Vinod Paul, member NITI Aayog and K Vijay Raghavan, principal scientific adviser to the Government of India, summarized activities on Covid-19 related to Science and Technology in vaccines, drug discovery, diagnostics, and testing during a press conference.
On vaccines, it was pointed out that the process is usually slow and fraught with uncertainties. But, to succeed against Covid-19 a large number of parallel efforts are needed. This is being done globally and nationally. Indian academia and start-ups are working on vaccine candidates in the Indian vaccine industry. There are three kinds of attempts being made. The first is indigenous efforts. The second is globally collaborative efforts where Indian organizations are taking a lead role and the third is Indian participation in global initiatives. With such a broad portfolio, followed by attempts at risk- mitigation for manufacturing and stockpiling, success is better assured.
On drug discovery, scientific efforts take three approaches. The first is the repurposing existing drugs to see how effective they are against the virus and mitigate 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.
A conglomeration of research efforts has resulted in new tests and testing kits. These include new tests for the detection of the virus and also for antibody detection. The latter is being used for serological studies.
Commenting on the speed of these developments, they mentioned that it is made possible by the collaborative efforts of scientists, institutions, and science agencies. The regulatory system has also been closely engaged, combining speed with quality.