Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a review meeting on May 5 to take updates on the progress of India’s vaccine development efforts for COVID-19. Broadly, two takeaways are obvious, based on the details of the meeting. One is that India’s efforts in finding vaccine seems to be on the path of hope as over 30 Indian vaccines are in different stages of corona vaccine development. Secondly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi while appreciating the coming together of various industries for this objective, also wanted this to continue beyond the Corona situation. This means that the PM is keen on making the spirit of innovation spurred by the crisis to be a new normal to build New India.
Race for Vaccine
- Over 30 Indian vaccines are in different stages of corona vaccine development, with a fewa reaching the trial stages.
- When it comes to the development of a drug, three different approaches have been taken.
- Re-purpose of existing drugs;
- Development of new drugs with laboratory verifications; and
- Plant extracts and products are being examined for general anti-viral properties.
Several academic research institutions and start-ups have developed new tests, both for the RT-PCR approach and for the antibody detection. The crisis paved the way for linking laboratories all over the country. Thus, the capacity for both these kinds of tests have been enormously scaled up.
The problem of importing reagents for testing has been addressed by a consortium of Indian start-ups and industry, meeting current requirements. All these collective efforts by various stakeholders and the trouble-shooting ability, displayed by them from time to time, holds promise for the development of a robust long-term industry in this area in the near future.
Certain points that PM Modi made while reviewing the vaccine and drug efforts indicate that he wants that this eco-system, built to face the emergency, should last beyond this situation, which will make India not the follower but the original innovator in the long term.
As the press brief from the Prime Minister’s Office notes, “The review by the PM took note of the extraordinary coming together of academia, industry and government, combined with speedy but efficient regulatory process. The PM desired that such coordination and speed should be embedded into a standard operating procedure. He emphasized that what is possible in a crisis should be a part of our routine way of scientific functioning.”
PM Modi also suggested that a hackathon be held on vaccine and drug development, 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.