Debi Prosad Burma obtained his PhD degree (1952) from the University of Calcutta. His specialization was in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He was Reader, Department of Biochemistry, University of Calcutta, Calcutta (1961-64); Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi (1964-85); and an INSA Senior Scientist (1986-88).
Academic and Research Achievements: Burma's researches relate to: basic mechanism of separation by paper chromatography, synthesis of sucrose in sugar beet leaf, mechanism of nitrogen fixation by A. vinelandii, metabolism of L-arabinose, cell-free protein synthesis inA. vinelandii, DNA-dependent RNA polymerase in A. vinelandii, and structure and function of ribosomes. Working at BHU with meager facilities he competed with the scientists of the Western World and thus came in contact with the top ribosomologists of the world. He demonstrated that 16S and 23S RNAs from a binary complex. Earlier, there was a lot of speculation about the mechanism of association between the two subunits of ribosome. Dr Burma and his group provided evidence for the first time that RNA-RNA interaction is responsible for the association of 30S and 50S ribosomes to form 70S ribosomes. He further demonstrated that 16S and 23S RNAs not only form a binary complex that looks like ribosomes but also possess weak ribosome-like activity. Several steps of protein synthesis were demonstrated with the addition of a limited number of ribosomal proteins and the requisite factors.
Other Contributions: Burma set up, with the help of his wife M Chakravorty, the Molecular Biology Unit (Centre for Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering) at Banaras Hindu University. He was a Member, Society of Biological Chemists of India, Guha Research Conference (Founder Member), Indian Biophysical Society, Assocation of Clinincal Biochemists of India (also President), Indian Society for Cell Biology, Biochemical Education Committee of IUBMB. He also served as Member of Editorial Boards of: Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics; Proceedings of Indian Academy of Sciences and Indian National Science Academy. He was a Member of INSA Council (1983-85).
Awards and Honours: Burma was a recipient of JC Bose Medal of INSA (1980); Hari Om Ashram Award of UGC; BC Roy Award of Medical Council of India and Amulya Ratan Lectureship of University of Calcutta (twice, 1977 and 1989); JC Ray Memorial Lecture and Medal of IICB (1994); Lifetime Achievement Award by Bose Institute (1998). He was a Fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore; National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad and National Academy of Medical Sciences (India).