Covid-19 vaccine: Indian academia, start-ups adopting 3-pronged strategy

In this picture taken on April 29, 2020, an engineer shows a plastic model of the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Quality Control Laboratory at the Sinovac Biotech facilities in Beijing. – Sinovac Biotech, which is conducting one of the four clinical trials that have been authorised in China, has claimed great progress in its research and promising results among monkeys. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP) / TO GO WITH Health-virus-China-vaccine,FOCUS by Patrick Baert

New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) Indian academia and start-ups are working, through a three-pronged strategy, on vaccine candidates for coronavirus in the “very strong” Indian vaccine industry, top officials said on Thursday.

During a press briefing, Dr. Vinod Paul, Member NITI Aayog and Professor K. Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Centre, summarised activities on Covid-19 related to science and technology in the areas of vaccines, drug discovery, diagnostics and testing.

The officials said that the vaccine development process is usually slow and fraught with uncertainties. But, in order to succeed against Covid-19, a large number of parallel efforts are needed, which is being done globally and nationally. “Indian academia and start-ups are working on vaccine candidates in the very strong Indian vaccine industry. There are three kinds of attempts being made,” they said.

They added that the first attempt is indigenous efforts. “The second is globally collaborative efforts where Indian organisations are taking a lead role and the third is Indian participation in global efforts. With such a large portfolio, followed by efforts at risk mitigation for manufacturing and stockpiling, success is better assured,” they said.

As per a statement, they said on drug discovery, three approaches have been adopted. “The first is the repurposing of extant drugs to see how effective they are against the virus and in mitigating the consequences of the disease. Second, phyto-pharmaceuticals and extracts from medicinal plants are being tested. Finally, using a variety of approaches, new drug discovery including a ‘Hackathon’ for computational drug discovery is being undertaken,” said the statement.

On the aspect of new tests and testing kits, the officials added that a conglomeration of research efforts have resulted in new tests and testing kits. “These include new tests for detection of the virus and also for antibody detection. The latter is being used for serological studies. The speed of these developments is made possible by the collaborative efforts of our scientists, institutions and science agencies. The regulatory system has also been closely engaged, combining speed with quality,” they said, as per the statement.

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