International Federation for Cell Biology

International Federation
for Cell Biology

Indian Society of Cell Biology

Subhash C. Lakhotia
Cytogenetics Laboratory, Department of Zoology
Banaras Hindu University
Varanasi 221005, India (e-mail: lakhotia@bhu.ac.in)

The Indian Society of Cell Biology (ISCB) was formally established in 1976 to promote the growth of cell biology in India and to provide a platform for exchange of views between the increasing numbers of cell biologists/cytologists working in various university departments and research institutions across the country.

Several universities in post-independent India had active schools of cell biology and/or cytology.  These included Prof. Vishwa Nath (Punjab University and in 1960s at University of Jodhpur), Prof. P. N. Mehra (Punjab University), Prof. G. P. Sharma (Puanjab University), Prof. S. P. Ray-Chaudhuri (Calcutta University and later in 1960s at Banaras Hindu University), Prof. M. R. Rajasekarasetty (University of Mysore), Prof. M. D. L. Srivastava (Allahabad University), Prof. G. K. Manna (Kalyani University), Prof. R. P. Roy (Patna University), Prof. B. R. Seshachar (Delhi University) and Dr. S. M. Sirsat (Cancer Research Institute, Mumbai) among others. By the mid 1970s, several other university departments and research institutes also had active groups in different aspects of cell biology.

A series of Cell Biology Conferences organized during 1960s and early 1970s by the Department of Zoology of Delhi University under the leadership of Prof. B. R. Seshachar and his colleagues (Drs. C. M. S. Dass, V. C. Shah and S. R. V. Rao) catalyzed the establishment of the Indian Society of Cell Biology. The Department of Zoology of Delhi University organized the first Cell Biology Conference in1965. The 2nd to 5th Cell Biology Conferences were held at the same venue in 1967, 1969, 1971 and 1975, respectively. Prof. Seshachar convened the 1st to 3rd Cell Biology Conferences till he superannuated from the department in 1971. Dr. V. C. Shah had left the department in 1969 to take Professor’s chair at the Department of Zoology of Gujarat University. The 4th and 5th Cell Biology Conferences were organized by Profs. C. M. S. Dass and S. R. V. Rao. Given the major interests of the host department and also of many others in the country in those years, most of the presentations at these Cell Biology conferences related to chromosome and cancer cytology and to ultrastructural studies. Only a few of the presentations would really qualify for “cell biology” in the current context. Nevertheless, these Cell Biology Conferences had a good reputation for the quality of presentations. A typical feature of these meetings was the large presence of students from the host department, whose M.Sc. and Ph.D. students not only worked as volunteers to help the outstation guests but also actively participated in the scientific presentations and discussions. In addition, Ph.D. students from several other centres, notably from the Cancer Research Institute (Mumbai, now named as Advanced Centre for Training, Research, and Education in Cancer or ACTREC, Navi Mumbai), Departments of Zoology of Calcultta (now Kolkata) University, Banaras Hindu University, Gujarat University and Mysore University, also attended these meetings in good numbers. These meetings provided for good interactions between the “established cell biologists” and young students because of the encouragements given to discussions during the sessions and during the tea and lunch/dinner breaks. I myself started attending the Cell Biology conferences as a Ph.D. student beginning with the 1969 meeting at Delhi University and have since then attended all the Cell Biology Conferences, except the one held at Madurai in 1985.

During the 4th Cell Biology Conference in 1971, it was felt that a Society for Cell Biology should be launched so that the Cell Biology Conferences can be much more broad-based. However, for the next 3-4 years not much happened since for a variety of reasons the 5th Cell Biology Conference was held only in 1975, instead of 1973, at Delhi University. During this meeting there was a more definitive resolve for establishing an Indian Society of Cell Biology. Prof. Dass was entrusted to steer this activity starting with formulation of the rules and regulations for the proposed Indian Society of Cell Biology with help of Prof. V. C. Shah and Prof. S. R. V. Rao. The basic draft of the constitution of the Society was prepared very meticulously by Prof. Dass. The draft constitution of the proposed Indian Society of Cell Biology was discussed through postal communications between Profs. Dass, Rao, Shah, Mukherjee, Sharma, Bhisey, and others (including myself) following which Prof. C. M.S. Dass and 17 other cell biologists, mostly from the Delhi University signed the Memorandum of Understanding for registration of the Indian Society of Cell Biology (ISCB) with the Registrar of Societies at Delhi in 1976. The registered office of the Society at that time was at the Department of Zoology, Delhi University with C. M. S. Dass, S. R. V. Rao, H. Y. Mohan Ram, R. N. Kapil, K. Vasudeva Rao, D. M. Saxena, G. R. Sapra and M. R. Vijaya raghavan (all from Delhi University) as members of the Governing Body. It was decided that the ISCB should hold its annual meetings at different centres in the country and these meetings be named All India Cell Biology Conference and be serially numbered with the meeting to be held in 1976/1977 as the 1st All India Cell Biology Conference.

The first elected Executive Committee of the ISCB was in place before the 1st All India Cell Biology Conference was held in January 1977. It had Prof. S. P. Ray-Chaudhuri, Emeritus Professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Calcutta and former Head of the Department of Zoology, Banaras Hindu University as its President, Prof. M. R. Rajasekharsetty (Mysore Univ) and Dr. S. M. Sirsat (CRI, Mumbai) as Vice-Presidents, Prof. C. M. S. Dass as Secretary, Prof. S. R. V. Rao as Jt. Secretary, Dr. K. V. Rao (Delhi) as Treasurer and Archana Sharma (Calcutta), V. C. Shah, H. Y. Mohan Ram, A. S. Mukherjee, G. K. Manna, S. C. Lakhotia, G. P. Sharma, D. N. De, S. K. Sen, Y. S. R. K. Sarma, B. N. Chwodaiah, C. C. Das, S. Kumar and T. Sharma as members.
The 1st All India Cell Biology Conference under the banner of the ISCB was held at Varanasi from January 14-16, 1977, being hosted by the Department of Zoology, Banaras Hindu University with Prof. T. Sharma as the Organizing Secretary of this inaugural meeting. By this time, I had joined this department as a faculty and thus was part of the host-team. This meeting coincided with the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the Banaras Hindu University.. This Cell Biology Conference had 11 oral presentation sessions and one poster session. As was the then prevalent trend in cell biological research in the country, the platform sessions included five sessions in Cytogenetics while the six other sessions were devoted, one each, to Ultrastructure & Cytochemistry, Nucleoproteins, Mutagenesis, Malignancy & Differentiation, Cellular Physiology and Enzymes & Hormones.

Following the successful launch of the Society and its first meeting at Varanasi, the All India Cell Biology Conferences have been held annually without fail at different centres in the country (see Table 1). Elections for the office bearers and members of the Executive Committee are conducted by a Returning Officer, appointed by the Executive Committee, every two years through secret postal ballot. Rules and regulations of the ISCB do not allow any existing office-bearer or member of the Executive Committee to re-contest for the same position for at least two terms (i.e., four years). This principle has ensured that the ISCB is administered in a democratic manner and all the active groups in the country can participate in managing affairs of the society. As a consequence of this rule, the Secretariat of the ISCB has been shifting every two years to a different city and this necessitated physical transfer of past records etc. As the society expanded, it was realized that the logistics of transfer of all the records/assets etc every two year interval to a new city in the country was inconvenient. Therefore, the rules were modified in 2000 to provide for a permanent headquarter of the ISCB and appoint an Executive Secretary to maintain records/assets and to communicate with other agencies etc. Accordingly, beginning with the year 2000,  the headquarter of the ISCB is at the Cytogenetics Laboratory of Department of Zoology, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.

The Indian Society of Cell Biology joined the International Federation of Cell Biology in 1978. In 1980, a Cell Biology Newsletter was also launched by the Society in 1980 as a means of informal communication between its members. Two issues are published every year. Besides carrying highlights of Society’s Annual meetings and other activities, these issues also include small reviews/commentaries by its members. Many of the articles have been contributed by its student members. The society has also setup a website (www.iscb.org.in).

The membership of the Indian Society of Cell Biology has steadily grown. The strength, as on October 31, 2008, is: 637 life, 26 ordinary and 232 student members. The increasing membership has catalyzed dynamic and progressive changes in themes of scientific discussions and symposia at its annual meetings. The "flavour" of cell biology presented at each of these meetings during the past 40 years has continuously changed, reflecting the changes in  trends in cell biological studies in the country and elsewhere. The meetings in 1970s were over-whelmed with karyotypes, chromosome banding and ultrastructural changes in cancer cells. The 1980s and 1990s witnessed less of the conventional "cytology" but more presentations involving biochemical, immunological and/or molecular approaches. During the current decade, an increasing presence of molecular cell biological studies is evident at the Cell Biology conferences.

The Society provides a general guideline about the format of the three day conference. Typically, there are several invited lectures, proffered oral presentations and a large number of poster presentations. Each of the three days has time allotted exclusively for poster sessions. The local organizers have the freedom to decide on specific symposia sessions or to invite speakers of their choice to deliver special lectures. However, those who have delivered a lecture during the past three years are generally not re-invited. Currently, the Society organizes two Endowment lectures, the Prof. S. P. Ray-Chaudhuri 75th Birthday and Dr. J. Das Memorial lectures. These are delivered in alternate years. Nominations for these lectures are invited from members of the ISCB and a selection committee appointed for the purpose identifies the speaker, who is presented with a special plaque and a citation. These lectures are held in high esteem in the community of life scientists in the country.

Poster sessions have been encouraged at the Cell Biology meetings from early times and in recent years, around 100 posters are presented at each of the 3 day annual meeting. The oral presentation sessions typically include about 15-20 proffered papers while there are about 15 invited lectures by established and upcoming younger scientists. A number of prizes are presented at each of the conference to young Ph.D. students for their presentations at the oral and poster presentation sessions. As may be expected, there is tough competition for these prizes.
The Society now is working on developing simple cell biology laboratory exercises, which can be conducted at under-graduate and post-graduate class-rooms with minimal laboratory facilities. The Indian Society of Cell Biology has contributed to growth of cell biology in general in the country by providing a common platform for established as well as young researchers to discuss their research findings and interests and appreciate different systems. The young participants specially benefit from the informal ambiance that prevails at these meetings. Each year, we look forward to the three days of cell biology conferences when we meet old friends and get to know new cell biologists.

Table 1. All India Cell Biology Conferences held by the Indian Society of Cell Biology since its inception in 1976


Name of the Conference

Year and Place

Organizer

I All India Cell Biology Conference

1977, Varanasi

Dr T Sharma

II All India Cell Biology Conference

1978, Delhi

Dr CMS Dass

III All India Cell Biology Conference

1979, Mumbai

Dr A N Bhisey

IV All India Cell Biology Conference

1980, Kolkata

Dr A S Mukharjee

V Cell Biology Conference

1981, Bangalore

Dr B N Chowdaiah

VI All India Cell Biology Conference

1982, Delhi

Dr S R V Rao

VII All India Cell Biology Conference

1984, Hyderabad

Dr M R Das

VIII All India Cell Biology Conference

1984, Madurai

Dr G Shanmugam

IX All India Cell Biology Conference

1986, Pune

Dr S P Modak

X All India Cell Biology Conference

1986, Ahmedabad

Dr. V C Shah

XI All India Cell Biology Conference and Symposium on Cell Differentiation

1987, Delhi

Dr. K V Rao

National Seminar on Cell Biology

1989, Mysore

Dr N V Aswathanarayana

XIII All India Cell Biology Conference and Cell Biology Symposia

1989, Hyderabad

Dr M R Das

XIV All India Cell Biology Conference  and  Cell Biology Symposia

1990, Mumbai

Dr D S Pradhan

XV All India Cell Biology Conference  and  Cell Biology Symposia

1992, New Delhi

Dr A Dutta

XVI All India Cell Biology Conference  and Symposia

1993, Varanasi

Dr S C Lakhotia

XVII All India Cell Biology Conference  and  Symposia

1994, Indore

Dr P Sinha

XVIII All India Cell Biology Conference  and Symposia

1995, Lucknow

Dr R Tuli

XIX All India Cell Biology Conference 

1996, Kolkata

Dr J Das

XX All India Cell Biology Conference  and Symposia

1997, Mumbai

Dr A N Bhisey

XXI All India Cell Biology Conference 

1998, Bangalore

Dr M R S Rao

XXII All India Cell Biology Conference

1999, Thiruvananthapuram

Dr M R Das

XXIII All India Cell Biology Conference 

1999, Hyderabad

Dr L Singh, Dr G Pande

XXIV All India Cell Biology Conference 

2000, New Delhi

Dr R Prasad

XXV All India Cell Biology Conference 

2001, Bangalore

Dr C D Rao

XXVI All India Cell Biology Conference 

2002, Mumbai

Dr S M Zingde

XXVII All India Cell Biology Conference  and International Symposium

2004, Pune

Dr D N Deobagkar

XXVIII All India Cell Biology Conference  and Symposum

2005, Chandigarh

Dr T Mukhopadhyay

XXIX All India Cell Biology Conference  and Symposium

2006, Lucknow

Dr D Kar Chowdhari

XXX All India Cell Biology Conference  and Symposium

2007, Delhi

Dr M M Chaturvedi

XXXI All India Cell Biology and Symposium on Stem Cells

2007, Varanasi

Dr J K Roy