Cyrus Poonawalla, visionary founder of Serum Institute of India, a global leader in vaccine manufacturing.
Business Leaders

Cyrus Poonawalla – A Visionary Leader of Poonawalla Group

Early Life and Education

Born in 1941 in Pune, India, Cyrus Poonawalla was immersed in a family with deep ties to the Indian racing circuit through Poonawalla Stud Farms. He attended the Bishop School and later graduated from the Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, University of Pune, in 1966.

Cyrus Poonawalla, visionary founder of Serum Institute of India, a global leader in vaccine manufacturing.

Entrepreneurial Journey

Cyrus Poonawalla’s entrepreneurial journey began with a realization that the Indian horse racing industry faced limited prospects in a socialist environment. Alongside a friend, he ventured into automotive innovation, developing a prototype sports car inspired by the D-type Jaguar. However, recognizing the market potential lay elsewhere, he pivoted his focus.

Founding of Serum Institute of India

In 1966, Cyrus founded the Serum Institute of India, marking a pivotal moment in his career. The institute swiftly made strides in healthcare by launching therapeutic tetanus serum and subsequently expanding into producing anti-tetanus vaccines. By 1974, the institute introduced the DTP vaccine, crucial for protecting children against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus. Notably, in 1981, they developed an anti-snake venom serum, further solidifying their impact in public health.

Poonawalla Group’s Growth and Impact

Under Cyrus Poonawalla’s leadership, the Poonawalla Group, anchored by Serum Institute of India, has grown into one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, renowned for its global reach and contribution to public health. The institute’s production capacity and distribution network have significantly impacted immunization efforts worldwide.

Achievements and Recognition

Cyrus Poonawalla’s contributions to medicine and industry were honored with the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honor, in 2005. His dedication to advancing healthcare through innovation and production excellence has earned him international acclaim and respect.

Personal Life and Legacy

Cyrus Poonawalla was married to Villoo Poonawalla, and they have a son, Adar Poonawalla, who now serves as CEO of the Poonawalla Group, continuing his father’s legacy. Apart from his pioneering work in healthcare, Cyrus has been actively involved in the horseracing and breeding industry, holding esteemed positions such as vice chairman of the Asian Racing Federation.


Cyrus Poonawalla’s journey from automotive experimentation to revolutionizing vaccine manufacturing reflects his visionary leadership and commitment to global health. His legacy extends beyond business success, embodying a profound impact on public health initiatives and medical advancements worldwide. Today, his enduring influence continues to shape the future of healthcare and innovation.


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