With the focus shifting from containment to treatment of COVID-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted a detailed review of the current status of India’s efforts to develop vaccines, drug discovery, diagnosis and testing.
The government expressed confidence in the competence of Indian vaccine companies, their manufacturing capacity and global presence while stating in a statement that “over 30 Indian vaccines are in different stages of development, with a few entering the trial stages.”
Similarly, drug development has three approaches. First, the repurposing of the existing drugs and at least four drugs are undergoing synthesis and examination in this category.
Second, linking high-performance computational approaches with laboratory verification is driving the development of new candidate drugs and molecules.
Third, scientists are examining plant extracts and products for general anti-viral properties for the development of vaccines as well as drugs.
In diagnosis and testing, several academic research institutions and startups have developed new tests, both for the RT-PCR approach and for antibody detection for development of vaccines, said the government. In addition, by linking laboratories all over the country, the government has enormously scaled up the capacity for both these kinds of tests, the statement added.
Meanwhile, the consortia of Indian startups and firms have addressed the problem of importing reagents for testing, meeting the current requirements. The government insisted that the current thrust also holds promise for the development of a robust long-term industry in this area.
The Prime Minister noted that the “extraordinary coming together” of academia, industry and government in a combined manner with speedy but efficient regulatory process in this hour of crisis when all entities need to work together.
Modi is believed to have said during the meeting that such coordination and speed should be embedded into a standard operating procedure for the research and development of vaccines and drugs.
Appreciating the scientific coming together of computer science, chemistry and biotechnology in drug discovery, Modi suggested that a hackathon be held on this subject, linking computer science to synthesis and testing in the laboratory.
The Prime Minister said that startups could pick successful candidates from the hackathon for further development and scaling up of their efforts.
“This kind of pride, originality and sense of purpose should dominate our approach going ahead,” Modi is believed to have told those present in the meeting.
This stock-taking and secretion for a homegrown vaccine for COVID-19 come closely on the heels of Modi stressing on “self-sustenance” as the way forward in many of his addresses off late.