Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw conferred "Knight of the Legion of Honour"
Biotech pioneer Kiran Mazumdar Shaw conferred with highest French distinction “Knight of the Legion of Honour” in recognition of her outstanding contribution and dedication to the Biosciences and innovative research in this field.
New Delhi, 22 October 2016
On behalf of the President of the French Republic, H.E. Mr Alexandre Ziegler, Ambassador of France to India,conferred the highest French civilian distinction, Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour), on Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson and Managing Director of Biocon Limited.
The honour comes in recognition of her outstanding contribution and dedication to the Biosciences and innovative research in this field. It also salutes her pioneering achievements in biotechnology and commitment to providing affordable, quality healthcare globally.
Speaking on the occasion of the investiture ceremony, Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler said, “It is an honour for me to confer the Légion d’Honneur on Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, a pioneering entrepreneur in biotechnology and research. By providing innovative and affordable treatment for widespread diseases like diabetes, cancer, and auto-immune diseases, she has made a laudable difference to the lives of many.”
Accepting the award, Ms Mazumdar-Shaw said, “I am deeply humbled and filled with joy to receive this great honour from French Government. I am thankful to the selection committee and French Government for bestowing the ‘Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur’ on me. Certainly, I shall cherish this award for rest of my life. France has a very special place in my heart since both my sisters-in-law are French. Moreover, I do believe that India and France are natural partners in Biosciences and Research. I owe this recognition to my wonderful team at Biocon who have joined me in my mission to harness the power of Biotechnology to provide affordable access to life saving biopharmaceuticals for Cancer and Diabetes”.
Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is a pioneer of the biotechnology industry in India and the founder of the country’s leading biotechnology enterprise, Biocon. A widely acknowledged thought leader, she has been named, inter alia, among the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine, ‘100 Most Powerful Women’ by Forbes magazine, and Fortune’s ‘Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Asia-Pacific.’ She holds key positions in various industry, educational, government and professional bodies.
She is equally known for her philanthropic initiatives directed at marginalized communities. She thus conducts telemedicine initiatives, health awareness programmes, public health and sanitation initiatives and preventive screenings for oral and cervical cancer through the Biocon Foundation’s primary healthcare centres. She has also established the 1,400-bed Mazumdar-Shaw Cancer Center in Bangalore to deliver affordable world-class cancer care services to patients, irrespective of socio-economic status, while the Mazumdar Shaw Center for Translational Research, a non-profit research institute, is dedicated to developing scientific breakthroughs for treating a wide range of human diseases.
Ms Mazumdar-Shaw’s rich contributions to research, innovation and affordable healthcare have been recognized by several national and international awards, including two of India’s highest civilian honours, the Padma Shri (1989) and the Padma Bhushan (2005).
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The Legion d’Honneur, created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, la Légion d’Honneur (“the Legion of Honour”) is the highest civilian award given by the French Republic for outstanding service to France, regardless of the nationality of the recipients. The President of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the Order of the Legion of Honour.
Dear Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw,
We are today gathered here around you, along with your family, your friends, as well as prominent representatives of a spectrum of fields from all over the world, to pay tribute to the extraordinary trajectory of your life.
It is thus a pleasure for me to be here this evening for the investiture ceremony for conferring the insignia of “Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur” - Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour – the highest French distinction for military or civil achievements, instituted in 1804 by Napoleon Bonaparte. This award expresses France’s recognition of Ms Mazumdar-Shaw’s outstanding contribution and dedication to various fields, from her professional achievements in Biotechnology and Research, to her personal involvement in various actions of public interest.
Although a fair number of guests present here know some aspects of it, Ms Mazumdar-Shaw, your life is such a remarkable and inspiring success story, that it is worth being recalled. You first earned a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology in Bangalore and then a Master’s in malting and brewing from Ballarat, Australia. Thereafter, you travelled to Scotland and Ireland to improve your technical and scientific knowledge as a master brewer, a profession that long remained the preserve of men.
Later, returning to India, you founded your start-up, Biocon India, with an Irish partner in 1978, at a time when the biotechnology industry was in its infancy. Thus, obtaining capital for it was a challenge, obtaining space for it was a challenge, and obtaining these for a project spearheaded by a woman in those times was a yet greater challenge. I am told that you began alone, in a very basic set-up – a garage in Bengaluru – your faith in this field unshakeable, and the foresight of the entrepreneur in you sure of the tremendous potential of your field. You had envisioned a future in biotechnology in the service of humankind, and undeterred by the hurdles that came your way, you used your knowledge of the chemistry of beers to explore enzymes.
Recognition of your achievement in this high-tech field followed, including the prestigious Padma Shri in 1989, which was but one of many more accolades to come. You continued on this already impressive path, rapidly taking up the challenge of integrating your business in the increasingly complex innovation ecosystem, starting from fundamental research to clinical research and trials. In doing so, you founded two other companies: Syngene and Clinigene, which were later merged.
Thereafter, you went from strength to strength. Your contribution has been particularly significant in the treatment of widespread diseases like diabetes, cancer, and auto-immune diseases. Given the number of people affected by these maladies each year, the scope of your action is broad, and almost everybody has been, is or will be concerned by the achievements you have rendered possible.
I would now like to dwell on another aspect of your attainments. Being a successful professional is hard to achieve, but it did not prevent you from being a responsible citizen. Thus, your entrepreneurial spirit goes hand in hand with your commitment to various socially responsible actions, conceived to make the progress in your field useful for the greater good for the greatest number possible. You established the Biocon Foundation, dedicated to social and economic inclusion and equal access to affordable, quality healthcare services and educational opportunities. Your expertise is well-known today, and you are a wise counsellor of many public bodies, involving not only public health policies but also other fields like urban development.
This diversified path earned you many titles of doctor honoris causa from various prestigious universities all around the world.
In a few minutes, during your acceptance speech, you will, I hope, give us some insights into the secrets behind your superlative achievements. But as I think of all the daunting obstacles that came your way, I feel that you are the very embodiment of “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” As a woman in what were and, unfortunately still are, very male-dominated fields, without any wealthy family backing, you relied on your own resources, your enterprising mind, and your ability to stay true to your ambitious, humanitarian vision for a better future. You have achieved great feats that have made you one of the most well-respected business leaders, whether at home or abroad. You are regarded as a global thought leader and, as a pioneer of the biotechnology industry in India, you have been named among the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine, ‘100 Most Powerful Women’ by Forbes magazine, and Fortune’s ‘Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Asia-Pacific.’ And that’s just to name a few.
You are thus in many respects, an exemplary Indian business personality, having shown the way to innovation, having been amongst the first to repose faith in the talent and abilities of Indian entrepreneurship, long before the start-up boom, long before “start-up” became a watchword.
Hence, it is a great pleasure for me to confer on you the insignia of Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, but before proceeding to the official ceremony, I would like to underline that you also have strong links with France. A part of these links is personal: you have family in our country, and I take this opportunity to greet those who are amongst us this evening. I know that you are a true friend of our country, and we hope that your dynamic scientific temperament will in the future contribute to strengthening the cooperation and friendship between France and India even further.
Dear Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw,
For all the reasons I, and in recognition of your distinguished merit, the President of the French Republic has decided to honour you with the award of “Chevalier dans l’Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur”.
As required by Protocol, I will now proceed in French.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, au nom du Président de la République, nous vous faisons “Chevalier de l’ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur ».