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COVID-19: Dr Harsh Vardhan calls upon all scientific departments to develop enhanced synergy for quicker and better results

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CSIR has mounted a coordinated strategy involving all 38 CSIR labs, and is working in close coordination with the industry and other agencies for implementation of the interventions and technologies at the ground level to mitigate COVID-19

The minister for Science and Technology, Earth Sciences and Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan reviewed through video-conferencing the various initiatives CSIR has taken up to mitigate COVID-19 in the country.

DG CSIR Dr Shekhar C Mande apprised the minister that CSIR has mounted a coordinated strategy involving all 38 CSIR labs, and is working in close coordination with industry and other agencies for implementation of the interventions and technologies at the ground level.

CSIR has devised five verticals: digital and molecular surveillance; rapid and economical diagnostics; new drugs/repurposing of drugs/vaccines; hospital assistive devices and PPE; supply chain and logistics support systems in order to develop requisite S&T-based solutions to combat COVID-19. Significant developments in each of the five verticals were presented by the vertical coordinating directors.

During the interaction, Dr Vardhan also acknowledged that all CSIR labs are rising to the occasion and have supported people by supplying sanitisers, masks, ready-to-eat food, apart from developing S&T-based solutions.

He exhorted the scientific departments and said, “To develop enhanced synergy and good-quality coordination for quicker and better results. All scientists and institutions should prioritise the requirements of the time and also contribute in finding quick and deployable solutions.”

“I am happy to see the enthusiasm of CSIR scientists and that CSIR has made good progress since the last review,” he said.  He talked about the affordability factor of various drugs, vaccines and other diagnostic and therapeutic equipment which should also be considered.

Dr Vardhan appreciated CSIR for submitting 53 sequences of COVID-19 genomes to the Global Coronavirus Genome Database, Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID).

“This is the result of a strong partnership between National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), New Delhi and CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB), representing the largest submission of sequences, by far, from India by any group. The joint NCDC-CSIR programme will accelerate molecular epidemiology and viral surveillance efforts of India,” he said.

Another major development from the CSIR efforts is that for remdesivir, a drug which has recently been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) for emergency use in COVID-19 patients, synthesis of Key Starting Materials (KSMs) on kilo scale and gram scale synthesis of remdesivir has been achieved by CSIR-IICT (Indian Institute of Chemical Technology) and technology demonstration to Indian industry is going on. For favipiravir, another promising drug for Covid-19, CSIR is working with the private sector for clinical trials and launches in India.

CSIR’s efforts in coming up with quick solutions to the shortages faced in various hospital devices and PPE was also appreciated by the Minister. Especially noteworthy was that CSIR-NAL has come up with a BiPAP ventilator in a very short span of 35 days and is awaiting certification. CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) and MAFL have jointly developed a coverall and have received an order of 50,000 pieces from HLL and are gearing up to produce 30,000 pieces in a day.

The minister also released guidelines for public transport and feeder modes considering social distancing norms developed by CSIR-CRRI (Central Road Research Institute).

Dr Vardhan appreciated the efforts and said, “Post COVID-19, a new normal will develop in the society, setting new standards to live in a better way, in a scientific way which will eventually become good health norms.”

DG CSIR, Dr Shekhar C Mande; Director CSIR-IGIB, Dr Anurag Agarwal; Director CRRI, Dr Satish Chandra; Director CSIR-IIIM, Dr Ram Vishwakarma; Director CSIR-IIP (Indian Institute of Petroleum), Dr Anjan Ray; and Director NAL, Jitendra Yadhav, besides directors of other CSIR labs across the country were present at the video-conference.

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