Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday chaired a meeting of the task force on coronavirus vaccine development, drug discovery, diagnosis and testing. He also took a detailed review of the current status of India's efforts in these areas.
The review by the Prime Minister took note of the extraordinary coming together of academia, industry and government, combined with speedy but efficient regulatory process. According to an official release, the Prime Minister desired that such coordination and speed should be embedded into a standard operating procedure.
It said over 30 Indian vaccines are in different stages of corona vaccine development with a few going on to the trial stages. The Prime Minister emphasized that what is possible in a crisis "should be a part of our routine way of scientific functioning".
Similarly, in drug development three approaches are being taken. 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 the antibody detection. In addition, by linking laboratories all over the country, capacity for both these kinds of tests have been enormously scaled up.
Appreciating the scientific coming together of computer science, chemistry and biotechnology in drug discovery, the PM Modi suggested that a hackathon be held on this subject, linking computer science to synthesis and testing in the laboratory. The successful candidates from the hackathon could be taken up by the start-ups for further development and scaling up.
The PM Modi added that the innovative and original manner in which Indian scientists, from basic to applied sciences, have come together with industry is heartening. This kind of pride, originality and sense of purpose should dominate our approach going ahead. It is only then that we can be amongst the best in the world and not followers, in science.