Merck funds IIT Bombay for COVID-19 research

Research focuses on the development of simple immunoassays using single molecule counting technology for early disease severity marker identification
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Merck today announced a donation of Rs 1.7 crores over two years to the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay to support the development of clinical tests for COVID-19 disease severity assessment. The funded project is an ongoing COVID-19 multi-omics research on the development of simple immunoassays based on single molecule counting technology to identify low levels of early disease severity markers, Merck notified in a statement.

“India has been hit by a huge second coronavirus wave with a record of over 32 million cases to date, and daily active cases in tens of thousands,” said Sunil Punjabi, Managing Director, Life Science Business, Merck India.

He added, “With this donation, Merck is aiding IIT in the early identification of COVID-19 virus severity to facilitate appropriate healthcare management which will help to relieve the pressure that has been put on the healthcare system in the country.”

According to the statement, the research aims to dissect the host response signatures during COVID-19 disease progression, identify clinically relevant biomarkers, apply mass spectrometry-based approaches, and translate the findings to allow the prognosis of COVID-19 patients. The partnership will focus on five areas, including biomarker discovery of COVID-19 severity at an early phase of infection, immunoassays for the detection of biomarkers using the single molecule counting technology, AI-driven short-listing of COVID-19 biomarkers for prognosis using immunoassay panel, immunoassay panel development for detection of biomarkers using single molecule counting technology and pathway enrichment-driven computational studies on drug repurposing for COVID-19 therapies.

”Further, clinical validation remains a challenge since highly advanced mass-spectrometry instruments are cumbersome to operate in clinical settings,” said Professor Subhasis Chaudhuri, Director, IIT Bombay.

He also said, “Validation using immunoassay platforms like single molecule counting technology will be highly beneficial for rapid clinical translation. Our partnership with Merck is a natural next step in this direction and we are grateful to them for supporting our mission.”

The research project is expected to commence mass spec-based validation of COVID-19 biomarkers and the set-up of single molecule counting technology and protocols optimisation, which will be used as the foundation for future COVID-19 clinical tests and drug re-purposing studies as part of this donation project.

COVID-19 researchIIT – BombayMerck Pharmasingle molecule counting technology
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