By Alex Michael Binoy
Over the years, India has given a number of innovations to the world. O
ne of those was on October 3, 1978, when Dr Subhash Mukherjee became the first physician in India and the second in the world to create a test tube baby. Sadly, his contribution was not recognised until long after his death.
To commemorate his achievement, the Lions Clubs International and Dr Khurds Infertility Centre organised a seminar on Saturday, at which the myths and facts about test tube babies were explained.
“My guru, Dr Baidyanath Chakravarthy, created India’s third test tube baby. Everytime I go to Calcutta to meet him, I hear a lot of stories of Dr Subhash Mukherjee. And a few weeks ago, I realised that not a lot of people know much about Mukherjee and his work. And it struck me then that Kanupriya Agarwal, India’s first test tube baby, was celebrating her 40th birthday on October 3. So, my team along with the Lion Club decided to go ahead with this,” said Dr Sanjeev Khurd, an IVF Specialist and Lions Clubs’s district chairman of human fertility and reproductive health.
“Along with Kanupriya’s birthday celebration, we wanted to use this opportunity to dispel the myths about IVF technology and test tube babies. It is natural to have many questions and thoughts when new technologies appear. But some of these could be negative. This seminar was called to talk about the positives of IVF and its limitations, too. Science is growing and society should understand its every growth,” he added.
The guest of honour at the event was Kanupriya ‘Durga’ Agarwal, the world’s second test tube baby and Sunit Kumar Mukherjee, the embryologist who worked with Mukherjee in creating Durga. In India, the news of ‘Durga’ was not well received in those days and there were only 14 in-vitro fertilisation babies born in the first year. Now, the market has grown with at least 3.5 million babies being born every year around the world with the help of fertility treatment.
Sunit Kumar said, “Subhash Mukherjee was the first doctor who used the frozen embryo transfer method. His method is now considered to be more simple, safe and has the highest success rate. He was the first person in the world to prove that testosterone has a potent effect which causes neurotrophic effect.”
Several books have been written on Mukherjee’s life. “There is one book that contains his research — both published and unpublished, his diaries and his documents. He was a great scientist and innovator — what happened to him later was unfortunate. It was proof that our nation couldn’t even hold on to its own assets.”
Agarwal also spoke at the event on the occasion of her 40th birthday. “I have only three pieces of advice to give. Be brave. I would not be here if Dr Mukherjee had not taken a risk. Second, don’t be scared to say sorry. Dr T C Anand Kumar taught me not to be afraid to say sorry.” Kumar was initially recognised as the doctor to produce India’s first test tube baby. But when he discovered the papers of Mukherjee, he took off his crown and ensured Mukherjee’s work was recognised. Agarwal added, “Third, innovate. We need more intellectual property in India. We have 1 billion people and such few intellectual properties. If you wish to give me a birthday gift, believe in these three things for me.”