Cyrus Poonawalla Biography
Also Known As: Cyrus S. Poonawalla
Born Country: India
Born in: Pune, India
Famous as: Businessman
Spouse/Ex-: Villoo Poonawalla (m. ?–2010)
father: Soli A. Poonawalla
mother: Gool Poonawalla
siblings: Zavaray Poonawalla
children: Adar Poonawalla
City: Pune, India
education: Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, The Bishop's School
Cyrus Poonawalla is an Indian businessman who is the chairman of the Poonawalla Group. The conglomerate includes the Serum Institute of India, an Indian biotech company known for making pediatric vaccines. It is considered one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers by number of doses produced and sold throughout the world. As per Forbes ranking in 2018, Poonawalla had a net worth of Rs. 73,000 crore and was ranked the seventh richest person in the country, and the 170th richest person in the world. He has received several honors throughout his life. He was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honor, by the Indian Government in 2005 for his contribution to the field of medicine. The same year, he was also given the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by Dr Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister of India. Recently, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science by the University of Oxford.
- Cyrus Poonawalla was born in a family that had old ties to India’s racing circuit, through the family’s Poonawalla Stud Farms. At a young age, Poonawalla realized that since horse racing had no future in a socialist nation like India, he needed to explore other venues. He started experimenting with cars along with a friend. He initially built a $120 prototype sports car, which was modeled on the D-type Jaguar. However, he eventually abandoned the idea of marketing the car when he realized that creating a product for the masses than for the elite would be a smarter move.
- A conversation with a veterinarian at the farm led him into the world of vaccines. He realized that the farm’s retired horses were donated to the Haffkine Institute, which was owned by the government, to make vaccines from horse serum. Poonawalla thought of trying to meet the demand for vaccines in India by extracting the serum from the horses himself, in order to create vaccines at a much cheaper rate.
- The Serum Institute of India was founded by Poonawalla in 1966, and they launched their first therapeutic anti-tetanus serum within two years, and started producing the anti-tetanus vaccines soon after. By 1974, they also introduced the DTP vaccine, which is known for protecting children from diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. In 1981, they created an anti-snake venom serum meant for snakebites.
- The Serum Institute of India was eventually accredited by the World Health Organization in 1994. They started supplying high quality vaccines to the UN Agencies like UNICEF (United Nations’ Children’s Fund) and PAHO ‘Pan-American Health Organization’. By 1998, the company started exporting vaccines to over 100 other countries. Today, it has become one of India’s leading biotech companies and is counted among the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers.
- Other than vaccines, Poonawalla also has strong ties to the horseracing and breeding industry. He was once elected vice chairman of the Asian Racing Federation and has also held various prestigious posts in the horseracing field.
- Cyrus Poonawalla was born in Pune, India, in 1941. He went to The Bishop’s School and later graduated from Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, University of Pune, in 1966.
- He was once married to Villoo Poonawalla; his wife is no more. He has a son, Adar, who is the CEO of the Poonawalla Group.
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