Department of Science & Technology designs scheme for R&D on vaccines and diagnostics for Covid-19


New Delhi: Stepping up its efforts towards the research and development of vaccine for Covid-19, Department of Science & Technology has specifically designed a Intensification of Research in High Priority Area scheme(IRHPA).

Science & Engineering Research Board (SERB), an autonomous institution of the DST, has invited proposals as part of special call under IRHPA to ramp up national R&D efforts for new antivirals, vaccines, and affordable diagnostics for Covid-19 and related respiratory viral infections.

“Covid-19 virus has spread rapidly throughout the world. Given the lack of an efficacious vaccine and lack of availability of suitable chemotherapeutic interventions, the global population has been hit hard to the current coronavirus outbreak,” Ministry of Science & Technology said in an official statement.

The government has asked the academic and research institutions to submit competitive proposals having a strong interdisciplinary component between chemists, biologists, virologists, immunologists, and clinicians, in the related areas and to focus on the development of affordable diagnostics, vaccines, antivirals, disease models and other R&D to study these infections.

DST-SERB has so sought technical partnerships and collaborative know-how from biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

The government is looking at proposals on some of the key themes such as new or repurposed antivirals against valid viral targets; viricidal coatings; etc.

The proposals may focus on affordable diagnostics for symptomatic and asymptomatic respiratory viral infections Investigational vaccines against respiratory viruses.

The scientists will work upon response of virus to temperature, humidity and UV radiation, development of disease models for respiratory viral infections

Studies on immune response and immunity during respiratory viral infections and epidemology of Covid-19 and other respiratory viral infections.

The government said that one of the participating institutions should have access to BSL-3 (Bio-safety level 3) and above facilities, along with the expertise of handling respiratory viruses as per World Health Organisation (WHO) and government of India protocols.

According to WHO, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat Covid-19.

Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat Covid-19.

Meanwhile, a Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating an investigational vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus disease 19 (Covid-19) has begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, is funding the trial. KPWHRI is part of NIAID’s Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium. The open-label trial will enroll 45 healthy adult volunteers ages 18 to 55 years over approximately 6 weeks. The first participant received the investigational vaccine on March 16.

Infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, can cause a mild to severe respiratory illness and include symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. Covid-19 cases were first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

According to the Johns Hopkins live tracker of the disease, there are around 246,275 people infected with the disease while over 10,038 have ready died. India too has reported more than 230 cases and four deaths so far.





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