Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday took a detailed review of the current status of India’s efforts in vaccine development, drug discovery, diagnosis and testing with regards to COVID-19. The respiratory disease caused by the novel Coronavirus has so far infected over 46,000 people in India and over 3.5 million worldwide. It has also killed over a lakh people in the world.
Indian vaccine companies are well known for their quality, manufacturing capacity and global presence and have come across as innovators in early-stage vaccine development research. Over 30 Indian vaccine companies are in different stages of coronavirus vaccine development, with a few going on to the trial stages.
In a statement, the government said three approaches are being taken in drug development. First, the repurposing of existing drugs. At least four drugs are undergoing synthesis and examination in this category. Secondly, the development of new candidate drugs and molecules are being driven by linking high performance computational approached with laboratory verification. Thirdly, plant extracts and products are being examined for general anti-viral properties.
In diagnosis and testing, several academic research institutions and start-ups have developed new tests, both for the RT-PCR approach and for antibody detection. In addition, by linking laboratories all over the country, capacity for both these kinds of tests have been enormously scaled up. The problem of importing reagents for testing has been addressed by the consortia of Indian startups and industry, meeting current requirements. The current thrust also holds promise for the development of a robust long-term industry in this area.
The review by the PM Modi took note of the extraordinary coming together of academia, industry and government, combined with the speedy but efficient regulatory process, the statement said. The PM desired that such coordination and speed should be embedded into a standard operating procedure.
He emphasized that what is possible in a crisis should be a part of our routine way of scientific functioning. Appreciating the scientific coming together of computer science, chemistry and biotechnology in drug discovery, the PM suggested that a hackathon be held on this subject, linking computer science to synthesis and testing in the laboratory.
(Image credit: https://www.narendramodi.in)