CSIR to carry study to ascertain airborne spread of COVID-19
After World Health Organization’s recent acknowledgement that there is emerging evidence of airborne spread of the novel coronavirus whole scientific community has started looking for the mode of transmission of novel coronavirus with different perspective. Director General, CSIR, Dr Shekhar C Mande said in a blog post “Airborne transmission of COVID possible, wear masks in enclosed spaces”. Is novel coronavirus really transmitting through air? To answer this question two CSIR labs, Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH) in Chandigarh and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad, are gearing up to conduct study. When we sneeze, cough, talk or sing droplets are sprayed from our mouth. Some of the bigger droplets drop to the ground like a ball thrown from a height. These larger droplets then settle on the surfaces. If the person is infected then inhalation of the droplets or touching the droplets on the surface can transmit the virus. Like a feather that stays longer in the air, lifted up by air currents, smaller droplets remain suspended in the air for some time. If people at crowded places come in contact of these droplets there is a potential threat of spread through these small droplets. The virus laden droplets are unlikely to be found in an open park or a public road. However, in enclosed spaces, an infected person can leave a trail of small droplets with virus suspended in the air. For finding such potential places one needs to actually study the air sample in the first place. “We are in talks with the state governments to allow us to go to some of the areas where there is possibility of virus, we can look for hospital ICUs, isolation centres or public transports,” said Dr Sanjeev Khosla, Director, IMTECH, Chandigarh. The air sampling is done through specialised machines. These have a suction pump that draws air. The air sample goes through a filter at the end of the instrument. The filter traps the airborne micro-organisms. “We will be taking in some amount of air from a particular area based on calculations that we would do that how far these air droplets can move and then try to see whether these air droplets have the virus and how far we can detect them,” said Dr Khosla. To ensure that the machine doesn’t get contaminated, the filters and the suction pump are cleaned up after every collection. The machines are patented devices and are being used to trap other micro-organisms too. Once the sampling is done it would analysed for presence of various pathogens including novel coronavirus. “But sampling may take time, as one has to repeat the experiments as contamination need to be taken care of,” said Dr Khosla.
Cipla set to launch repurposed drug Favipiravir for COVID-19: CSIR
Cipla has scaled up the process in their manufacturing facility and approached Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for permission to launch of a repurposed drug Favipiravir for COVID-19 in India. Given that DCGI has given restricted emergency use for Favipiravir in the country, Cipla is now all set to launch the product to help patients suffering from COVID-19. “Hopefully by August 1st this will be available in the market,” said Dr S Chandrasekhar, Director, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT). An off-patent anti-viral Favipiravir has been originally discovered by Fuji, Japan which has shown promise in clinical trials for treatment of COVID-19 patients, especially the mild and the moderate patients. It is an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API). An active ingredient is the ingredient in a pharmaceutical drug or pesticide that is biologically active. IICT has developed a cost-effective process using locally available chemicals to synthesize Favipiravir and transferred the technology to Cipla Limited. The pharma industry buys very advanced drug intermediates also called as Key Starting Materials (KSM) from China or some other countries. After doing one or two synthetic operations these are made into final products. “We make KSM ourselves starting from chemicals manufactured locally, that brings down the cost of these products,” said Dr Chandrasekhar. “The technology provided by CSIR-IICT is very efficient and makes it affordable and allows Cipla to make large quantities of the product within a short span of time,” said Dr Chandrasekhar. DG-CSIR, Dr Shekhar C Mande said that CSIR is working with industry in developing quick solutions and products for mitigation of COVID-19 and this partnership with Cipla is an example of how CSIR is committed in bringing repurposed drugs on a fast track. “We are taking up some clinical trials for repurposing of some other drugs too, that will take some time,” told Dr Chandrasekhar.
Airborne transmission of COVID-19 possible, wear masks in enclosed spaces: CSIR
Amid recent acknowledgement from the World Health Organisation (WHO) over emerging evidence of airborne spread of the novel coronavirus, the head of India’s premier R&D body has said that airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is indeed a “distinct possibility” and suggested wearing masks even in “enclosed” spaces. Director General of the CSIR, Dr Shekhar C. Mande sought to bring clarity on the issue in his blog post referring to findings of various studies and said, “All these emerging evidences and arguments suggest that indeed airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is a distinct possibility.” Elaborating on how one can keep oneself safe in such a scenario, Mande wrote: “The answers are intuitively very straightforward – avoid large crowded gatherings, keep enclosed places like workplaces well ventilated, and most importantly, continue wearing masks even in enclosed spaces.”
CSIR-CCMB awaits ICMR approval to scale up COVID-19 testing three-fold with dry swabs
CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) has asserted that the current testing capacity of two lakh tests a day across the country can be quickly scaled to six lakh tests a day by collecting dry swabs from patients for safer, cheaper and faster COVID-19 testing. “This method has been validated and tested by two other institutions - Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) here and Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISER), Berhampur, Odisha. We had approached the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for approval in June first week and an appropriate advisory is expected soon which will help in getting more tests done at much lower costs giving us a better chance at managing the pandemic,” said Director of CCMB, Rakesh Mishra. He also said that a shift towards dry swab testing will immediately entail a saving of up to ` 75 crore a day! He explained that the current methods of RT-qPCR testing are done in the 8 form of swabs from samples received in Viral Transport Medium (VTM) followed by RNA extraction and RT-qPCR. Instead of this, scientists of CSIR-CCMB have generated a simplified protocol for this test where dry swabs are collected and directly used for RT-qPCR. “This method has been established to have no loss of sensitivity and is on par with the current gold standard of testing,” he affirmed. Dry swabs will also enable the collection and transport process to be simpler and safer as there is no liquid sample handling and leakage and fear of contamination for the persons handling the sample in highly secure BSL-3 lab facilities. “It is also faster by about five hours as there is no RNA extraction and VTM containing tube handling. Further, it is cheaper too as there is no RNA extraction and no VTM, correspondingly less manpower is needed”, said Dr Mishra.
Indigenous Indian COVID-19 vaccines in the global race to end the pandemic
With the announcement of COVAXIN by Bharat Biotech and ZyCov-D Vaccine by Zydus Cadila the proverbial silver line in the dark clouds of COVID-19 appears at the horizon. The nod given by the Drug Controller General of India CDSCO (The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation) for the conduct of the human trial for the vaccines marks the beginning of the end. In the past years, India has emerged as one of the significant vaccine manufacturing hubs. Indian manufacturers account for 60% of vaccine supplies made to UNICEF. The vaccine for novel coronavirus may be developed anywhere in the world, but without involving Indian manufacturers, production of required quantity is not going to be possible. More than 140 candidate vaccines are under various stages of development. One of the leading candidates is AZD1222 developed by Jenner Institute of University of Oxford and licensed to AstraZeneca British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Cambridge, England. The MRNA-1273 vaccine developed by Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Washington and taken up for production by the US-based Moderna Pharmaceutical is just a step behind. Both these firms have already inked an agreement with Indian manufacturers for production of the COVID-19 vaccines. Parallelly, Indian institutions have also engaged in R&D for the development of vaccines in India. With the primary scientific inputs coming from ICMR’s Pune-based institution National Institute of Virology and Hyderabad-based CSIR institution Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, six Indian companies are working on a vaccine for COVID-19. Along with the two Indian vaccines, COVAXIN and ZyCov-D, the world over, 11 out of 140 vaccine candidates have entered the human trials.
CSIR-IGIB and IIT Alumni Council sign MoU for joint research to tackle COVID-19
Nearly all countries in the world have speeded up their research efforts on novel coronavirus. In this context disease research and patient data analysis are key elements. To work on these important aspects Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) and IIT Alumni Council announce a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for COVID-19 research and patient data analysis. The joint research by CSIR-IGIB and IIT Alumni Council will focus on catalysing the creation of an ecosystem for diagnostics and therapeutics for COVID-19 as well as flexible platforms for pandemic preparedness. The ecosystem will enable an indigenous value chain with multidomain expertise spanning digital health, artificial intelligence, molecular diagnostics, next generation sequencing, antibody harvesting, and production of monoclonal antibodies. IIT Alumni Council has handed over the first set of 8500 patient imaging data from Mumbai to IGIB, which will soon be made available in de-identified form, through a public open data platform co-hosted by IGIB and ICMR to enable research. Both parties are viewing this partnership as an opportunity not only to create a world class testing and treatment ecosystem in the country but also to establish global data leadership. “This would enable open data access to every scientist and innovator in the world for development of bleeding edge testing and treatment solutions. IIT Alumni Council believes that together with IGIB, we shall be able to create a robust high security Data Architecture for health Data,” said Ravi Sharma, President and Chief Volunteer, IIT Alumni Council. This partnership will help in two of IIT Alumni Council initiatives – World’s largest MegaLab in Mumbai for testing and India’s largest MegaTx antibody facility for treatment based on biologics. “This partnership will open the doors for newer forms and formats of collaboration between the Government and domestic non-profits like IIT Alumni Council. One can see it as a data and engineering social initiative driven by volunteers, which would be of much use to the biomedical community,” said Sharma. “The key element of this MoU is that IIT Alumni Council is generating a lot of data from their charitable work that they would like to make public in a secure and ethical way through us,” said Dr Anurag Agrawal, Director, CSIR-IGIB. Members of CSIR-IGIB and IIT Alumni Council have been brainstorming regarding areas of testing and treatment for COVID-19 since April 2020.
CSIR-IMTECH to have biorepository of COVID-19 samples
The Microbial Type Culture Collection and Gene Bank (MTCC) at the Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh (IMTECH) will host the biorepository of COVID-19 samples. The institute will store clinical samples of COVID-19 patients for research. The blood samples collected will be stored at a designated biorepository centre. These blood samples may be used to assess the performance of antibody tests as well as immune markers of disease and disease severity for COVID-19. The centre has been identified as one of the 16 national COVID-19 biorepositories by the Government of India for collecting, storing, and maintaining clinical samples of positive patients. Data obtained from the patient related to the blood samples will be recorded using a unique study identification number. Any publication arising from this study will maintain the patient’s anonymity by excluding all information that could potentially identify the person. Some studies indicate that the viral load, which is the number of virus a person has at the time of the onset of the symptoms, is linked to the severity of the disease. Those with lesser viral load are said to suffer only a mild to moderate COVID-19 disease; while in case of the patients who become critical, the viral load is said to be as high as 60 times. Nevertheless, there is no clear evidence for it. The samples will help researchers understand the early predictors of disease severity and how it develops given the immune response and other factors. The selected biorepositories will collect different samples like oropharyngeal swab/throat swab, nasopharyngeal swab/nasal swab, bronchoalveolar lavage, sputum, blood, urine and stool. “The biorepository will be critical to steer research towards innovating the development of new diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines,” said Dr Sanjeev Khosla, Director, IMTECH, Chandigarh. If we can identify who will suffer only a mild COVID-19 and who may become critically ill, then appropriate medical attention could be provided. The data stored in the repository would help researchers to identify potential markers.
Faster coronavirus testing method can scale up testing capacity by three-fold: CSIR-CCMB Director
A safer, cheaper and faster SARS-CoV-2 or coronavirus testing method, if approved, can scale up testing capacity by three-fold immediately, says Dr Rakesh Mishra, Director of CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB). In current methods of RT-qPCR (reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction) testing are done in the form of swabs from samples received in Viral Transport Medium (VTM) followed by RNA extraction and RT-qPCR. Now, CSIR-CCMB has generated a simplified protocol for this test where dry swabs are collected and directly used for RT-qPCR. This method has been established to have no loss of sensitivity and is at par with the current gold standard of testing. Given this simplification, the method becomes safer as there is no liquid sample handling and leakage and fear of contamination for the persons handling the sample in BSL-3 (Biosafety Level 3) facilities, says Dr Rakesh Mishra, Director of CSIR-CCMB. Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh 14 “It is also faster by about 5 hours as there is no RNA extraction and VTM containing tube handling. Further, it is cheaper too as there is no RNA extraction and no VTM, correspondingly less manpower is needed,” he said. In addition to this, the major bottleneck in testing today is the process of RNA extraction, because of time and manpower constraints, said Dr Mishra. Removal of this step can improve the capacity of testing by about three-fold, without any additional inputs. This method, Dry Swab Direct RT-qPCR, is under consideration with ICMR and appropriate advisory is expected soon which will help in getting more tests done at much lower costs and give us a better chance at managing the pandemic. “India is doing 2 lakh tests per day as more than that will require extra funds, setup of test labs and, more importantly, trained manpower, which is not there. If our method is used, we can triple that capacity within (and less than) currently used resources (manpower, labs, and even the money),” said Dr Mishra.
COVID-19 serves as a clarion call to achieve Atmanirbhar Bharat, says Dr Raghunath Mashelkar
COVID-19 has brought in to the country a clarion call for everyone to rebuild, recover, and re-imagine ourselves in order to achieve Atmanirbhar Bharat, said Padma Vibhushan, Dr Raghunath Anant Mashelkar. He was delivering a talk on “Building Atmanirbhar Bharat with Atmabishwas” under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-Summer Research Training Programme (CSIR-SRTP), 2020, programme coordinated by the North East Institute of Science and Technology (CSIR-NEIST). Dr Mashelkar said that in our endeavour to attain self-reliance or Atmanirbhar Bharat, we cannot isolate ourselves from the world but integrate with global supply chain. He emphasized on five pillars of ‘atmanirbharata’ – Buy, Make, Buy to make better, Make to buy better, and Make it together (building publicprivate partnerships). He said that he has unequivocal confidence in the youth power of the country, which needs to be harnessed with a back-up of technology and trust for our country to flourish. Dr Mashelkar was of the view that the ‘Make in India’ initiative should not focus only on assembling products but inventing in India as well. He said that assembling products will no doubt create jobs, but for newer substitutes, we need to do vigorous research. Underlining the importance of research, he said research converts money into knowledge and innovation converts knowledge into money, so both needs to go hand in hand for our nation to prosper.
CSIR-IHBT helping Himachal in undertaking COVID-19 tests
The Institute of Himalayan Bio-Resource Technology (IHBT) at Palampur in Himachal Pradesh has been playing pivotal role in undertaking COVID-19 tests besides providing all necessary instruments and logistic support for test of COVID-19 to Tanda, Chamba and Hamirpur Medical Colleges of the State. This was stated by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur while addressing the CSIR-IHBT on its 38 Founders Week function through Video Conference from Shimla on July 3. 40 The Chief Minister said that the Institute had also succeeded in preparing alcohol-free hand sanitizer and herbal soap to the consumers. He said that the Institute was playing a major role in making Himachal Pradesh Aroma state of the country by production of aromatic oil from various plants. Thakur said that the efforts of cultivation of Heeng and Kesar by the Institute were indeed laudable. He said that the state government has started Rs 4.50 crore Heeng project and Rs 5 crore Kesar Project. He also said that the state government would provide all possible help to the institute for making these projects a success. He said that efforts were being made in a big way to promote organic farming. He said that the production of Heeng and Kesar would prove to be a game changer to the farmers in strengthening their economy.
Drug Discovery Hackathon-2020 for supporting drug discovery process
The Union Government launched Drug Discovery Hackathon here on July 2 in the presence of Union Minister for Science and Technology Dr. Harsh Vardhan and Union Minister for Human Resource Development Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’. This is a joint initiative of MHRD’s Innovation Cell (MIC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and CSIR and supported by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), MyGov as well as private players. Minister of State for HRD Shri Sanjay Dhotre; Principal Scientific Advisor Prof. VijayRaghavan; DG CSIR, Dr Shekhar Mande; Chairman AICTE, Prof. Anil Sahasrabudhe; President, Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) Prof. B Suresh; and Chief Innovation Officer, MHRD, Dr. Abhay Jere were also present during the online launch programme. This Hackathon is first of its kind national initiative for supporting drug discovery process and will see participation from professionals, faculty, researchers and students from varied fields like Computer Science, Chemistry, Pharmacy, Medical Sciences, Basic Sciences and Biotechnology. Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister for S&T said, “We need to establish the culture of Computational Drug Discovery in our country. In this initiative, MHRD’s Innovation cell and AICTE will focus on identifying potential drug molecules through the Hackathon while CSIR will take these identified molecules forward for synthesis and laboratory testing for efficacy, toxicity, sensitivity and specificity.”
Dr Harsh Vardhan lauds the efforts of CSIR-IGIB scientists against COVID-19
“All scientists and institutions should prioritise the requirements of the time and also contribute in finding quick and deployable solutions,” said Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science and Technology, Earth Sciences and Health and Family Welfare. He was addressing scientists at a review meeting on the initiatives of the CSIR towards mitigation of COVID-19 in the country. Dr Harsh 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 (CSIRIGIB), representing the largest submission of sequences, by far from India by any group. The joint NCDC-IGIB programme will accelerate molecular epidemiology and viral surveillance efforts of India,” he said. Dr Shekhar C. Mande, DG, CSIR, 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 the implementation of 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 Personal protection equipment (PPEs); Supply Chain and Logistics Support Systems – to work on and develop requisite S&T-based solutions to combat COVID-19. The Directors coordinating the activities of these verticals reported the significant developments in each of them.
Indian researchers to go for the clinical trial of sepsis drug against novel coronavirus
The CSIR is leaving no stone unturned in the battle against novel coronavirus. Repurposing of existing drugs is one of the strategies deployed by CSIR. The Council is implementing this strategy by evaluating an existing drug that is used for treating gram-negative sepsis patients. The drug, Sepsivac, is available commercially. In gram-negative sepsis patients and in critically ill COVID-19 patients, the altered immuneresponse leads to a massive change in the cytokine profile. Cytokines are produced in response to an infection and they are essential for host defence against pathogens. There are six types of cytokines, each having different families of cytokines. The different mix of cytokines, called cytokine profiles, acts on various pathogens. One of the significant contributors to death by COVID-19 is heightened immune response, called a cytokine storm. The immune system starts attacking both infected and uninfected cells. It makes no difference between a friend and a foe, leading to tissue damage resulting in sepsis. The drug modulates the immune system of the body and thereby inhibits the cytokine storm leading to reduced mortality and faster recovery.
Homemade masks to overcome shortage
Shortage of facemask and hand sanitizers is a stark reality. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, as anxious public frantically shopped hygiene products, in particular mask and hand sanitizers, the increased supply could not be met by the sudden burgeoning demand. The Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India issued the manual on homemade masks: “Masks for Curbing the Spread of SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus” for home fabrication. The key criteria for proposed designs are Ease of Access to Materials, Ease of Making at Home, and Ease of Use and Reuse. Shops and services are demanding that the customers use facemask. In some shops the patrons are denied services for not using the face mask. The homemade mask would help people. Many health experts are also suggesting that use of facemask in public spaces could reduce the spread of the infection. The proposed guide is meant to provide a simple outline to make, use and reuse masks. This Manual could be used by NGOs and individuals to self-create such masks and accelerate widespread adoption of use of masks across India. Protective masks lower the chances of coronavirus entering our respiratory system through droplets that are present in the air. According to a report published in PubMed analyses show that if 50% of the population were to wear masks, only 50% of the population would be infected by the virus. Once 80% of the population wears a mask, the outbreak can be stopped substantially. Wearing of masks is especially recommended for people living in densely populated areas. The Science and Technology Empowered Committee was constituted on 19th March 2020. The Committee is jointly chaired by Prof. Vinod Paul, Member, NITI Aayog and Prof. K VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, and is responsible for coordination among science agencies, scientists, industries and regulatory bodies, and to take speedy decisions on research and development to implementation related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease.
Indian researchers start working on novel coronavirus genome sequencing
The novel coronavirus is a new virus and researchers are trying to figure out all the different aspects of it. Two institutes of CSIR, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad and Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), New Delhi have started working together on the whole genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus. “This will help us to understand the evolution of the virus, how dynamic is it, and how fast it imitates. This study will help us to know how soon it evolves and what are the future aspects of it,” said Dr Rakesh Mishra, Director, CCMB.
1. CDRI suspends hands-on skill development training program due to COVID-19
Although India is slowly unlocking itself, COVID-19 continues to hamper certain activities. One such activity impeded by COVID-19 is the hands-on skill enhancement programmes envisaged by the Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI). In a press release to this effect, CDRI has announced the suspension of its seven hands-on skill enhancement training programmes for the time being. “As these are hands-on programmes and they cannot be done online so we have decided to suspend them. We would try to resume them as early as possible depending on the situation,” said Dr Vinay Tripathi, Chief Scientist and Skill Development Programme Coordinator, CDRI. There were six skill development courses planned under the life science sector and one under the healthcare sector. Under the life science sector, the programmes scheduled were (1) computational approaches to drug design and development; (2) advanced spectroscopic (NMR, HPLC, LC- MS, UV/IR) techniques; (3) advanced course on care; (4) management of laboratory animals and experimental techniques, (5) plant authentication, phytochemical extraction; and (6) formulation and HPLC analysis of herbal products, basic training in electron microscopy techniques for life sciences, pharmaceutical product development and quality control. Under the healthcare sector, pathological tools and techniques for biomedical applications was planned. CDRI runs these courses throughout the year. Some of them are happening twice a year too. “These courses improve job prospects of trainees as there is limited expertise available in India while there is a great demand for trained manpower in this area. Trained candidates will also have an edge while applying to various research institutes that require practical experience in these techniques,” said Dr Tapas Kumar Kundu, Director, CDRI.
CSIR-NEERI tested over 3000 COVID-19 samples
The COVID-19 testing facility has become operational at CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) from April 2020. So far, more than 3000 samples have been tested for COVID-19. With testing capacity of 50 samples per day, CSIR-NEERI has the requisite infrastructure to test COVID-19 samples and take all appropriate bio-safety and bio-security precautions before testing. All the mandatory approvals required for testing of clinical samples were obtained to operationalise the testing facility, said Dr Rakesh Kumar, director of the institution. The facility is open to testing COVID-19 samples from Nagpur and surrounding areas of Vidarbha. Apart from testing of clinical samples, the CSIR-NEERI is also supporting healthcare professionals by providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to prevent them from contracting any infection while serving patients.
CSIR-CSIO develops protective eyewear to combat COVID-19
CSIR-Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO) has developed a technology for precision manufacturing of Safety Goggles for healthcare professionals involved in treating high viral load patients as in the case of COVID-19 pandemic. The current situation has brought out the need and significance of effective Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect the healthcare service providers, patients, and visitors from accidentally getting infected. The technology was transferred to M/s Sark Industries, Chandigarh on 26th June, 2020 for its commercialization and mass production. The conjunctiva membrane, located inside the eyelid to lubricate the eyeballs, is the only exposed mucous membrane of the body. When the eyes are opened, the conjunctiva membrane is also exposed, making it an important but often overlooked entrance for viruses. This protective eyewear is ergonomically designed to provide full cover and efficient sealing to the eye area and would protect the healthcare professionals from hazardous aerosols as well as other suspended particles. A team of CSIR-CSIO scientists led by Dr Vinod Karar, Chief Scientist & Head, Optical Devices & Systems, had taken up the design and development of the Safety goggles as a protective eyewear in consultation with various industries and stakeholders to come up with an affordable 16 and innovative precision manufacturing technique for commercial scaling-up. These safety goggles are designed with flexible frame to provide tighter sealing with the face and would cover the eyes and the surrounding areas and even accommodating for prescription glasses.
A dedicated portal on the activities of CSIR about COVID-19
A dedicated portal on the activities of CSIR on COVID-19 can be found at https://urdip.res.in/ covid19/. This portal is continuously been updated and upgraded as per the needs to showcase CSIR efforts. A new section namely “Blogs & Articles” was recently added to the portal with an aim of harnessing all the views, opinions, experiences and popular insights into development of technologies and techniques related to COVID-19 from the researchers of CSIR. This “Blog & Articles” page can be found at https://urdip.res.in/covid19/publications.jsp. This sections not only links to external articles, blogs, reports and other publications published but also enables researchers to publish on the blog itself. Under the CSIR-Supply Chain Management vertical, CSIR-URDIP is coordinating the channel on pre-emptive identification of supply chain issues in new launches of CSIR products and services for COVID-19 management. The work involves constant coordination with project coordinators and project leaders from other labs to identify issues in the launch of products in various areas of therapeutics, diagnostics, hospital-assisted devices and PPEs. CSIR-URDIP has been able to compile and highlight the issues and a timeline in the launch of various products. Provided Patentability Search Reports (i) CSIR-NEERI’s Hands Free Hand Washing System (NEERWASH) containing separate foot pedal-operated hand sanitizing system and hand washing sink, which also has a prerecorded audio playing to motivate the user and entertain for ensuring 20 seconds of hand washing and a standalone Hand Sanitization System (NEERJANTUK) which is a pull-type foot pedal-operated sanitizer dispenser. (ii) CSIR-CEERI’s Automatic sanitizer dispenser which senses the presence of a user using infrared sensor and sends signal to the microcontroller for actuating a solenoid valve which opens to suck in sanitizer using pressurised air and dispense it through the nozzle to the user. Conducted Freedom to Operate (FTO) Studies (i) CSIR-NAL designed single-limb BIPAP ventilator which is primarily intended to augment patient ventilation by supplying pressurized air through a patient circuit. (ii) Giant magnetoresistance (GMR) Sensor which is a multi-layered sensor with configuration of GMR elements in the form of single Wheatstone bridge to generate a differential output voltage with respect to magnetic field gradient along the sensor’s sensitive direction.
CDRI to carry Phase III clinical trials of Umifenovir
The Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow, has received permission from Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for carrying out Phase III clinical trials to test the efficacy, safety and tolerability of the antiviral drug Umifenovir. The Phase III activities will be carried out at King George’s Medical University (KGMU), Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences (RMLIMS) and Era’s Lucknow Medical College and Hospital, Lucknow. Umifenovir is mainly used for treatment of influenza and is available in China and Russia, with the brand name of Arbidol and has recently come into prominence due to its potential use for COVID-19 patients. To evaluate its efficacy in Indian patients, CDRI has taken up the clinical trial. These will be randomised, which means the drug would be tested in random manner, double blind, placebo-controlled trials. “This drug has a good safety profile and acts by preventing entry of virus into human cells and also by priming the immune system. Hopefully we will complete the trials in the next two months,” said Dr Ravishankar Ramachandran, Nodal Scientist, CDRI. Prof. Tapas Kundu, Director, CSIR-CDRI, said that all the raw materials for the drug are indigenously available and if the clinical trial is successful, Umifenovir can be a safe, efficacious, affordable drug against COVID-19 and can be part of the national programme against COVID-19. Prof. Kundu also added that this drug has the potential for prophylactic use. Dr Shekhar Mande, Director General, CSIR, told that this clinical trial is an integral part of the CSIR’s strategy of repurposing drugs for COVID-19. The clinical trial application was processed on high priority as per the DCGI initiative against COVID-19. The next steps of the trial are being fast-tracked to enable the availability of the drug to Indian patients as soon as possible.
Over 16,000 applications received for CSIR’s Summer Research Training Programme
The CSIR has received an overwhelming response by way of over 16,000 applications from all across the country for its Summer Research Training Programme (CSIR-SRTP). It is informed by Dr. G. Narahari Sastry, Director, CSIR-North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST), Jorhat, Assam. 11 Dr Sastry was speaking on the occasion of the curtain raiser of CSIR-SRTP (2020) hosted by CSIR-NEIST, the coordinating institute of the programme. The event was inaugurated online by Dr Shekhar C. Mande, DG, CSIR, and Secretary, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Government of India. “The concept of this online Summer Research Training Programme started budding with the lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic that sent the academic scenario throughout the country into doldrums. To dissolve the lull created by the pandemic in the academics of the nation and to uplift the constructive spirit among the students fraternity of the country, Dr Shekhar C. Mande has given the mandate to CSIR-NEIST to conceptualize this programme, which is happening for the first time in the academic history of India,” said Dr G. Sastry. The last date of receiving the applications was extended from 5 June to 8 June, 2020. Dr Sastry lauded the dedicated team of CSIR-NEIST for accomplishing the Herculean task of processing the plethora of applications on war-footing in a span of two days and then having the list of shortlisted candidates declared by 10 June, 2020. Dr Sastry concluded by saying that the best of the innovation in science and technology have come about during the times of war, pandemic, and natural disasters. Therefore, this pandemic has posed a challenge and given an opportunity to science and technology to give its best.
NRDC licenses manufacturing know-how of NavRakshak to MSMEs
The National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) has licensed the manufacturing know-how of NavRakshak, a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Suit, to five companies in the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector. The move is expected to increase the production of the same to meet the ongoing country-wide demand of quality PPE kits. NavRakshak is cost-effective as it does not require any major capital investment and can be adopted even by gown manufacturing units using basic stitching expertise. “The technology and quality of fabric is so superior that there is no need of sealing around the seam of the PPE suit, thus eliminating the need of importing costly sealing machines and tapes,” said Dr H Purushotham, Director, NRDC. The PPE fabric does not require any lamination with polymer or plastic-like film. This enables the PPE to permeate heat and moisture from the skin of the user. It gives protection but does not compromise on comfort. This uniqueness of the PPE makes it way different from the existing PPEs being used. NavRakshak has been designed by a Naval doctor incorporating personal experience in using the PPE for the comfort and protection of the doctors. The enhanced breathability factor in the PPE suit makes it an attractive proposition considering that frontline health workers use it for long hours. The PPE suit is available in single-ply as well as double-ply versions as per the need of end-use conditions. It also comes with a head gear, face mask and shoe cover up to the mid-thigh level. A patent application has been filed for NavRakshak PPE by the inventors through NRDC. 12 The manufacturing know-how of NavRakshak PPE has been developed at the Innovation Cell of the Institute of Naval Medicine, INHS Asvini Hospital (Mumbai) of the Indian Navy from where the name ‘NavRakshak’ is derived. The PPE has been tested and certified at the Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS), Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO). DRDO is one of the nine National Accreditation Boards for testing and Calibration Laboratory (NABL) accredited labs authorised by the Ministry of Textiles for PPE prototype sample testing as per the prevailing ISO standards and guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare/Ministry of Textile. NavRakshak has been found to meet the synthetic blood penetration resistance criteria for the fabric, suit, and seam.
Webinar on Environmental Perspectives of COVID-19
The world has changed within a period of few months. The global outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has thrown up many unforeseen challenges of unprecedented scale before humankind. As a control measure, different countries including India called for a prolonged lockdown to prevent the spread of the disease. The lockdown led to closure of all the industrial and developmental activities and vehicular movement. Along with major economic and social disruption, the lockdown also showered unexpected gains in improving the global environment such as clean air and water. CSIR-National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS) has organized a webinar on World Environment Day (5th June) to bring together thought leaders who can enrich this discourse and provide their insights into the new approaches the country should adopt for sustainable techno-socio-economic development. 13 “We have seen positive impact even during the pandemic, nature is healing, we all are experiencing clean air, and clean water. An Important Question is now to make it sustainable even after when all get back to work after lockdown. It is golden opportunity to work upon on the strategies how to retain these gains when severity of the COVID will be reduced,” said Dr Ranjana Aggarwal, director, CSIR-NISTADS. “Dynamic leadership can bring significant policy inputs for future strategies to retain this gain and overcome challenges of increase water consumption and hazardous medical waste problems,” said Dr. Sujit Bhattacharya, Chief Scientist, CSIR-NISTADS, in his introductory remarks during the webinar. Dr Madhulika Bhati, Principal Scientist, CSIR-NISTADS; Dr Krishnan Srinivasaraghavan, Head of Exploration, Country Accelerator Lab, UNDP India; Dr S.K. Tyagi, Former Additional Director of Central Pollution Control Board; Dr K.S. Rao, Professor & Head, Department of Botany, Delhi University; and Dr Yogesh Ghokale, Senior Fellow with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) were among the experts who expressed their views during the event. This webinar ended with interactive question-and-answer session.
Researchers develop low-cost novel coronavirus test
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended only reverse transcriptionQuantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) test for novel coronavirus testing. Researchers at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) have developed a new low-cost and low-tech test for SARS-CoV-2 testing. This test is known as reverse transcription nested PCR (RTnPCR) test. This test does not require RT-qPCR. The RTnPCR developed by the CCMB research team has shown comparable performance to the standard RT-qPCR test. The nested PCR approach does not depend on RT-qPCR but uses standard RT-PCR as part of an endpoint assay. In the course of comparing the results of both tests, researchers found that the standard RT-qPCR test can have low detection efficiency (less than 50%) in a real testing scenario, which may be due to low viral representation in many samples. This finding brought home the importance of monitoring detection efficiency directly in test environments. “We developed and tested an RT-nPCR protocol comprising a multiplex primary RT-PCR for amplification of four SARS-CoV-2 amplicons and a control human amplicon followed by a secondary nested PCR for individual amplicons. We also examined the use of RT-nPCR in pooled testing and in direct amplification without RNA isolation,” said Dr Rakesh Mishra, Director, CCMB.
CSIR launches ‘AarogyaPath’, a portal to strengthen healthcare supply chain
CSIR has launched AarogyaPath, a web-based solution for the healthcare supply chain, which provides real-time availability of critical supplies. AarogyaPath would serve manufacturers, suppliers, and customers through the web portal https://www.aarogyapath.in. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a situation of national health emergency, leading to severe disruption in the supply chain. In particular, the ability to produce and deliver the critical items was compromised due to a variety of reasons. This integrated public platform, named AarogyaPath, has been developed with the vision of “providing a path which leads one on a journey towards Aarogya (healthy life)” to address the challenges related to the supply of essential healthcare goods. This platform provides a single-point source for key healthcare goods, which could help customers in tackling a number of routinely experienced issues. The issues include dependence on limited suppliers, time-consuming processes to identify good quality products, limited access to suppliers who can supply standardized products at reasonable prices within desired timelines, lack of awareness about the latest product launches, etc. This portal was launched by Rajesh Bhushan, Officer on Special Duty, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in the presence of DG-CSIR, Dr Shekhar C. Mande. Sudhir Garg, Joint Secretary, Ministry of MSME and Dr Vijay Chauthiawale, Pharma Sector Expert, were guests of honour at this event.
CSIR-IICT webinar educates students on drug discovery, safety gear for COVID-19
Students had an engaging session on the current scenario on drug discovery and safety protocols for containing COVID-19 through a webinar organized by the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad. Addressing the students, Dr S. Chandrasekhar, Director, CSIR-IICT, said the scientists stood strong in the period of lockdown to find solutions for combating the new virus that affected the world. The IICT scientists too worked continuously to ensure a speedy solution in the form of drugs and protection gear that can reach the society at affordable prices. 17 Scientists from the institute discussed drug discovery, repurposing of drugs, sanitizers, masks, face shields and other equipment to combat COVID-19 during this webinar. Dr Chandrasekhar said the masks and face shields developed at the Institute are game changers for the common person. Elaborating on drug discovery, Dr Chandrasekhar said the time taken for any drug to come to the market is about 8 to 12 years and can cost approximately Rs. 10,000 crore. This process involves many steps right from identifying a molecule to trials and permissions. Utmost importance while developing a drug is given to safety and toxicity of the drug. He advised students to maintain social distance and follow self-hygiene to defeat the spread of the virus.
CSIR-NEERI to teach sanitization techniques to homeless and migrants
The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) has joined hands with the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA), Nagpur, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to impart training to homeless and migrant labourers staying in Nagpur. A meeting in this regard was held recently at NEERI in the presence of Justice Abhijeet Deshmukh, Secretary, DLSA, and Dr Rakesh Kumar, Director, NEERI. During the discussion, the participants emphasized that before the schools, colleges, hotels, etc. are reopened, all these institutions should be properly sanitized, as many schools, especially government and zilla parishad schools, have been used to quarantine COVID-19 suspects and shelter migrant workers. Dr Suvha Lama, Scientist, CSIR-NEERI, explained on how to clean and disinfect the workplaces. Dr Shilpa Kumari, Scientist, CSIR-NEERI, informed that the institution had already imparted training to various NGOs on preparing reusable masks according to WHO guidelines. She also demonstrated various systems and devices by which disinfection can be done. Dr Pratap Reddy Maddigapu, Project Scientist at the institution, stated that a disinfection device based on Ultraviolet (UV)-C technology can be used to disinfect used masks, used hand gloves, papers, documents, files, etc. Homeless and migrant labourers, after giving them proper training, can be engaged in such disinfection activities for their livelihood, he added. DLSA and NGOs pointed out that various government and private organizations will henceforth seek routine and standard environmental sanitization procedures, where CSIRNEERI could play a major role in bringing out a policy document. CSIR-NEERI could also be instrumental in imparting sanitization training to homeless and migrant labourers for providing them employment opportunities.
Air sanitiser from NIIST to disinfect aerosols
The National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (CSIR-NIIST) has developed a low-cost air sanitiser which could prove ideal for enclosed public spaces such as hospitals, given the COVID-19 scenario. The system ‘disinfects’ aerosols, the fine particles suspended in air. It exposes them to a combination of antimicrobial filters and germicidal UVC radiation and releases clean air. 18 Many infectious diseases of bacterial, fungal and viral origin are transmitted through aerosols, which are minute (micron size) respiratory droplets that reach air when people cough, sneeze or even talk. “Direct inhalation can take these aerosols deep into the lungs or aerosols can get deposited on surfaces leading to a source of contact transmission. Studies related to COVID-19 have further reported that coronavirus can stay active in aerosols up to three hours (depending on surrounding conditions) and on surfaces up to several days,” the institute said in a statement. The air sanitiser was developed by a team led by Krishnakumar B., Principal Scientist, NIIST. The team tested the unit with aerosols spiked with known bacterial cultures of Staph aureus and E. coli and found a significant reduction in bacterial cell count in the exhaust air. “Following the outbreak, we had embarked upon a number of initiatives to help the public fight the pandemic. The air sanitiser can find application in public spaces such as hospitals, seminar halls and clinics where the chances of aerosol-mediated disease transmission are higher,” told Ajayaghosh A., director, NIIST. The NIIST has now transferred the technical know-how to M/s Ecocure Technologies, Thiruvananthapuram, an MSME, for commercial production.
CSIR-CMERI develops new indigenous ventilator
Researchers at Durgapurbased Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI) have indigenously developed a ventilator amid rising cases of COVID-19. The new ventilator was unveiled in the presence of Prof. (Dr) Harish Hirani, Director, CSIRCMERI, and Dr Arunangshu Ganguly, Chairman and Managing Director, Health World Hospitals Pvt Ltd, Durgapur. “The bellow design, controllers and embedded electronics of this ventilator have all been customised to ensure price efficacy as well as meeting the requirements of the relevant industries. The ventilator has undergone multiple technical and design changes after adopting critical feedbacks from healthcare professionals of the Health World Hospital and Vivekananda Hospital, Durgapur. This ventilator costs around Rs. 80,000-90,000. The ventilator will be further upgraded to meet the requirements of various other patient’s parameters,” said Prof. Hirani. “The efficacy of a ventilator for a patient is also correlated to the effective response of the attending healthcare personnel. Steadily, the approach of this Institute will be to harness artificial intelligence capabilities to automate the functioning of mechanical ventilators, so that the ventilators automatically respond to the fluctuating variables of a patient,” added Prof. Hirani.
CSIR lab to organize nationwide summer research training programme
The North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST) is working towards ameliorating the stagnancy created in the academic scenario of the nation due to COVID-19 pandemic. Jorhat-based CSIR-NEIST got the mandate from DG, CSIR Dr Shekhar C. Mande to organize and coordinate a country-wide CSIR-Summer Research Training Programme (CSIR-SRTP-2020). An online programme (CSIR-SRTP-2020) is going to be discharged through the faculties and mentors from 38 CSIR laboratories spread across the country. This was announced by the director of CSIR-NEIST Dr G Narahari Sastry. As a prelude to this online programme, a website http://www.neist.res.in/srtp2020/ has been launched where aspiring students can log on to avail the online application form and the detailed brochure of the programme. The registration process starts from May 28, 2020 which closes on 05 June, 2020. The online programme has been designed for students pursuing such programmes as BSc, MSc, BTech/B.E., MCA, M.Tech, and M. Pharma and with excellent academic record throughout. The programme is also open to faculties from various colleges affiliated to UGC/AICTE/State/ Central/Private Universities.
Dengue drug enters Phase II clinical trial for COVID-19
Sun Pharma has announced that it has commenced Phase II clinical trial on AQCH, a phytopharmaceutical (plant derived) drug for treatment of COVID-19. The company received approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for conducting Phase II clinical trial in April this year. The research is being done in association with the CSIR and DBT. 17 The clinical trial will be conducted across 12 centres in 210 patients located in Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and other places spread across the country. The treatment duration for patients will be 10 days. The results of the clinical trial are expected by October 2020. Human safety study of AQCH has already been completed and the drug has been found safe at the recommended dose for Phase II study. Since 2016, Sun Pharma has been working closely with DBT-International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), under the leadership of Dr. Navin Khanna, and CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM), Jammu, under the leadership of Dr. Ram Vishwakarma, to develop a phytopharmaceutical drug for dengue. Dilip Shanghvi, Managing Director, Sun Pharma said, “This is the first phytopharmaceutical drug approved for clinical trials by the DCGI as a potential treatment for COVID-19. AQCH has shown anti-SARSCoV-2 effects in in-vitro studies conducted in collaboration with ICGEB, Italy. These results, combined with information on mechanism of action through in-vitro and small animal studies, give us the confidence to evaluate this potential treatment option for COVID-19 patients.”
WHO resumes hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine trials
World Health Organisation (WHO) has decided to resume hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine (HCQ/CQ) trails after Indian scientists have questioned its earlier decision to halt it temporarily. WHO had stopped the trails based on a study published in the journal Lancet. This news has received overwhelming response from all spheres. “We’re happy that the WHO resumed trials of hydroxychloroquine. I firmly believe that the WHO’s decision was taken in haste. It was a kind of knee-jerk reaction. They should have analysed the data on their own before temporarily suspending trials,” said Shekhar C Mande, Director General, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). “I think that HCQ/CQ trails are of global importance and I am glad to see them resumed,” said Dr Anurag Agarwal, Director, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), while speaking with India Science Wire. Dr Mande, Dr Agarwal (IGIB), and Dr Rajeeva Karandikar from the Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI) have written a joint letter to the WHO’s chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan, where they have pointed out several limitations in the study as the authors have themselves acknowledged it in the article. “This study is highly flawed and should not be used to judge CQ/HCQ effectiveness or toxicity. A high quality RCT is needed,” tweeted Dr Agarwal.
Scientists develop indigenous nasopharyngeal swabs
In the current pandemic scenario, global supplies of nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs are not dependable resulting in supply chain delays, escalating prices and variable quality. CSIRNational Chemical Laboratory (CSIR-NCL), Pune, has developed an indigenous NP swab for collecting samples from the throat cavity of COVID-19 patients. The need for making available domestic technology for NP swabs was flagged by CSIR to NCL in mid-April. Nasopharyngeal swab is a medical device with stringent specifications of quality, polymer grade, dimensions and sterilization. An NP swab consists of a cylindrical plastic stick with a brush-like tip of synthetic bristles/flocks. The flocking process helps align the fine bristles in 19 a parallel orientation on the stick head, much like a tooth brush, except that this has round uniform geometry and the NP swab bristles are of micron diameter. The NCL team of polymer science and chemical engineering scientists - which included Dr Chandrashekhar V. Rode, Dr Prakash P. Wadgaonkar, and Dr Anuya A. Nisal - successfully worked out the detailed specifications of NP swab polymers and adhesives. The specifications included medical-grade materials that must be used for manufacture, the swab design and the packaging and sterilization protocols. “This is an excellent example of optimizing the polymer specifications and validating the chemical analysis of an urgently needed medical swab product in a very short time,” noted Dr. Ashwini Kumar Nangia, Director, NCL.
COVID-19 testing laboratory inaugurated in CSIR-NEIST, Jorhat
A COVID-19 testing laboratory has been established in the Jorhat campus of the North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST). Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Finance, Education (Higher, Secondary and Elementary), Transformation and Development, PWD, Government of Assam, inaugurated the laboratory. The Director of CSIRNEIST, Dr G. Narahari Sastry, described this momentous event as an important milestone in the annals of CSIR-NEIST history. Appreciating the fact that NEIST is the first research and development institute in Assam to open up a testing facility, Dr Sarma congratulated the scientists and staff of the Institute for making it happen. Dr Sastry mentioned that a team of 10 scientists of the Institute is actively involved in isolation of RNA from the virus. Forty other staff members are acting as a support system. The Institute’s Biotechnology Division is playing a pivotal role in carrying out RT-PCR-based COVID-19 testing. Besides, Government of Assam and the district administration of Jorhat are actively cooperating and facilitating the efforts put in by the Institute. A microbiologist from the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Assam has been engaged with the Institute’s COVID-19 testing laboratory to certify the testing. The samples for the testing are expected to be obtained in coordination with the state government and the district administration of Jorhat. The Institute has also contractually engaged a project scientist and a research scholar for the testing purpose.
Webinar on ‘Traditional Knowledge and Formal Medicine: A Complementary Approach to Combat COVID-19’
Formal medicine is around since few hundred years, but traditional knowledge is thousands years old. Traditional knowledge still needs to establish itself with more scientific validations. These thoughts were expressed by Dr Shekhar C. Mande, DG, CSIR. Dr Mande was addressing a webinar on ‘Traditional Knowledge and Formal Medicine: A Complementary Approach to Combat COVID’. This webinar was jointly organized by CSIR-NISCAIR in collaboration with CSIR-NISTADS and Vijnana Bharati (VIBHA) on 14th May, 2020. Prof. Ranjana Aggarwal, Director, CSIR-NISCAIR and CSIR-NISTADS has appreciated the spirit of CSIR under the leadership of Dr Mande who geared up the institution to combat COVID-19 even before this was declared pandemic by World Health Organisation (WHO). Dr Mande expected excellent outcomes on this topic of importance and he appreciated Prof. Ranjana for conceptualizing the theme for this webinar. Dr MLB Bhatt, Vice Chancellor, King George’s Medical University (KGMU), Lucknow has reassured that most of the COVID-19 cases are with mild symptoms and only less than 1 per cent require hospitalisation or critical care. He emphasised that only those with comorbid conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), kidney ailment, etc. may need hospitalisation after being infected with coronavirus.
CIMAP’s herbal hand sanitizer transferred for commercial production
CSIR’s Lucknow-based constituent laboratory Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) has developed an alcohol-based herbal hand sanitizer in the wake of growing demand for sanitizers amid coronavirus outbreak. The sanitizer gel contains essential oil, which has been found to be effective against broad spectrum of microbes. The technology of the hand sanitizer has been transferred to Lucknow-based company, M/s Sai International. The MoU was signed by Mr Bhaskar Jyoti Deuri, Controller of Administration, CIMAP and Mr Vinay Shukla, M/s Sai International, Lucknow on May 06 at CSIR-CIMAP, Lucknow. The company would start the production of hand sanitizer very soon. Dr Prabodh K. Trivedi, Director, CSIR-CIMAP said that the herbal hand sanitizer has been clinically tested and found to be highly-effective against commensal pathogens. He also told that the product has been found to be more effective than the existing similar products in the market, which is because of synergistic effect of the essential oils added in the formulation.
CSIR, AICTE to hold Drug Discovery Hackathon-2020
The CSIR and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) have launched an initiative for potential drug discovery for COVID-19 disease. The CSIR and the AICTE have launched an initiative for potential drug discovery for COVID-19 disease. The Drug Discover Hackathon is supported by the office of the Principal Scientific Advisor of the Government of India. The Hackathon will be open to both national and international participants. It will be an online Hackathon and all generated data will be available to all. The potential ideas that emerge during the Hackathon will be developed by CSIR labs, start-ups and any other interested organization. As per the information shared by Dr Abhay Jere, Chief Innovation Officer, HRD Ministry, the Hackathon will be held on two themes - Drug design for anti-COVID-19 hit/lead molecule generation or re-purposing and Designing/ optimization of new tools and algorithms.
Researchers culture novel coronavirus, may help in drug testing and vaccine development
The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) has established stable cultures of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) from patients’ samples. Virologists at CCMB have isolated infectious viruses from several isolates. The ability to culture the virus in lab enables CCMB to work towards vaccine development and testing of potential drugs to fight COVID-19. Novel coronavirus enters human cell by binding with the ACE-2 receptor on the cell surface. Not all cells have ACE-2 receptors. Human epithelial cells in the respiratory tract copiously express ACE-2 receptors, causing respiratory disease in the infected patient. However, we cannot grow human epithelial cells in lab. “Currently, primary epithelial cells generated from human origins do not grow for many generations in labs, which is key to culturing viruses continuously. At the same time, the labs that are growing the virus need an ‘immortal’ cell line”, says Dr Krishnan H Harshan, Principal Scientist, CCMB. They use Vero cells (kidney epithelial cell lines from green African monkey), which express ACE-2 proteins and carry a cell division that allows them to proliferate indefinitely. But why cultivate a dreadful germ? If we culture a large amount of the virus and inactivate them, then it can be used as inactivated virus vaccine. Once we inject the inactivated virus, the human immune system triggers the production of germ-specific antibodies. One can inactivate the virus by heat or chemical means. The inactivated virus can trigger antibody response, but does not infect and make us sick as they cannot reproduce.
New diagnostic kit for COVID-19 testing
Asymptomatic COVID-19 cases are a big concern worldwide and that makes testing important for early diagnosis and further treatment well in advance. Stepping up to join in the fight against COVID-19, the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM), Jammu, has partnered with Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) to develop and scale up a new RT-LAMP-based diagnostic kit. RT-LAMP stands for Reverse Transcriptase-Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification. RT-LAMP test is a nucleic acid-based test carried out from nasal or throat swab sample from patients. It is rapid (45-60 min), cost-effective and accurate. “It has been tested with a small number of patients’ samples; validating the kit on more number of patient samples is planned and will be done together with RIL. The test recipe has been developed and successfully demonstrated using synthetic templates”, said Dr. Ram A Vishwakarma, Director, IIIM Jammu. The RT-LAMP test can be done in a single tube with minimal expertise in a basic lab set-up like mobile units/kiosks, which can be used at airports, railway stations, bus stands and other public places. The end detection of the test is a simple colored reaction, which is easily visible in UV light, and is now being modified such that it can be detected in regular light.
CSIR-IICT gets two more APIs for anti-viral drugs
CSIR-Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) has completed the process of making two more Active Pharma Ingredients (APIs) for anti-viral drugs - Umifenovir and Remdesivir. It had already handed over anti-viral Favipiravir API to a large pharmaceutical firm for approvals of Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) to conduct animal/human trials before releasing it into the market. “We are in the process of transferring two APIs to select pharmaceutical organisations for them to approach the drug control authorities for conducting necessary trials and approvals before manufacturing them,” said Director S. Chandrasekhar. CSIR had identified about 25 drugs for ‘repurposing’ for quick deployment in treatment for COVID-19 since new drugs take at least 10-15 years to reach the market. IICT had taken up development of synthetic ‘process expertise’ for molecules, which are showing promising data in various trials across the globe of five drugs including Favipiravir, Umifenovir, Remdesivir, Baloxavir and Chloroquine/Hydroxycloroquine.
ACQH, convalescent plasma trials to begin soon, says CSIR DG
CSIR Director-General Shekhar C Mande on ACQH trails for COVID-19 said that ACQH is a plant extract found in the tribal belt of Gujarat, Jharkhand and MP. He said, “Earlier, in a programme for anti-dengue medicines, ACQH showed promising results. Based on those trials, we approached Drug Controller General of India for COVID-19 that’s what we are starting now.” He further informed that CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB) in Kolkata got approval from DCGI to start therapy on convalescent plasma. “They’ve tied up with few hospitals in Kolkata and have begun the trials now,” he added.
Inside a lab growing coronavirus
In order to find a potential cure or vaccine for COVID-19, it is necessary to grow the novel coronavirus in large quantities in safe and contained laboratory settings. In the last few months, institutes around the country, including CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad and National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, have joined the effort to grow the virus. 21 The BSL-3 is almost a sacred place – dedicated to culturing disease-causing infectious microbes. While growing non-pathogenic E. coli bacterial strains is a fairly commonplace activity in many life science labs, infectious ones need a plethora of safety rituals to be followed. The journey to a BSL-3 lab begins with a series of change rooms. Across these, the air pressure keeps dropping and the amount of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on the entrant keeps increasing. A consistently lower air pressure than the outside change rooms (by 30Pa – not something that you would generally feel) ensures the potentially contaminated air from inside does not go into the change rooms. But the seriousness of the situation dawns upon you with the PPE – foot covers, special shoes, shoe covers, a lab coat followed by a surgical gown, gloves, a pair of goggles, an N95 mask and a head cover – all to ensure that no body part is exposed to even this “clean” air. The focus is on making sure that the researcher neither carries in any contamination from outside nor brings out an infection from the BSL-3 while leaving.
CSIR collaborates with Intel and IIIT-Hyderabad to combat COVID-19
Faster testing and predicting rapidly the patients at risk is crucial to mitigate SARS-CoV-2 transmission. CSIR is working with Intel India and International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Hyderabad, to help achieve faster and less expensive COVID-19 testing and coronavirus genome sequencing to understand epidemiology and Artificial Intelligence (AI)- based risk stratification for patients with comorbidities. As part of the initiative, Intel India is developing an end-to-end system that consists of multiple applications, testing devices, data collection/aggregation gateways, a data exchange software development kit (SDK) and an AI model-hub platform. CSIR’s constituent labs such as CSIRIGIB, CSIR-CCMB, CSIR-IMTECH, CSIR-IIP, CSIR-CLRI and others will work with various hospitals and diagnostic chains in carrying out comprehensive diagnostics. IIIT-Hyderabad will develop risk stratification algorithms that can help in drug and vaccine discovery for long-term preparedness to combat the epidemic. “Multi-disciplinary partnerships are key to tackling the challenge of COVID-19 and CSIR is happy to collaborate with IIIT-Hyderabad and Intel India which bring in complementary strengths in genomics, big data and AI,” observed Dr Shekhar C. Mande, DG-CSIR.
Scientists develop mobile indoor disinfection sprayer
Scientists at CSIR-Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI), Durgapur, have developed two mobile indoor Disinfection Sprayer units. These units can be used for cleaning and disinfecting pathogenic micro-organism effectively, especially in hospitals. Called Battery Powered Disinfectant Sprayer (BPDS) and Pneumatically Operated Mobile Indoor Disinfection (POMID), these units can be used to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, and cardboards. Intermittent usage of these disinfecting units can help minimize the risk of transmitting coronavirus to people who inadvertently come in contact with those surfaces. The sprayer systems in both BPDS and POMID are designed with two-stage spraying units and separate storage tanks to clean and disinfect the indoor areas by the numbers of fixed and flexible nozzles set in the lower and upper tiers. There is also an industrial variant of the Disinfectant Sprayer for heavy usage and to cover a larger area. 13 POMID mobile indoor disinfectant unit is made by steel frames mounted on four wheels. This system comprises compressors, piping and fittings and spray nozzles. The hand-held flexible spray arm can be used in any direction as per requirement. POMID unit has two storage tanks each with a capacity of 10 litres. BPDS unit is a cordless machine with a two-nozzle spray system and an extended arm spray unit. It has a storage capacity of 20 litres and a battery backup time of 4 hours in a single charge. The gross weight of the system is (empty tank) 25 kg
CSIR lab to reach out north-east villages through entrepreneurship drive
North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST) will make all possible efforts to reach out to about 500 villages of north-east India through its various entrepreneurship and skill development programmes in the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic. This information was given by Dr. G Narahari Sastry, Director of the Institute. He was addressing the CSIR-NEIST fraternity on the occasion of the National Technology Day through e-mode. Some of these programmes include CSIR-AROMA Mission, Rural Women Technology Park, Science and Technology Interventions in the North-East Region (STINER) and other similar societal missions of the Institute to facilitate innovation and entrepreneurship in the region. NEIST, based out of Jorhat, Assam, and a constituent laboratory of the CSIR, has taken up this initiative in concurrence with Institute’s theme “Year of Revitalizing NEIST for Strengthening North East” for the year 2020. Keeping in tune with the national theme for the day that is ‘Rebooting the Economy through Science, Technology and Research Translations or ‘RESTART’, the institute had lined-up its various activities for the National Technology Day. Notable among these was the entrepreneurship development programme for rural women under the STINER project. The programme was attended by 10 aspiring women entrepreneurs from CSIR-NEIST colony apart from online participation of other entrepreneurs from all over the state of Assam along with CSIR-NEIST staff members.
Projects selected against CSIR-NMITLI for tackling COVID-19
CSIR is leading the fight against COVID-19 using multi-pronged approach and multiple models of engagement. CSIR labs are developing technologies and products and are working with industry and public sector undertakings for deployment. CSIR, through its New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI), has several projects to combat COVID-19. NMITLI is a flagship programme of CSIR aimed to support new ideas and projects from academic institutions and industries. Recently CSIR, through NMITLI programme, has approved a project towards development of human monoclonal antibodies (hmAbs) that can neutralize SARS-CoV-2 in patients. This project on generation of neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies as a therapeutic strategy will be implemented by a multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary team. Monoclonal antibody therapy is a form of immunotherapy designed to produce immunity to a disease or to enhance resistance by the immune system. Apart from this, following projects have also been selected under CSIR-NMITLI programme for tackling COVID-19:
Development of an indigenous, affordable neonatal to an adult ventilator to be used for mechanically ventilating multiple patients with respiratory failure, simultaneously;
Development of a Portable Respiratory Assistive Device;
Development of an accurate, affordable point-of-care Diagnostics kit for COVID-19;
Development of a multi-omics-based machine learning algorithm to predict the clinical course and prognosis of COVID-19 patient;
Development of Mycobacterium W for COVID-19: Safety and Efficacy Trial in critically ill, hospitalized and at risk patients;
Development of an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for COVID-19 (ICoV2Vac);
Development of the most appropriate manufacturing process for the production of two important drugs to treat COVID-19 disease; and
Generation of neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus as a therapeutic strategy to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
NCL develops facemask with better filtration efficiency
National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune, has developed a facemask with better filtration efficiency compared to those available in the market. Scientists at NCL, a constituent of CSIR, have used the Institution’s patented bacterial nano cellulose technology along with nano coating to develop the new facemask. The cotton cloth coated in a solution of bacterial cellulose and nano material has been found to be effective in preventing the penetration of bacterial growth, indicating promise as a material for facemask filter. A team of scientists, led by Dr. Syed Dastager, Dr. Mahesh Dharne and Dr. Shubhangi Umbarkar prepared the prototype of the facemask using Spun bond polypropylene medical grade cloth to evaluate bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE), particulate filter efficiency (PFE), breathability, flammability, and splash resistance. Coimbatore-based South India Textile Research Association (SITRA), a government-approved certifying nodal agency for medical textiles, conducted these tests on CSIR-NCL’s sample facemasks for confirming the quality.The BFE of the CSIR-NCL mask is 99.9% according to the ASTM (formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials) standard using aerosols of human pathogen, Staphylococcus aureus, found in the upper respiratory tract and on the skin.
CSIR-CMERI develops touch-free soap-cum-water dispenser
Durgapur-based Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI), an institution under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has developed a sensor-based contactless soap-cumwater dispensing unit, which can help to avoid coronavirus infection. The single infrared sensor attached to the dispensing unit gets automatically activated when an object comes close to the unit. Other important design features of this unit include dispensing of both liquid soaps and water from the same outlet 20 seconds apart. The touch-less soap-cum-water dispensing units may find their utility at various locations such as hospitals, shopping malls, banks, stadiums, and sports complexes. Portability is another unique design feature of this dispensing unit. The water usage is minimal. About 250 ml of liquid soap can be stored as of now, but the storage capacity can be extended up to 1 litre. “The 20-second timer could be a game-changer, as it ensures that the user is compelled to rub his/her hands for the requisite time span as per Standard Hygiene guidelines. Our technology is evolved based on intensive research and ergonomic demands,” said Prof. Harish Hirani, Director, CSIR-CMERI, Durgapur.
DG, CSIR launches Compendium of Indian Technologies for Combating COVID-19
A “Compendium of Indian Technologies for Combating COVID-19 (Tracing, Testing and Treating)”, prepared by National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), was launched by Dr. Shekhar C. Mande, Director General, CSIR and Secretary, DSIR, Govt. of India, at CSIR Headquarters, New Delhi, on 5 May 2020. The Compendium carries information about 200 COVID-19-related Indian technologies, ongoing research activities, technologies available for commercialisation, and initiatives and efforts taken by Government of India, categorised under 3Ts of Tracking, Testing and Treating. Most of these technologies have been tested for proof-of-concept (PoC) and can help entrepreneurs to market them faster as they do not have to reinvent the wheel. Technologies presented in the Compendium include a digital and molecular surveillance database, COVID-19 rapid testing kit, Surveillance system to fight COVID-19 through a unique tracking mobile application, Real-time PCR test, an antimicrobial fabric, Minus Corona UV Bot to disinfect hospitals, a Bio Body Suit and herbal products to boost the immune system. Dr. Mande appreciated the initiative of NRDC for bringing out the Compendium of Indian Technologies for Combating COVID-19 which is very timely and would benefit the MSMEs, start-ups and the public at large.
Tata Sons to scale-up Covid-19 Testing Kit ‘Feluda’
The Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi, has transferred the technology Feluda (FNCAS9 Editor Linked Uniform Detection Assay) to Tata Sons for further development and commercialisation. A Memorandum of Understanding reflecting the arrangement has been signed between the two Institutions. Feluda is a rapid diagnostic kit for COVID-19, developed indigenously by IGIB, a CSIR institution. “Innovative ‘Feluda’ test uses cutting-edge Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) technology for detection of genomic sequence of novel coronavirus. It uses a test protocol that is simple to administer and easy to interpret enabling results to be made available to the medical fraternity in relatively lesser time, as compared to other test protocols,” said Banmali Agrawala, President, Infrastructure and Defence& Aerospace, Tata Sons. Dr. Anurag Agrawal, Director, IGIB, highlighted that the technology was conceived and developed at CSIR-IGIB under sickle cell mission and utilizes an indigenously developed cutting edge CRISPR Cas9 technology to specifically recognize COVID-19 sequence in a sample. A combination of CRISPR biology and paper-strip chemistry leads to a visible signal readout on a paper strip that can be rapidly assessed for establishing the presence of viral infection in a sample.
New project to develop human monoclonal antibodies for neutralizing SARS-CoV-2
CSIR, through its New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI) programme, has approved a project towards development of human monoclonal antibodies (hmAbs) that can neutralize SARS-CoV-2 in patients. This project on generation of neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies as a therapeutic strategy will be implemented by a multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary team. Monoclonal antibody therapy is a form of immunotherapy designed to produce immunity to a disease or to enhance resistance by the immune system. This new project aims to generate hmAbs to SARS-CoV-2 from gradual recovery phase of COVID-19 patients and select high affinity and neutralizing antibodies. The project also aims to anticipate future adaptation of the virus and generate hmAbs clones that can neutralize the mutated virus so that it could be readily used for combating future SARS-CoV infections. This industry-academia collaboration comprises of National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) Pune; Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Indore; PredOmix Technologies Ltd, Gurugram; and Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL), Hyderabad. Vaccines and biotherapeutics maker BBIL is leading the project to develop human monoclonal antibodies (hmAbs) for COVID-19 infection.
NAL develops Ventilator ‘SwasthVayu’ for COVID-19 patients
The National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Bengaluru, an institution under the CSIR has developed a non-invasive bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) ventilator to treat COVID-19 patients. NAL has named it ‘SwasthVayu’. BiPAP Ventilator is an electronic breathing device used in the treatment of sleep apnea, lung disease, and to treat respiratory weakness. In non-invasive ventilation delivery of oxygen takes place via a face mask and, therefore, it eliminates the need of an endotracheal airway. CSIRNAL has enabled a spin-off technology based on its expertise in the aerospace design domain. SwasthVayu is a micro-controllerbased precise closed-loop adaptive control system with a built-in bio-compatible “3D printed manifold and coupler” with Highly Efficient Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. These unique features help to alleviate the fear of the spread of the virus. The Ventilator has features like spontaneous, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), timed, auto BiPAP modes with provision to connect oxygen concentrator or enrichment unit externally. SwasthVayu BiPAP machine in Auto Test mode with Test Lung 19 The major advantages of this ventilator are that it is simple to use without any specialized nursing, cost-effective, compact and configured with majority of indigenous components, say the researchers. The scientists developed this new ventilator in a record time of 36 days. CSIRNAL is in the process of getting approval from the regulatory authorities. In anticipation of quick approval for the product, CSIR-NAL has already initiated dialogues with major public/ private industries as a partner for mass production.
CSIR-CFTRI rejects false claims on Spirulina Chikkies
Spirulina Chikkies developed by Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysuru, has been falsely claimed in some media reports as a cure for COVID-19, said Director of the Institute, Dr KSMS Raghavarao. “We have come to know that reports televised on 9th May 2020 by the Kannada channels, Public TV and News 18, have claimed that Spirulina Chikkies is a cure for COVID-19. On the contrary, it is far from the truth. CFTRI has never claimed that the Spirulina Chikkies or any of the other products recently supplied as relief are cures for any disease or illness. Spirulina Chikkies are supplements for nutrients that help in building immunity,” said Dr Raghavarao. These chikkies were not developed as a cure for COVID-19, but for combating malnutrition in children. They are helpful in all situations where immunity requires to be maintained. It is clarified in a statement released by CFTRI, a constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). “The TV reports also made a claim that the COVID-19 cases in Mysuru were reduced because of Spirulina Chikkies, which is to say the least gross misrepresentation. I wish to put the record straight here that it is the untiring effort of the District Administration, the Doctors and other staff of the district hospital, and other departments of the government, which is responsible for the reduced disease status in Mysuru. The misrepresentation by the TV channels is an injustice meted out to these dedicated Corona warriors,” said Dr Raghavarao.
CIMAP celebrated National Technology Day
The Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) celebrated National Technology Day virtually on 11th May, 2020, through Facebook Live. The National Technology Day Lecture was delivered by the Chief Guest Professor Anil K. Gupta, Founder, Honey Bee Network, SRISTI, GIAN & National Innovation Foundation and CSIR Bhatnagar Fellow. Professor Gupta delivered a lecture on “Leveraging People’s Knowledge and Entrepreneurial Potential for Transforming Post-Pandemic Rural India”. In his talk, Prof. Gupta told that the unprecedented urban to rural migration (by some estimates about 35-40 million people) has unfolded new possibilities for setting up decentralized micro and small enterprises to generate jobs, use local resources and associated knowledge effectively and trigger a horizontal market development (rural to rural) in addition to vertical (rural to urban) supply chains. Dr. Prabodh K. Trivedi, Director, CSIR–CIMAP, welcomed the Chief Guest and also briefed about CSIR-CIMAP technologies and progress on the initiatives of the institute related to rural development post-COVID-19 pandemic.
North East Institute of Science and Technology develops website on COVID-19
North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST) has launched its own web portal to create awareness on COVID-19 and to keep the masses updated on the new developments on this pandemic situation. Jorhat-based NEIST, a constituent of CSIR, has launched the website www.neist.res.in/covid19 in a bid to disseminate the updates on COVID-19. This website has been launched by Dr G Narahari Sastry, Director of CSIR-NEIST. “This website could be helpful in disseminating ongoing scientific research on COVID-19 across the globe including what the CSIR labs are doing. The main objective of the portal is to create awareness among the society about COVID-19,” said Dr Sastry. The website will serve as knowledge source for the COVID-19 pandemic and it will also showcase the ongoing activities in various CSIR labs under different verticals such as Molecular Digital Surveillance, Development of Rapid and Cheap Diagnostic Kit, New Therapies Development and Drug Repurposing, Development of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kit and Supply Chain, he added.
CSIR Institutes develop important technologies to combat COVID-19
On the occasion of National Technology Day, Dr. Sanjay Kumar, Director of Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (CSIR-IHBT), who is also holding the additional charge of Director Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIR-CSIO), Chandigarh, delivered the National Technology Day lecture through video conferencing. It was attended by scientists and staff of both the institutes. In his lecture, Dr. Kumar focused on the challenge posed by COVID-19 and roles of CSIR-CSIO and CSIR-IHBT for combating this deadly disease. The highly infectious virus SARS-CoV-2 is basically a positive-sense 30 Kb RNA genome, which codes for 16 non-structural and 4 structural proteins. To combat this deadly disease, both the Institutes have developed and transferred important technologies. He described the technologies developed by CSIR-CSIO lab, which include electrostatic disinfection machine, non-contract IT thermometer, aerosol-retracted canopy for dental procedure, foot-operated water dispenser, portable ventilator, Thermo UV germicidal system, intubation aerosol protective canopy, robotic hospital logistics cart, face shield and banknote decontamination box. Regarding CSIR-IHBT technologies, he mentioned setting up a testing centre for diagnosis and molecular surveillance of COVID-19 in Himachal Pradesh, screening of bio-active molecules from the Himalayan medicinal plants against COVID-19 virus for development of herbalbased antiviral drug, production and supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing natural aromatic oils and tea extracts through their technology partners and advanced techniques for disease surveillance.
PPE Kits donated to Pune City Police and Hospitals
Research scholars, staff, and alumni of Pune-based CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) collected funds to donate personal protection equipment (PPE) kits to Pune Police and hospitals. This group, called Marathi@NCL, has donated 200 PPE kits to Pune Police, Sassoon and Naidu hospitals. The Group has also donated Rs. 1 lakh to the CM relief fund earlier. The task of PPE kits distribution was carried out by observing all safety precautions as per the administrative guidelines. Marathi@NCL responded responsibly upon hearing about scarcity of PPE kits among hospital staff and city police, who are at the frontline of fighting coronavirus. Earlier too, Marathi@NCL had acted with great social responsibility, be it flood calamities in Kerala and Western Maharashtra, Marathwada draught situation or helping needy students from rural areas for their education. This research community deserves all our appreciation for what they set out to do in times of such emergency situations.
Science and technology is a ray of hope in pandemic situations
The Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR), Lucknow, a constituent lab of the CSIR, celebrated the National Technology Day with students, staffs, and scientists through its social networking platform. In the opening remarks, Professor Alok Dhawan, Director, CSIR-IITR, highlighted the contributions of CSIR in the advancement of science and technology in the country. The ‘Technology Day Lecture’ was delivered by Professor Thalappil Pradeep, Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, a pioneer in the area of molecular materials and surfaces. Keeping in mind the present situation, he delivered a lecture on “Innovations in academic institutions during and after the pandemic”. Expressing his views on the occasion, Professor Pradeep said, “Looking at the pandemics of past, science and technology has always provided the solution.” He added that “the world today needs sustainable solutions such as sustainable livelihood, food, new packaging material, self-contained homes with more focus on health.” In the closing remarks, Professor Dhawan urged the student community to convert their passion into their purpose and eventually into their profession. He added that the Indian scientific community is striving hard to end this pandemic disease and expressed hope that with collective efforts the situation will improve soon.
NRDC invites proposals for funding of commercialisation of COVID-19 combating technologies
National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), an enterprise of Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India has launched a scheme to support researchers and innovators to scale-up their lab-scale technologies to commercial scale for combating COVID-19. The financial support will be in the form of grant-in-aid up to Rs. 10 lakh. Higher amount can also be considered for deserving proposals having high impact. The financial assistance is for value addition such as scaling up, prototype development, market testing of the prototype, generating data required by regulatory authorities and certification, etc. The focus areas are eco-friendly sanitizers, rapid test kits, PPEs, ventilators, medicines and vaccines. Research laboratories, universities, start-ups and MSMEs can apply for this grant. NRDC has also brought out a compendium on Indian technologies for combating COVID-19. Most of these technologies are proof-of-concept (POC) tested and would help the entrepreneurs to take the product to the market faster as they do not have to reinvent the wheel. Start-ups/ Entrepreneurs, who would like to commercialise their POC-tested technologies, can use this grant for that purpose. The last date for applying on prescribed form is 15.5.2020. For more details about the scheme and application form, interested researchers and innovators can visit the website of NRDC.
CSIR identifies top drug candidates for repurposing
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has been leading the fight against COVID-19 epidemic on multiple fronts. Among those, the Council has laid a major emphasis on repurposed drugs as they can be quickly deployed for treatment as opposed to new drugs, which need almost a decade of development. Globally, many drugs are under clinical trials on coronavirus patients to establish their efficacy against COVID-19. 18 Towards providing drugs for coronavirus patients in India, CSIR has identified 25 drugs/drug candidates for repurposing. Among these 25 drugs, Favipiravir - a broad-spectrum inhibitor of viral RNA polymerase - has emerged as of one of the most promising drugs. Favipiravir was developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Ltd. and is an approved treatment for common influenza and is marketed in Russia, China and Japan. CSIR-IICT, based in Hyderabad, has developed a convenient and cost-effective synthetic process for Favipiravir. As a collaborative effort with industry, CSIR-IICT transferred the entire process and significant quantities of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) of Favipiravir to Cipla, a leading pharmaceutical company. Cipla will be conducting the investigations prior to the launching of this drug against COVID-19 in India.
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CSIR’s Kisan Sabha App to connect farmers to supply chain
India’s ongoing lockdown has threatened the agriculture sector as it overlaps with the time of harvest. In the present situation of COVID-19, farmers are looking for help in taking their produce to the market, as also in procuring seeds, fertilizer, etc. from the market. A robust supply chain management is urgently required to facilitate the timely delivery of the produce at the best possible prices. The Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), a CSIR lab, has come up with an app called Kisan Sabha to resolve the problems related to agricultural supply chain. The App was remotely launched today by Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Dr. Trilochan Mohapatra. The primary objective of KisanSabha is to connect farmers to supply chain and freight transportation management system.
Dr Mohapatra complimented CSIR for developing this App as a one-stop solution for farmers, transporters and other entities engaged in the agriculture sector. He also offered that ICAR can work together with CSIR and use the wide network of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) in the country for implementation.
CSIR-IIP working with industry to scale up sanitizer production
Scientific institutions across the country are contributing in their own way to tackle COVID-19 pandemic. Dehradun-based Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP), a constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has taken the initiative to work closely with small-scale industries to promote sanitizer production. “CSIR-IIP has invited micro industries to take the knowhow for hand sanitizer preparation. In continuation of this, two of the promising micro industries are in touch with us for the same. After meeting all required criteria/certification, the same will be transferred to them. Talks are also on with North Indian Sugarcane & Sugar Technologists Association (NISSTA),” said Dr. Umesh Kumar, a Senior Scientist at CSIR-IIP. The initiative to prepare hand sanitizer as an in-house activity was taken up by the Institute to support the war against the COVID-19 pandemic. A team was constituted well before the crisis for the preparation of hand sanitizer under the leadership of Dr. Umesh Kumar. Dr. T. Senthil Kumar, Shivsingh Rawat and Sanjay Maurya made up the rest of the team.
IITR working on three verticals against COVID-19
Testing is the key component in the fight against COVID-19. It helps to monitor and restrict the spread of the coronavirus. This is the reason why there is a constant emphasis on increasing the number of testing for COVID-19. Lucknow-based Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR) is now working on three verticals, out of five taken up by CSIR against the coronavirus, which includes a new COVID-19 testing facility which was started on 2nd May. CSIR has devised a five-pronged strategy in the fight against COVID-19. The five verticals are Surveillance, Rapid and Cheap Diagnosis, Development of New Therapies (including Repurposing of Drugs and New Drugs), Hospital Assistive Devices and Supply Chain and Logistics. Among these, CSIR-IITR is participating in the three verticals, namely prevention, diagnostics and therapeutics. CSIR-IITR has distributed over 2500 litres of hand sanitizer to frontline workers involved in the fight against Corona at Lucknow, Varanasi and Raebarely. This initiative was accomplished with the Corporate Social Responsibility contributions of various organisations. In the second vertical, CSIR-IITR has set up state-of-the-art facility for COVID-19 testing as per national norms.
CSIR-IIP to set up viral testing facility to fight COVID-19
The Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP) is establishing an RT-PCR-based COVID-19 testing facility in its Dehradun campus. IIP is a constituent laboratory of CSIR. CSIR has planned a community testing strategy to keep track of new outbreaks and thus restrict them from spreading further. “CSIR- IIP has always believed in working for national causes. 20 Testing samples for COVID-19 is another opportunity where we assure our full commitment in line with protocols and standard operating procedures defined by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). This new COVID-19 testing facility will process at least 30 patient samples per day with appropriately trained manpower and adequate biosafety precautions,” said Dr Anjan Ray, Director, CSIR-IIP. The Biochemistry and Biotechnology team at CSIR-IIP is receiving continuous expert guidance from CSIR’s specialized biological sciences laboratories such as CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) (Delhi), CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH) (Chandigarh) and CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) (Hyderabad) to enable their effective participation in the fight against coronavirus.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan lauds the efforts of CSIIGIR scientists against COVID-19
“All scientists and institutions should prioritise the requirements of the time and also contribute in finding quick and deployable solutions,” said Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science and Technology, Earth Sciences and Health and Family Welfare. He was addressing scientists at a review meeting on the initiatives of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) towards mitigation of COVID-19 in the country. Dr. Harsh 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 (CSIRIGIB), representing the largest submission of sequences, by far from India by any group. The joint NCDC-IGIB programme will accelerate molecular epidemiology and viral surveillance efforts of India,” he said.
Dr Shekhar C. Mande, DG, CSIR, 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 the implementation of 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 Personal protection equipment (PPEs); Supply Chain and Logistics Support Systems – to work on and develop requisite S&T-based solutions to combat COVID-19. The Directors coordinating the activities of these verticals reported the significant developments in each of them.
Scientists to culture novel coronavirus in human lung epithelial cell
Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad has tied up with a Bengaluru-based company, Eyestem Research Private Limited, to take up research activities on COVID-19. Through this research collaboration, an attempt will be made to grow novel coronavirus in human cell lines, which will enable in vitro testing of potential drugs and vaccines against COVID-19. The research team will use Eyestem’s human lung epithelial cell culture system provided as part of its Anti-COVID Screening (ACS) platform to understand the molecular and pathological characteristics of the novel coronavirus, with a view of establishing a rational basis for testing potential drugs in vitro, said CCMB scientists. “Culturing the virus outside the human host is a technological challenge that needs to be overcome. Eyestem’s cell culture system expresses the ACE2 receptor and other genes that are key determinants of viral entry and replication. We hope that employing this system will allow the CCMB team led by Dr. Krishnan Harshan to grow the virus predictably and 23 thereby open up the potential for the drug screening and vaccine development strategies,” said Dr. Rakesh Mishra, Director, CCMB.
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CSIR-IICT to develop indigenous RT-PCR kit for COVID-19 diagnosis
The Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT) has taken up the challenge of making an affordable RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) kit indigenously. The Institute intends to use recombinant technology for the production of several enzymes used in the kit and optimize the reagent conditions to match the regulatory requirements. The partnering company Genomix Biotech will optimize the kit for COVID-19 diagnosis by adding the Taqman probes. CSIR-IICT and Genomix Biotech plan to approach the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) or its recognized laboratory for validation before launching the product in a couple of weeks. The kits available in the market have serious limitations as most of them are currently imported. This collaboration will help produce quality RT-PCR kits that are affordable and will cater to the huge demand for the product in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, the RT-PCR kit developed by CSIR-IICT can also be used in various other disease diagnostics in humans, animals and plants. This technology is expected to bring down the overall cost of RT-PCR-based diagnosis in the country
Essential oil-based vapouriser can help in alleviating respiratory distress
The Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) has launched a scientific knowledge-based essential oil vapouriser concentrate formulation called CIM-RespCool. It could be helpful in the management of respiratory distress caused by environmental containments including viruses, said scientists at CIMAP. In addition to sanitizing a specific area, CIM-RespCool also provides pleasant smell. Essential oils like Mentha, Rosemary, and Basil have been used to develop the 24 formulation. The product is safe and can be used in a diffuser (any type) at home, office, hospital, etc. CIM-RespCool has been launched on 1 May, 2020 by Dr. Prabodh K. Trivedi, Director of CSIRCIMAP. The Lucknow-based CSIR-CIMAP is a leader in plant research laboratory of the CSIR. The product has been developed by a team of scientists at CSIR-CIMAP, led by Dr. Ajit K. Shasany. This formulation has the ability to manage not only a broad spectrum of microbes but also environmental contaminants including viruses.
Scientists develop Aerosol Restricting Canopy for dental procedures
In the wake of pandemic situation of COVID-19 in India, the Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIR-CSIO), Chandigarh, has developed ‘Aerosol Restricting Canopy (ARC) for Dental Procedures – Safety ARC’ in collaboration with the Oral Health Sciences Center (ORHC), PGIMER, Chandigarh, to assist dental procedures. The technology is transferred to M/s Nigam Scientific Works, Chandigarh, and the agreement for the same was signed by Mahesh Nigam (Director, Nigam Scientific Works) and Dr. Surender Singh Saini (Head, Business Initiatives & Project Planning, CSIR-CSIO, Chandigarh) in the presence of Dr. Sanjay Kumar, Director, CSIR-CSIO. While describing its features, the Principal Investigator Dr. Sanjeev Verma told that although personal protective equipment (PPEs) are used for giving emergency care, dental settings have unique characteristics that warrant additional infection control considerations. Additional precautions are needed because dental and oral surgery procedures use drills or ultrasonic devices that cause aerosol release, which can be the leading cause of infection spread in a dental clinic.
CSIR Labs provide food to needy people during COVID-19
With physical distancing being the key mantra for preventing the rapid spread of the SARSCoV-2 virus in the population, lockdown has emerged as the practical solution to slowdown of its spread in the country. Much as it is necessary, it is also proven to cause hardship to the vulnerable section of the society like the migrants and the socio-economically weaker population. 25 Apart from being known for its R&D and S&T knowledge base CSIR has a track record of providing emergency interventions in the past during major calamities in the country. Whether it was the Uttarkashi and Chennai Floods or during cyclone Fani, CSIR laboratories have pitched in with their expertise and resources to provide succour and support in the form of water purification technologies, hand pumps, cyclone shelters, structural rehabilitation, and ready-to-eat nutritious food. DG-CSIR, Dr Shekhar C. Mande said, “Even as CSIR put together plans to sequence the viral genome, develop drugs and diagnostic kits and explore vaccines against COVID-19, since CSIR has developed major interventions in food-related research and technologies, we decided to provide food assistance to the migrant labour and other needy persons in various places in the country. I am happy to note that CSIR labs across India are coming to aid of the needy by providing food, sanitizers, masks etc in their respective regions and beyond.”
COVID-19 activities at CSIR-URDIP
CSIR has a specialized service unit for Research and Development of Information Products (URDIP), Pune which is involved in the pre-research and pre-development phase of the research projects, by providing intellectual property and techno-commercial information services. CSIR-URDIP provides value-added information services to wide array of clients including start-up companies, SMEs, Research Institutes within and outside CSIR, and large Indian Corporate and Multinational Corporations. Its primary clients include R&D, legal, new business development and multi-functional corporate teams. CSIR-URDIP is providing continuous informatics support to many of the CSIR Labs engaged in ongoing COVID-19 activities. A dedicated portal (https://urdip.res.in/covid19) has been developed to showcase CSIR’s efforts, initiatives, products and technologies to fight against COVID-19. This unit is providing informatics support to pre-emptive identification of supply chain issues in new launches of CSIR products and services for COVID-19 management.
Another CSIR lab to start genome sequencing of novel coronavirus
After the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and the Institute of Genomics and Integrated Biology (IGIB), one more institute of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has started whole-genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus. Chandigarhbased Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTech) has taken up the task of large-scale genome sequencing of the virus. Viruses have a higher mutation rate compared to that of microbes, and their genetic material keeps on changing quickly as they replicate rapidly. “These genome sequencing samples will be submitted to the international recognised repository,” said Dr Sanjeev Khosla, Director, IMTech while speaking with India Science Wire. 12 The complete genome sequence information will enable researchers to gain insights about the origins of the virus, the different types of strains circulating in India and how it has spread across the length and breadth of the country. “The genomic resource obtained from this sequencing will also allow identification of new targets for diagnosis and drugs for COVID-19,” said Dr Khosla.
CDRI’s efforts to combat novel coronavirus
Working on three out of the five verticals formulated by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI) has inked an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with King George’s Medical University (KGMU) to sequence the virus strains obtained from COVID-19 patients in Uttar Pradesh. Initially, the Lucknow-based lab will sequence the virus strains from the samples of a few patients. This activity will be taken up under the first vertical, namely, ‘digital and molecular surveillance’. As of now, eight different variants of the virus are known to be causing the COVID-19 infection. A team has been put into place for analyzing whether changes to the viral sequences, if any, will impact the proposed treatment strategies.
Therapeutics or repurposing of drugs to fight against COVID-19 is the second vertical where CDRI is getting involved. Under this, the researchers are trying to repurpose some already existing drugs that have been used by the clinicians. “One of the fastest ways to get therapeutics to the patient is through repurposing known drugs against COVID-19 infection. Here, CDRI has identified several candidate drugs for repurposing and will develop them further under the collaboration,” said Professor Tapas Kumar, Director, CSIR-CDRI.
The Institution has a diverse library of molecules and these have been screened using in silico approaches against a panel of drug targets from SARS-CoV-2 under the third vertical, ‘targetbased screening systems’.
Indian researchers to work for COVID-19 vaccine
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a call to all the scientific community from India to work together and come up with solution to combat COVID-19. Answering to this call Dr Shekhar C Mande, Director General, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has said that the CSIR labs would be engaged to discover a potent vaccine for novel coronavirus.“We have decided to commence our research and development for developing a vaccine from today,” said Dr Mande. Further he said that “CSIR would try hard to start the clinical trials for the vaccine in the coming weeks.” He made this announcement during an interview given to a national news channel.
Researchers focus on inactivated virus vaccine for novel coronavirus
Researchers from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) have embarked upon developing an inactivated virus vaccine for the dreaded novel coronavirus Inactivated vaccines are known for their safety and easy production.
NRDC invites Proposals for Maturing Lab Scale COVID-19 Technologies for Tracking, Testing and Treating
To fight COVID19 combinedly in the country, National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) invites proposal from the innovators under its two scheme, i.e. Techno-Commercial Support and Priority projects.
Last date of submission: 15 May 2020
Minister exhorts scientists to develop COVID-19 mitigation solutions within fixed timeframe
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr Harsh Vardhan, exhorts scientists to develop COVID-19 mitigation solutions within a fixed time frame. "We are in midst of a war and we have to supply the weapons on time. If we supply the weapons when the war is over or have made huge destruction the weapons are useless. It is not like routine CSIR research job,” said Dr Harsh Vardhan. He was addressing a review meeting through video conferencing with Dr Shekhar Mande, Director General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and all the 38 CSIR lab directors.
Expression of Interest for Collaboration, Research and Testing for COVID-19
CSIR-IGIB is inviting Expression of Interest (EoI) from academic and commercial organization with specialized know-how, IP, indigenous infrastructure and production capacity for sharing of expertise, knowledge and resources for development of assays, testing, capacity building and reagents supply etc for COVID-19. The aim of the collaboration/ partnership would be towards expediting the R&D and accelerating solutions that could be useful for the public.
Potential drug targets for COVID-19: Based of life cycle of virus in host cell
Potential drug targets for COVID-19 based on their life cycle in host cells and Catalogue of various targetable proteins are Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2); Transmembrane protease, serine 2 (TMPRSS2); SARS Spike Glycoprotein - human ACE2 complex; Native Spike Protein (S) and others.
Fatality vs temperature correlation for COVID-19
The dataset provides a preliminary investigation to understand if any correlation exists between the number of deaths and the average temp (in 0C) of Feb and March 2020. The data have been divided into different world regions. March data have been calculated until March 27, 2020.
Breakthrough technological intervention against COVID-19
Call for R&D proposal from Industry and startup for breakthrough technological intervention against COVID-19 on effective containment intervention, assistive devices (like ventilators), diagnostic kit, novel drugs, vaccines and trace technologies.
Coal India calling back retired doctors & paramedics to prepare for COVID-19 pandemic
Retired doctors are being recruited on honorarium basis to meet any exigency. Their engagement would continue for two months with a provision of extension by one more month.
CCMB is developing test kit for Covid-19
CCMB is helping incubating companies to come up with the idea of developing test kits. Also, CCMB is testing and validating the diagnostic kits they offer. Quality and accurate results are of paramount importance in the case of a test kit. If the kits produce 100 percent results, they will be approved.
CCMB and AIC-CCMB joined with CCAMP in its COVID-19 Innovations Deployment Accelerator (CIDA) Programme
C-CAMP has launched C-CAMP COVID-19 Innovations Deployment Accelerator or C-CIDA on 26th March, 2020 to help accelerate COVID-19 innovations stuck in last-mile issues.Innovations can be under following categories: screening, diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, containment strategies, public health & other categories including but not limited to focussed technologies.
Call for proposals for mobilising the development of products and technologies to fight coronavirus pandemic
CSIR-NMITLI is inviting proposal from academic and commercial organization in areas such as effective containment interventions, assistive devices, innovative diagnostics, novel drugs, new vaccines, etc for COVID-19.
CSIR scientists engaged in battle level to fight Covid-19
CSIR is working on a five-point agenda to deal with Covid-19. These include molecular level monitoring, making affordable screening kits, developing medicine, developing hospitals and personal protective equipment and supplying medical equipment to understand the risk and nature of the disease.