The Centre has appointed Rajesh Gokhale, 54, as Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, according to a note from the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet on Tuesday. Mr Gokhale takes over from Renu Swarup, who is set to retire on the 31st of this month.

Dr Gokhale, an immunologist, known for throwing new light on aspects of tuberculosis, was former Director at the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB). He is now a professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune and until recently, was a senior scientist at the National Institute of Immunology, Delhi.

The DBT is a department that has played a crucial role during the pandemic, particularly in the development of indigenous vaccines.

Mr Gokhale won the Infosys Life Sciences award, 2013 and was among the few scientists at the CSIR who founded a startup biotech company, following a change in policy in CSIR rules permitting scientists to take a stake in startups.

However, this took a turn for the worse with a departmental inquiry, a few years on, on alleged ‘conflict of interest’ in his position as a director of a CSIR lab and a scientist with a founder stake in a company. This prompted enquiries by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and through several expert committees cleared him, it was only in December 2020 that the matter was finally laid to rest after a Delhi High Court order.

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