Joseph Thomas did his PhD (1962) from University of Bombay, Mumbai. He was Head, Biological Nitrogen Fixation Laboratory, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai; Executive Director, Biotechnology and Seeds, SPIC, Chennai; and Honorary Director, Centre for Biotechnology, SPIC Science Foundation, Chennai.
Academic and Research Achievements: Thomas had keen interest in biological nitrogen fixation, and biotechnology. He established that heterocysts of cyanobacteria are the site of nitrogen fixation. He pioneered the use of radioactive nitrogen (13N) and demonstrated the glutamine synthetase-glutamate synthase pathway in microbes and plants. His other major contributions related to the mechanism of salt tolerance, sodium transport metabolism and organization of nif genes in cyanobacteria, biochemical characterization of glutamine synthetases as well as legume-Rhizobium interactions. At SPIC, he developed many many useful products which were commercialized. The BIODART series of enzymes were developed at the Foundation and these include protease, amylase and tannase. BIOGOLD series of biofertilizers used a novel technology to deliver active inoculants to the farmer and were very popular. A botanical pesticides by SPIC Biotech Division under the brand name NEEMGOLD was developed.
Other Contributions: He established the Centre for Biotechnology at SPIC Science Foundation, Chennai; and also served as Member, Guha Research Conference, CSIR Governing Body and its Society, Research Council of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow and of International Advisory Committee on Biological Nitrogen Fixation. He served on Editorial Board of Indian Journal of Experimental Biology.
Awards and Honours: Dr Thomas received the FICCI Award (1991-92). He was elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore and National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi.