Inder M. Verma was born in 1947 in Sangrur, Punjab, India and educated at Lucknow University. He received his Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel in 1971.

After his PhD, Verma conducted his postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Nobel laureate David Baltimoreat MIT. In 1974, Verma joined the Salk Institute as an Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1979, and Professor in 1985. He also holds an Adjunct Professor appointment at the University of California, San Diego. Among his professional activities, he is a member of the Board of Scientific Governors of The Scripps Research Institute.

Verma is a recognized leaders in gene therapy, retrovirology, and cancer. His work on viruses and cancer led to the identification of several oncogenes, including c-fos, and their function in normal cells. His development of virus mediated gene transfer techniques, including a stripped down version of HIV, has become the foundation for gene therapy to cure several congenital as well as adult onset diseases including cancer. The viral vectors are routinely used in molecular biology laboratories.