Elankumaran Subbiah of Blacksburg, associate professor of virology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, died on Sept. 2 in Chennai, India, following a brief illness.
Subbiah, 55, was in India overseeing a veterinary student exchange program with his alma mater, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS). He is survived by his wife, Ruby, sons Pradeep and Praveen, granddaughter Nila, his mother, five brothers, and two sisters.
A nationally renowned virologist, Subbiah studied human and animal viruses and the control of diseases produced by them. He also investigated the use of certain viruses as treatments for invasive tumors and the development of novel, non-invasive immunization strategies to control viral diseases.
“Dr. Subbiah was an excellent molecular virologist who was truly dedicated to the field. He was well respected among his colleagues and doing cutting-edge research,” said S. Ansar Ahmed, professor and head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.
Subbiah and his colleague Nammalwar “Nathan” Sriranganathan used a small grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop an exchange program that sent students at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine to TANUVAS for six weeks to gain first-hand experience on animal health and clinical cases in southern India. In return, TANUVAS sent eight students and faculty members to receive training in Blacksburg and College Park.
“He did all of his work with passion,” Ahmed added. “When he was in India overseeing the DVM exchange program, he took care of the students well to make sure they were comfortable and all of their needs were met. For most of them, it was their first experience in a subtropical country, and he made their experience a valuable one.”
In 1999, Subbiah joined the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine as a faculty researcher at the University of Maryland campus, where he worked under Siba Samal, associate dean for the Maryland campus and head of the University of Maryland’s Department of Veterinary Medicine.
After seven years in College Park, Maryland, he joined the veterinary college’s Blacksburg campus as an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. Subbiah, who is a faculty member in the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease, was named an associate professor in 2012. That year, he also earned the Pfizer Award for Veterinary Research Excellence, the college’s highest research honor.
“Dr. Subbiah has established a legacy that will endure into the future,” said Cyril Clarke, dean of the veterinary college. “The role that he played in establishing our partnership with TANUVAS, his discoveries in the area of viral infectious diseases, and his mentorship of veterinary students, graduate students, and postdoctoral associates will continue to have a positive impact on global animal health as well as public health.”
X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology, described Subbiah as “a great friend and colleague.”
“Kumaran was an outstanding virologist and a wonderful mentor to his students and postdoctoral associates,” said Meng, who had recently worked with Subbiah to identify a novel virus causing economic losses in the U.S. swine industry. “He was in India because he was so passionate and dedicated about the veterinary student exchange program between the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and TANUVAS. Thanks to Kumaran’s tireless efforts over the years, both our veterinary students and the TANUVAS students have benefited tremendously from this international student exchange program.”
After growing up in a small town outside of Chennai, India, Subbiah completed a veterinary degree, a master’s degree in veterinary microbiology, and a Ph.D. in veterinary microbiology from the Madras Veterinary College, which is now part of TANUVAS. He achieved Diplomate status in virology with the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists in 2004.
A funeral was held at Subbiah’s birthplace outside of Chennai, India, on Sept. 3.