Gopinath Balakrish Nair obtained his Masters (Marine Biology) (1977), and Doctoral (Marine Microbiology) (1982) from Annamalai University under the supervision of Professor R Natarajan. He worked at the Department of Microbiology, National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), Kolkata from 1981 to 2000; Director of Laboratory Sciences Division (2000-07), International Center for Diarrhoeal Diseases Research, Dhaka, Bangladesh and Director (2007- ), NICED. He also had postdoctoral training (1987-88) on heat-stable enterotoxins of Vibrio cholerae with Dr Tae Takeda in the Department of Infectious Diseases Research, National Children's Medical Research Center, Tokyo, Japan and was on sabbatical (1994-95) for doing research on molecular epidemiology of V. cholerae in the Department of Microbiology, Kyoto University, Japan with Professor Yoshifumi Takeda. He was also Visiting Scientist at the Laboratory Centre for Disease Control, Ottawa, Canada (1985) and at the Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins University, USA (1992).
Academic and Research Achievements: Nair's early studies were on detection and epidemiology of Campylobacter. Being well known for studies on the molecular epidemiology and molecular ecology of Vibrio cholerae, his notable findings relate to: (i) discovery of the new epidemic serogroup V. cholerae O139 showing clonal variations among strains of epidemic V. cholerae; (ii) detection of virulence genes of V. cholerae and their alleles among environmental strains and their impact on the ecology and epidemiology of V. cholerae; (iii) studies on enteric toxins, especially the heat-stable toxins of enteropathogens and their role in disease; (iv) discovery of a new pandemic strain of Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which subsequently spread to different parts of the world; and (v) detection of hybrid strains of the El Tor biotype of V. cholerae that produce the classical cholera toxin and may be responsible for the increase in the severity of recent cholera. He has guided 26 PhD students and authored over 400 research papers.
Other Contributions: Dr Nair was elected Member of the Subcommittee on the Taxonomy of Vibrionaceae, and International Committee on Systematic Bacteriology (1986- ). He was elected as Member-at-Large of the International Union of Microbiological Society (IUMS), being the first Indian microbiologist to be on the Executive Board of IUMS.
Awards and Honours: Dr Nair was conferred SS Bhatnagar Award for Excellence in Medical Sciences (1998), Certificate of Merit for outstanding contribution to Public Health Education for Vibrio cholerae and Cholera (1994) by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, USA and Professor SC Mahalanobis Memorial Award (1998) by the Physiological Society of India. He was elected Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad (1995), Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) (2004) and Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (2002).