Dr Renu Swarup is a Former Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, where she worked for over 30 years. She was also Chairperson of the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) and briefly held additional charge of the post of Secretary, Department of Science & Technology – the first woman to do so. She currently sits on the board of the International Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance Solutions (ICARS).
After completing her Ph.D. in Genetics and Plant Breeding and Postdoctoral Research from the John Innes Centre, Norwich (UK), Dr Swarup was actively engaged in the planning and implementation of some major national programmes, and in the formulation of India’s biotechnology vision and strategy. She is credited with the establishment of the country’s largest microbial resource centre, the National Centre for Microbial Resource (NCMR). At the DBT, she also led the Covid-19 vaccine, diagnostics and genome sequencing mission for India.
In the course of her work, Dr Swarup has always supported women scientists and has been involved in several initiatives to encourage their participation in scientific and technological research. She was a member of the Task Force on Women in Science, constituted by the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister. She also initiated a DBT scheme called Biotechnology Career Advancement and Re-orientation Programme (BioCARe) for women scientists.
A Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India (NASI), a Life Member of the Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences (TAAS) and a Member of the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD), Dr Swarup has been the recipient of several awards. These include the BioSpectrum Person of the Year Award (2012), the National Entrepreneurship Award (2017), the TiE Delhi-NCR WomENABLER Award (2018), the Dr. P. Sheel Memorial Lecture Award by NASI (2018), the TWAS Regional Prize in Science Diplomacy (2018), the Agriculture Research Leadership Award (2019), the Lifetime Achievement Award for Biotech Policymaker by Golden Jubilee Biotech Park for Women (2021), and the Yashwantrao Chavan National Award (2021). Dr Swarup featured on the list of BW’s Most Influential Women of India in 2019. In acknowledgement of her immense contribution to microbial diversity research, a newly discovered microbial species – Natrialba swarupiae – was named in her honour by the National Centre for Cell Science.