Kailash Chandra Upadhyaya earned his BSc (Agriculture) from Agra University and MSc (1966) from Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. After that, he obtained PhD (Genetics) (1971) from Pennsylvania State University, USA for his studies on chloroplast and mitochondrial DNA of several plant species under the supervision of Professor Paul Grun. Thereafter (1971-73), he was in the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Delaware and worked out a genetic basis of somatic cell fusion in slime mold, Dydimium iridis. On returning to India in 1973, he joined Genetic Unit, Department of Pediatrics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi as a CSIR Scientists' Pool Officer and worked on effect of protein-calorie malnutrition on structural integrity of chromosomes in children. In 1975, he joined the School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. Presently, he is working as Professor in the School. He was also Vice-Chancellor of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (2002-05).
Academic and Research Achievements: While at JNU, he established a Molecular Genetics Laboratory. He started teaching courses on genetics, molecular biology, molecular genetics and genetic engineering. His research centred on characterization of heat shock proteins, isolation and sequencing of calmodulin (CaM) and phenyl alaline ammonia-lyase (PAL) genes from Arabidopsis. He was among the first in India to have sequenced two plant genes in late eighties. He analyzed the transcriptional controls underlying regulation of the two genes utilizing two different assays, i.e. DNA-protein interactions and transgenic plants. While upregulation of CaM gene led to transgenic plants tolerant to salt stress, upregulation of PAL resulted in plants tolerant to fungal infection. He later worked on development of DNA-based molecular markers (AFLP) in chickpea and genomics of retrotransposons and retroelement-based molecular markers in chickpea and pigeonpea. The retroelement panzee1 in pigeonpea was shown to be regulated in response to various biotic and abiotic stresses. Recently, his laboratory has obtained transgenic grapes tolerant to fungal diseases by over-expressing rice and bacterial chitinase genes. Over his long research career, he has mentored a large number of students including 26 PhD students.
Other Contributions: Upadhyaya along with his colleagues was instrumental in setting up a DBT-supported Centre for Plant Molecular Biology (CPMB) in the School of Life Sciences at JNU which was upgraded in 1998 as National Centre for Plant Genome Research. He worked for establishing the National Institute for Plant Genome Research.
Awards and Honours: Prof. Upadhyaya has been Max-Planck and Senior DAAD Fellow in Germany and a Senior Fulbright Fellow in USA. He was elected Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad.