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‘Covid vaccine development showing good progress’

Maitri Porecha New Delhi | Updated on May 28, 2020

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As many as 30 groups ranging from industry to academics are working on Covid-19 vaccines in India. About 20 of them are making good progress, the Centre said on Thursday. Some of them are expected to hit pre-clinical trials by October this year and a few others by February next year, officials have clarified.

Of these, around 14 vaccine candidates are running neck-and-neck, NITI Aayog Member (Health) Vinod Paul informed. “There are eight industry candidates, of which four are ahead of others, while there are six candidates from national labs of the Indian Council of Medical Research, Department of Biotechnology, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, of which we are really hopeful of two or three candidates,” Paul said.

“It is not like a switch available to everyone on day one. This disease is unusual, and people from youngest to oldest, and every country will need a vaccine. There are discussions now about who are the first people who should get it, who are vulnerable, how do you form protective rings by giving to specific kinds of people and so on,” explained K VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser. .

People are trying to develop different types of vaccines. While mRNA vaccines inject genetic material of the virus into the body for triggering immune response, live attenuated vaccines use a weaker version of the virus to produce similar immune response. Similarly, there are DNA vaccines which are built on the backbone of other viruses. “We affix the protein coding region of Covid-19 over the flu vaccine, for instance. This is in the late pre-clinical stages which will be done by October,” said VijayRaghavan.

The fourth is an adjuvant type in which the virus protein is made and attached to a stimulus, he said. “This should make some headway by February 2021,” he added.

VijayRaghavan said, while it takes 10 to 15 years and $200-300 million to make a vaccine, an attempt is being made to hasten this process in one year, which elevates the cost to $2-3 billion.

Paul said, by next week, the ICMR will be able to share results from the seroprevalence survey being conducted in 69 districts using ELISA technology, which will help ascertain the spread of the virus in the community.

Of the various drugs being tried, antivirals such as Favipiravir and Remdesivir are leading candidates. A phytopharmaceutical drug ACQH and Arbidol are under investigation in a CSIR lab. Itolizumab, another drug used in psoriatic arthritis is also being considered, said Paul. Research on whether BCG vaccine and Mycobaterium W can jack up immune systems is also underway.

Published on May 28, 2020

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