IIT Alumni Council withdraws from Covid-19 vaccine development

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on August 24, 2020

‘Commercialising a vaccine within a few weeks or months should not be done considering safety aspects’

IIT Alumni Council has withdrawn from development of Covid-19 vaccine with immediate effect as that none of the claims it received were adequately-backed by disclosed scientific data, patient research and clinical trials.

Developing a vaccine in six months was part of IIT Alumni Council’s C19 Task Force. In addition to getting the vaccine paradigm right, factors like adjuvants could play a critical role, IIT Alumni Council said in a statement.

“IIT Alumni Council team concluded that developing a vaccine based on conventional research and clinical trials takes several years. Even then there is no certainty. For example even after 28 years and over $100 billion of funding, a HIV AIDS vaccine is yet to succeed,” Ravi Sharma, President of the IIT Alumni Council said.

“Commercialising a vaccine within a few weeks or months should not be done considering safety aspects. The first logical step to developing a universal vaccine is accelerating research using simulation in preference to actual patient trials. It may not be advisable to subsidise or mass deploy a vaccine whose safety and long term efficacy is unproven,” he added.

Folded simulation, antibody genome library creation and antibody characterisation among others are all necessary precedents to vaccine production.

Some of the vaccine approaches being attempted globally involve injecting a deactivated virus or simulated protein fragment into the body so as to induce the body to generate antibodies. The adverse reaction of the vaccine injection and the efficacy and lifespan of the antibodies is unknown.

All of this is currently work in progress under initiatives like MegaTx. Even though India has more patient data than probably any other country in the world, it is not sufficient to deliver a vaccine as yet.

“Somewhere we have to consider the mathematics of an ambition statement. No more than 2 per cent of Covid patients need critical care. There is a fair surety that most of these can be cured by antibody based biologics. On the other hand, for vaccination, we would probably need to vaccinate 98 per cent of our population. Chasing 2 per cent of the population with a 98 per cent sure cure has a far better probability of success than chasing 98 per cent of the population with a 2 per cent surety of safety and efficacy,” said Daljit Singh, an IIT Alumnus and former President of Fortis Healthcare.

The IIT Alumni Council is the largest global body of alumni, students and faculty, spread across all the 23 IITs and partnering Technical Institutes of Excellence (TieNet).

Published on August 24, 2020

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