation parameters. Prof. Dash is rated as top rank in the subject area of Immunology and Microbiology. Also, in the subject area of Medicine he is ranked 7th among the top 10 Indian researchers. (Source: Department of Science and Technology has recently published the document on International Comparative Research Base (December, 2015), Page No. 103 and 104.)