Efforts impacting COVID Mitigation

Government establishes a network of COVID-19 biorepositories

In the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, while it is of paramount importance to provide early diagnosis and treatment to all infected individuals, it is also critical to promote research and development for larger public health benefits. For the development and validation of new diagnostics, therapeutics, or vaccines, access to different kinds of clinical samples from infected patients is an essential requirement. Currently, there is no structured mechanism for collecting and storing these valuable clinical samples. So, it is important to create designated biorepositories for collecting, storing, and maintaining clinical samples (oropharyngeal/nasopharyngeal swabs, bronchoalveolar lavage, sputum, blood, urine, and stool) of COVID-19 patients. The samples will be used to develop validated diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, etc. The samples will also be a valuable resource for research and development-related activities to understand the early predictors of disease severity, the immunopathogenesis of the disease, etc. In this context, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) released a document on COVID-19 biorepositories. This document lays down the brief processes and operational mechanisms for establishing COVID-19 biorepositories in the country. The objectives of this document are:

1. To establish organised and dedicated biorepositories of well-characterised clinical samples of COVID-19 patients.

2. To judiciously use these samples to promote research and development towards indigenous diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines in line with the Make in India initiative.

3. To promote Indian academia, industry and commercial entities for developing novel solutions for COVID-19 prevention, control and treatment.

4. To conduct research, to better understand COVID-19 disease in the Indian scenario

Website link:https://www.icmr.gov.in/cbiorn.html

IIT Mandi develops an antibacterial self-cleaning material for face masks and PPE

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi has developed a virus-filtering, self-cleaning and antibacterial material that can be used to make face masks and other PPE equipment. This path-breaking development by Dr Amit Jaiswal, Assistant Professor, School of Basic Sciences, IIT Mandi, along with his research scholars, Mr Praveen Kumar, Mr Shounak Roy, and Ms Ankita Sarkar comes at a time when it is imperative to develop techniques to stop the repetitive waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Considering the urgency of the pandemic situation and cost-effectiveness, IIT Mandi has developed a strategy to repurpose existing PPEs, especially face masks, by providing an antimicrobial coating to these protective clothing/textiles. For this, nanomaterials were used to confer antimicrobial properties to polycotton fabric. Dr Jaiswal and his team incorporated nanometre sized sheets of molybdenum disulphide, MoS2, the sharp edges and corners of which act as tiny knives that pierce bacterial and viral membranes, thus killing them. “The ‘nanoknife’-modified fabrics demonstrated excellent antibacterial activity even after 60 cycles of washing,” said the lead researcher. All this makes it an excellent way to reuse masks and reduce biological waste generation.

Contact Info:j.amit@iitmandi.ac.in

Website link:http://www.iitmandi.ac.in/news/articles/files/Facemask_Apr2021.pdf

ICMR invites expression of interest for validation of rapid antigen detection assays for COVID-19

ICMR invites applications for validation of rapid antigen detection tests for COVID-19 from all manufacturers who have developed rapid antigen test (RAT) kits. Requirements for validations are based on various categories, like first-time validation, revalidation, and validation with alternate sample types.

The gold standard RT-PCR diagnostic test for COVID-19 has limitations in terms of widespread availability. In view of this, there is urgent requirement for reliable and convenient rapid pointof-care antigen detection assays with high sensitivity and specificity. Such assays could be used as potential diagnostic tests in all possible public and private healthcare settings and made available for mass testing.

Deadline: Open till next announcement

Contact Info:guptanivedita.hq@icmr.gov.in, drneetu.vijay@icmr.gov.in

Website link:https://www.icmr.gov.in/pdf/tender/Revised_EOI_for_Ag_kit_validation_28062021.pdf

Serum Institute of India gets DCGI’s nod to manufacture Sputnik V in India for test and analysis

The DCGI has granted permission to the Serum Institute of India (SII) to manufacture the Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine in India for examination, test and analysis with certain conditions, official sources said.

The Pune-based firm has collaborated with Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Moscow in Russia to develop Sputnik V at its licensed Hadapsar facility.

According to the four conditions set by the DCGI, the Serum Institute will have to submit a copy of the agreement between SII and the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology for transfer of cell bank and virus stock and a copy of agreement for technology transfer with Gamaleya. The SII has to submit a copy of the RCGM permission to import cell bank and virus stock and a copy of the RCGM permission to initiate research and development of viral vector vaccine Sputnik V

The RCGM has raised some queries over SII’s application and has sought a copy of material transfer agreement between the Pune-based firm and the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is currently being manufactured by Dr Reddy’s Laboratories in India.

The SII plans to seek restricted emergency use permission of the vaccine in India.

Website link:https://ableindia.in/news/details/1135

ESIC felicitates donors to ESIC hospitals during COVID-19 pandemic

Union Minister for Labour & Employment and Environment, Forests and Climate Change Shri Bhupender Yadav felicitated the donors who made generous donations of different equipment and material to ESIC hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A total of 33 ESIC hospitals with around 4000 dedicated COVID beds having 400 ventilators provided exclusive COVID-19 medical services to the infected patients and the general public of the area as either dedicated COVID-19 hospital or as a hospital with dedicated COVID-19 beds, as per the requirement of the local administration. From April 2020 till date, more than 50,000 COVID-19 patients have been provided in-patient treatment services through ESIC hospitals across the country. Plasma therapy, which is shown to save the lives of serious COVID-19 patients was also started in ESIC Medical College & Hospital, Faridabad (Haryana) and ESIC Medical College & Hospital, Sanath Nagar (Telangana).

ESIC made alternate provisions for providing routine medical services to ESI beneficiaries through tie-up hospitals, in case an ESIC hospital was declared as a dedicated COVID-19 hospital. In such cases, ESI beneficiaries could be referred to tie-up hospitals for prescribed secondary / SST consultation / admission / investigation. ESI beneficiaries were also allowed to seek emergency/non-emergency medical treatment from tie-up hospitals directly without referral letter, in accordance with his/her entitlement.

In addition to the existing cash benefits under ESI Act, a COVID-19 relief scheme has been launched, in which periodic payment @ 90 per cent of average wages of the deceased insured worker is paid to the eligible dependents. Till date, the periodic payment was payable only against the death of the insured worker caused by employment injury. Now death caused by COVID-19 has also been included. Against the abstention of insured worker being infected with COVID-19, sickness benefit @ 70 per cent of average daily wages for 91 days for the period of abstention can be claimed. In case of insured worker being rendered unemployed, he/she can avail relief under Atal Beemit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana (ABVKY) @ 50 per cent of average per day earning for a maximum 90 days. For availing this relief, the insured worker can submit the claim online at www.esic.in.

The Employees’ State Insurance Corporation is a pioneer social security organisation providing comprehensive social security benefits like reasonable medical care and a range of cash benefits in times of need such as employment injury, sickness, death, etc. It covers about 3.4 crore of family units of workers and provides matchless cash benefits and reasonable medical care to its 13.24 crore beneficiaries. Today, its infrastructure has increased manifold with 1502 dispensaries (including mobile dispensaries) / 308 ISM units and 159 ESI hospitals, 744 branch/pay offices and 64 regional and sub-regional offices. The ESI scheme today stands implemented in 566 districts in 34 states and union territories of the country.

Website link:https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetailm.aspx?PRID=1735901

DBT-BIRAC supports setting up of a viral BSL-3 facility and COVID-19 vaccine testing centre at IISc

The Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT-BIRAC) has funded the establishment of a COVID-19 vaccine testing centre at the viral bio safety level-3 (BSL-3) facility in the Centre for Infectious Diseases Research (CIDR) at the IISc.

At this centre, solutions to tackle COVID-19 – vaccines, antivirals, materials and equipment – from academic and industry partners will be tested via a fee-for-service model.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Division of Biological Sciences at IISc headed by Umesh Varshney, Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology (MCB) had commissioned the establishment of a dedicated viral BSL-3 facility at CIDR with funding from DBT-IISc partnership, to support research on highly pathogenic human viruses. The construction of the facility was completed in October 2020. It became operational in January 2021 with all the necessary standard operating procedures (SOPs), under the guidance of Usha Vijayraghavan, Dean, Division of Biological Sciences. Shashank Tripathi, Assistant Professor in MCB, was designated the nodal person in charge of the facility. It was made available to academic labs (within and outside IISc) and industry, for training personnel and carrying out antiviral research.

By February 2021, Tripathi’s lab – which studies emerging viral pathogens – began working on establishing cell culture and animal models to study SARS-CoV-2 in the viral BSL-3 facility on priority. This included isolation, growth and characterisation of SARS-CoV-2 viruses from COVID-19 patient samples, and the establishment of a Syrian hamster model for evaluating COVID-19 vaccines and antivirals.

These reagents and models were used to identify SARS-CoV-2 antivirals, and evaluate the COVID-19 thermostable sub-unit vaccine candidate being developed by a team led by Raghavan Varadarajan, Professor at the Molecular Biophysics Unit, IISc, in collaboration with IISc-incubated start-up Mynvax. In addition, Tripathi’s lab has been helping industry partners GeNext Genomics in evaluating COVID-19 antibodies, Biomoneta in testing sterilisation technologies, and Glycovax in evaluating a COVID-19 peptide conjugate vaccine in animal models.

To expand these operations, Tripathi and KN Balaji (Convenor, CIDR and Professor at MCB), applied for and received funding under the DBT-BIRAC’s Mission COVID Suraksha, which aimed to support labs with well-established models to study SARS-CoV-2.

The DBT-BIRAC support will allow the augmentation of the existing facility with high-end equipment and initial support for personnel operating the facility. Research will also be conducted to develop high-throughput assays for evaluating antivirals and vaccines against SARS-CoV-2.

In addition to SARS-CoV-2, this facility will also support the development of antivirals and vaccines against other viral pathogens responsible for diseases like influenza, dengue, chikungunya and HIV, through similar fee-for-service collaborations with academic and industry partners.

Contact info:shashankt@iisc.ac.in

Website link:https://www.iisc.ac.in/events/viral-bsl-3-facility-and-dbt-birac-covid-19-vaccinetesting-centre-at-iisc/

OxyJani, developed by JNCASR, aims to cater to acute and chronic oxygen needs at the grass roots level

Indian researchers have designed a robust, mobile group oxygen concentrator that can be used in rural settings and also be rapidly deployed in emergencies in any location. The second wave of COVID-19 led to an acute shortage of medical oxygen. While the crisis in the bigger cities was more about rapidly responding by overcoming supply chain limitations, in smaller cities and villages, the crisis exposed the chronic lack of medical oxygen infrastructure in the country

Overcoming the crisis required two solutions – 5 to 10 lpm personalised O2 concentrators for home use and 500 lpm pressure swing adsorption (PSA) plants for large hospitals. While the 500 lpm plants for hospitals were robust, they lacked the portability required for deployment on resource-poor settings. The personal concentrators were too fragile to be used on a sustained basis in a hospital setting. This created a need for a robust technology with necessary portability

A team from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, developed a new solution called ‘OxyJani’ to address these novel challenges in adsorption science and engineering. It was developed during the second wave of COVID-19, addressing the several novel design challenges posed for the sourcing of materials and the need in hospitals of different capacities.

OxyJani is based on the principles of PSA technology. The team replaced lithium zeolites (LiX), which is usually used in oxygen concentrators, with sodium zeolites, which does not generate toxic solid waste and can be manufactured in India. Although the science behind it is well understood, yet developing an engineering solution that can work with sodium in a portable device and fill this specific market gap when there are severe sourcing problems, posed engineering challenges. Obstacles had to be overcome at each stage of the cycle, from working with the available zeolites to effective ways of dehumidifying and designing the right adsorptionpressure cycle.

The concentrator is modular and capable of delivering a range of solutions, conversion of medical air to medical oxygen, and is an entirely off-grid solution including all modules that can facilitate deployment in rural areas. Moreover, the waste from the 13X zeolite plant can potentially be a good agricultural input material.

In this multi-group initiative, Dr SV Diwakar, Dr Meher Prakash, Prof Santosh Ansumali from JNCASR, and collaborators, Prof Arvind Rajendran from the University of Alberta and Mr Arun Kumar (Eiwave Digitech) executed the OxyJani developmental efforts with the help of Mr Ritwik Das (MS student). Technical advice was provided by Prof M Eswaramoorthy, Prof Tapas Maji, and Prof Sridhar Rajaraman. Prof GU Kulkarni, President, JNCASR and Prof Amitabha Bandyophyay of IIT Kanpur mentored the developmental efforts. The financial assistance for the prototype was provided through JNCASR and the Nidhi Prayaas scheme of IIT Kanpur. The zeolite material was obtained through a generous donation from Honeywell UOP, Italy.

This new class of technology called ‘group concentrators’ has the robustness of large PSA plants, portability similar to the personal concentrators, and is affordable too. The device is in the range of 30-40 lpm, which is useful in ICU too.

Contact Info:diwakar@jncasr.ac.in

Website link:https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetailm.aspx?PRID=1731966

IIT Delhi develops rapid antigen test kit for COVID-19

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi has developed a rapid antigen test kit for COVID-19, in the research leadership of Dr Harpal Singh, Prof, at the Institute’s Centre for Biomedical Engineering.

The salient features of the technology, as certified by the ICMR are as follows:

  • This kit is used for in vitro qualitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 antigen.
  • The SARS-CoV-2 Ag rapid test is a colloidal gold enhanced double antibody sandwich immunoassay for the qualitative determination of SARS-CoV-2 antigen in human nasal swabs, throat swabs and deep sputum samples. It is suitable for general population screening and diagnosis of COVID-19.
  • The invention is directed towards an in vitro diagnostic kit for qualitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus antigens in nasopharyngeal swab, using the rapid immune chromatographic method.
  • The identification is based on the monoclonal antibodies specific for the coronavirus antigen.
  • The results obtained are qualitative based and can be inferred visually with naked eye.
  • A SARS-CoV-2 positive specimen produces a distinct colour band in the test region, formed by the specific antibody antigen coloured conjugate complex ‘(Au-SARS-CoV2-Ab)-(SARS-CoV-2-Ag)-(SARS-CoV-2-Ab)’. The absence of this coloured band in the test region suggests a negative result.
  • A coloured band always appears in the control region serving as procedural control regardless whether the specimen contains SARS-CoV-2 or not.
  • The test is found to be suitable for early Ct values (Ct values ranging 14-32) with sensitivity – 90 per cent, specificity – 100 per cent and accuracy – 98.99 per cent. It is certified by ICMR. These are one of the best available validation values for any such test kits.
  • The technology and its manufacturing are 100 per cent indigenous.

Contact Info:harpal@cbme.iitd.ac.in

Website link:https://home.iitd.ac.in/show.php?id=22&in_sections=Press

Government readies two more central drug laboratories in Pune and Hyderabad for COVID-19 vaccine testing

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and considering the enhanced production of COVID-19 vaccines, the Government proactively took the decision to set up additional laboratories to facilitate expedited testing / pre-release certification of the vaccines. Currently, the nation has a Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) at Kasauli, which is the National Control Laboratory for testing and prerelease certification of immunobiologicals vaccines and antisera) meant for human use in India.

The Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India has set up two vaccine testing facilities in its autonomous research institutes, National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS), Pune and National Institute of Animal Biotechnology (NIAB), Hyderabad as Central Drug Laboratory (CDL), for batch testing and quality control of vaccines. Accordingly with funding support provided by the PM-CARES Funds trust, two new vaccine testing facilities have been set up as central drug laboratories at DBT-NCCS and DBT-NIAB.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Department of Biotechnology has been in the forefront contributing to various COVID-19 related activities including vaccine development, diagnostics and testing, bio-banking and genomic surveillance, in addition to fundamental research and also building a strong ecosystem for translational research. DBT-NCCS and DBT-NIAB have been the pillars for many aspects of infectious disease related work in India and have contributed to the advancement of cutting-edge research output in frontier areas of biotechnology relevant to human health and disease.

The facility at NCCS, Pune, has now been notified as a central drugs laboratory for testing and lot release of COVID-19 vaccines vide Gazette notification issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare on 28 June 2021.The facility at NIAB, Hyderabad is likely to receive necessary notification shortly.

With generous support from PM CARES Fund trust, in a very short span of time, both the institutions through relentless efforts have set up state-of-the-art modern facilities for this purpose. The facilities are expected to test approximately 60 batches of vaccines per month. The facilities are geared up to test the existing COVID-19 vaccines and other newer COVID-19 vaccines as per the demand of the nation. This will not only expedite the vaccine manufacture and supply but also be logistically convenient considering that both Pune and Hyderabad are the two vaccine manufacturing hubs.

Website link:https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetailm.aspx?PRID=1732660

IIT Delhi develops novel antifungal strategy for fungal eye infection

An IIT Delhi scientist led research team has developed a novel antifungal strategy for fungal eye infection (fungal keratitis). The team has successfully developed a novel peptide-based antifungal strategy for enhanced Natamycin penetration. The developed peptide-drug conjugate showed an appreciable antifungal effect in the lab. These peptides are known to have the ability to carry molecules with them in the cells. Therefore, when poorly permeable Natamycin was attached to the peptide, the formed complex showed better antifungal effect.

In their research, the scientists found that conjugate drug penetration was five-fold higher than Natamycin in rabbits, thus enabling lowering of the dosage frequency. Further, 44 per cent of the mice showed complete resolution of fungal infection with the novel conjugate as compared to 13 percent that were treated with Natamycin suspension only.

Contact Info:achugh@bioschool.iitd.ac.in

Website link:https://home.iitd.ac.in/show.php?id=25&in_sections=Press

ICMR invites expression of interest for validation of rapid antigen detection assays for COVID-19

ICMR invites applications for validation of rapid antigen detection tests for COVID-19 from all manufacturers who have developed rapid antigen test (RAT) kits. Requirements for validations are based on various categories, like first-time validation, revalidation, and validation with alternate sample types.

The gold standard RT-PCR diagnostic test for COVID-19 has limitations in terms of widespread availability. In view of this, there is urgent requirement for reliable and convenient rapid pointof-care antigen detection assays with high sensitivity and specificity. Such assays could be used as potential diagnostic tests in all possible public and private healthcare settings and made available for mass testing.

Deadline: Open till next announcement

Contact Info:guptanivedita.hq@icmr.gov.in, drneetu.vijay@icmr.gov.in

Website link:https://www.icmr.gov.in/pdf/tender/Revised_EOI_for_Ag_kit_validation_28062021.pdf

Extension Hospitals: A COVID-19 project facilitated by Office of the PSA

As COVID-19 cases surged in different parts of the country, infrastructure in hospitals was under immense pressure. Innovative modular hospitals came as a huge relief amidst this. Modular hospitals are an extension of hospital infrastructure and can be built adjacent to an existing hospital building. Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA), Government of India invited private sector companies, donor organizations, and individuals to support various projects of national importance. Project Extension Hospitals is one such initiative. The office of the PSA identified requirements of close to 50 hospitals in states where the highest number of COVID-19 cases was reported.

Modulus Housing, a start-up incubated at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) developed the MediCAB hospitals. This enables building a 100-bedded extension facility in 3-weeks’ time. MediCAB hospitals are designed with a dedicated zone of Intensive Care Units (ICUs) that can accommodate various life-support equipment and medical devices. These negative-pressure portable hospitals have durability of around 25 years, and they can also be shifted in the future for any disaster response in less than a week. These rapidly deployable hospitals will plug a major health infrastructure gap in India’s fight against COVID-19, especially in rural areas and smaller towns. The office of the PSA has been actively working towards securing CSR support to implement these projects in different areas across the nation.

Modulus Housing has started deploying MediCAB extension hospitals with the help of the American Indian Foundation (AIF). Mastercard, Texas Instruments, Zscaler, PNB Housing, Goldman Sachs, Lenovo, and NASSCOM Foundation have also extended CSR support. The first batch of 100-bedded hospitals are being commissioned at Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh); Amravati, Pune, and Jalna (Maharastra); Mohali (Punjab), and a 20-bed hospital at Raipur (Chhattisgarh). Bengaluru (Karnataka) will have one each of 20-, 50-, and 100-beds hospitals in the first phase.

The office of the PSA has also collaborated with Tata Projects Ltd to deploy modular hospitals at multiple sites in Punjab and Chhattisgarh. They have initiated work on 48-bedded modular hospitals in Gurdaspur and Faridkot (Punjab). Expansion of ICU at multiple hospitals in Chhattisgarh including Raipur, Jashpur, Bemetara, Kanker, and Gaurella is also underway.

Contact Info: industry-engagement@psa.gov.in

Website link: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1726726

ICMR launches National Registry of Pregnant Women with COVID-19 in India

PregCovid (National Registry of Pregnant Women with COVID-19 in India) is a study of pregnant women and women in post-partum period with SARS-CoV-2 infection. This study is a joint collaboration between ICMR-National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health (NIRRH), Medical Education & Drugs Department (MEDD), Government of Maharashtra and Topiwala National Medical College & B.Y.L. Nair Charitable Hospital, Mumbai. This study is being done by Medical Education & Drugs Department (MEDD), Government of Maharashtra, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and other government agencies to formulate the strategies for effective management of COVID-19 and pregnancy.

Contact Info: contact@pregcovid.com

Website link: https://pregcovid.com/

DST-supported Foundation For Innovations In Health, Kolkata designs software to identify patients likely to equire ventilator support thus detecting emergency & ICU needs early

A software can now identify patients likely to require ventilator support in an ICU and referral in time and make necessary arrangements before emergency sets in. The software, called Covid Severity Score (CSS) Software, consists of an algorithm that measures a set of parameters. It scores each against a pre-set dynamic algorithm multiple times for each patient and allocates a CSS, mapping it in a graphical trend.

The technology is being used in three community Covid Care Centres at Kolkata and suburbs including a 100-bed government-mandated Covid Care Centre at Barrackpore, Kolkata.

Sudden ICU and other emergency requirements during the pandemic have been a challenge for hospitals to manage. Timely information about such situations would help manage the health crisis better.

The Foundation For Innovations In Health, Kolkata, with support from the Science for Equity, Empowerment and Development (SEED) division of the Department of Science & Technology, in collaboration with IIT Guwahati, Dr Kevin Dhaliwal, University of Edinburgh and Dr Sayantan Bandopadhyay, formerly WHO (SE Asia Regional Office), have developed an algorithm that measures symptoms, signs, vital parameters, test reports and comorbidities of the COVIDpositive patient and scores each against a pre-set dynamic algorithm thus allocating a Covid Severity Score (CSS). This technology has been made available at primary care e-Health clinics in resource-poor settings through SEED Project support.

Frontline health workers trained in National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF)-aligned model and certified by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), Government of India are trained to record all these parameters in a tablet computer which has the software loaded in it.

The CSS is regularly monitored multiple times by ‘remote’ specialist doctors thus reducing the doctor’s consultation time per patient and reducing their travel requirement. It can help early identification of patients likely to require ventilator support in an ICU and referral, reduce hospital referral for those unlikely to require critical care support, thus releasing more hospital beds in circulation. It will also help in providing monitored medical support to those patients who cannot afford treatment or cannot isolate at home due to poor housing conditions. The facility can be a huge support for ‘Covid Care Centres’ with beds and oxygen support only but no facility for invasive ventilation

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1728424

CSIR-IICT licenses process knowhow for synthesis of 2-Deoxy-DGlucose to Lee Pharma Ltd

Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, (IICT), a constituent laboratory of CSIR and Lee Pharma, an integrated pharmaceutical company, based in Hyderabad have entered into a nonexclusive licensing agreement for synthesis of 2-Deoxy-D-Glucose (2-DG). Recently, 2-DG, developed by DRDO and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories has received approval for use in COVID-19 patients. It has been found to help speed up recovery and reduce oxygen dependence and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories has launched the drug in the form of sachets.

Lee Pharma informed that they would file the application for getting the approval from DCGI, New Delhi. They will manufacture and commercialize the 2-DG sachets from their formulation facility located at SEZ, Duvvada, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh which has the accreditations by global regulatory agencies.

Dr Srivari Chandrashekar, Director CSIR-IICT highlighted that “There is role of CSIR in development of 2-DG, as CSIR-CCMB tested the drug on SARS-CoV-2 viral cultures. CSIR has been engaged in development of drugs for treatment of COVID-19 and has undertaken many clinical trials for repurposed drugs. Additionally, this agreement with Lee Pharma Ltd. is towards increasing affordable therapeutic options for treatment of COVID-19.” Raghumitra Alla, Director, Lee Pharma said, “This collaboration with CSIR-IICT for 2-DG, API is part of our broader strategy for enhancing COVID-19 treatment options. Further, CSIR-IICT, Hyderabad is well-known for its high quality research & development of various new molecules and we feel proud to be associated with them.”

Website link: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1725576

IIT Ropar develops power-free device ‘JivanVayu’ as a substitute for CPAP machine

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Ropar has developed a power-free device ‘JivanVayu’, which can be used as a substitute for a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. The device functions without electricity and is adapted to both kinds of oxygen generation units like oxygen cylinders and oxygen pipelines in hospitals. The device is designed to maintain a fraction of inspired oxygen of above 40 per cent with a positive end-expiratory pressure of 5-20 cm H2 O. Additionally, the device houses a viral filter at the air entrainment end having a viral capture efficacy of 99.99 per cent. The device has been manufactured using 3D printing and has been tested mechanically. The device is designed for a 22-mm CPAP closed circuit and can also be customized. Medical testing of the device would be conducted and the team is currently seeking industrial collaboration for its commercialization.

Website link: https://fisd.in/NEWS/alerts-archives/ISSUE%2063/FISD%20News%20Alert%2063.html

Web-based portal iNoveCOP developed by ICMR for synergy among frontline COVID institutions

IICMR has been receiving several novel claims like drug molecules, AYUSH formulations, disinfectants, devices, and tools and technologies to facilitate evaluation and validation for COVID-19. Therefore, a web-based portal called iNoveCOP has been developed by ICMR, to guide applicants on various claims related to COVID-19. Applicants may submit their claim through this portal for guidance and/or evaluation of their innovation from independent agencies. Steps to fill the claim have also been provided as a Manual in the website.

Website link: https://inovecop.icmr.org.in/

COVIRAP: Nucleic acid-based Point-of-Care Diagnostic Device for COVID-19 and beyond – developed by IIT Kharagpur

IIT Kharagpur has successfully commercialized its flagship healthcare product – COVIRAP – the novel diagnostic technology for infectious diseases including COVID-19 and beyond. The product developed by lead researchers Professor Suman Chakraborty, Dr Arindam Mondal and their research group has been licensed for commercialization to the Rapid Diagnostic Group of Companies, India and Bramerton Holdings LLC, USA.

The research team has developed a more advanced version of COVIRAP using a step-wise isothermal nucleic acid testing technology for the rapid diagnostics of pathogenic infections including SARS-CoV-2 in individuals. The COVID-19 diagnostic test can be conducted directly from human swab samples in the portable device developed by the team, without requiring any separate facility for RNA extraction. The results can be made available within 45 minutes of obtaining the patient sample. The kit has also been also supplemented with a free smartphone app to facilitate unambiguous results interpretation and automated dissemination to the patients.

Recognizing the impact of the COVIRAP technology in meeting the long-standing demands of high-quality community-level testing, IIT Kharagpur has further initiated the procedure of deploying this product for on-campus use to detect possible novel coronavirus infection.

The envisaged trade-off between the high scientific standards of advanced molecular diagnostics with the elegance of common rapid tests appears to be the future of infectious disease detection and management. A platform technology capable to be inclusive of all such disease detections where nucleic acid-based tests may be deployed, COVIRAP is not just a one-time solution targeted specifically to COVID-19 but will remain imperative in global disease management in years to come.

Contact Info: suman@mech.iitkgp.ac.in; info@VeenaNxt.com

Website link: https://kgpchronicle.iitkgp.ac.in/global-launch-of-covirap-nucleic-acid-based-point-of-care-diagnostic-device-by-iit-kharagpur-for-covid-19-and-beyond/

Indian Immunologicals Limited to start production of drug substance for Covaxin under Mission COVID Suraksha

In a bid to augment the vaccine production, the Government has decided to support some public sector companies with grants under the Mission COVID Suraksha. One such company is the Hyderabad-based Indian Immunological limited (IIL), a facility under the PSU, National Dairy Development Board.

A technical collaboration agreement has been reached between IIL and Bharat Biotech for IIL to supply of the drug substance required for manufacturing Covaxin Vaccine to Bharat Biotech. The Managing Director of Indian Immunological Limited, Dr K Anand Kumar said that IIL is planning to start the production of drug substance for Covaxin from June 15 and send out the first batch to Bharat Biotech Limited by July.

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1722478

Innovative patient-friendly saline gargle RT-PCR testing method developed by NEERI

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, India has been making multiple strides in augmenting its testing infrastructure and capacity. Scientists of Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), under Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have achieved another milestone in this journey with the development of a ‘Saline Gargle RT-PCR Method’ for testing COVID-19 samples.

A Method with Numerous Benefits: The Saline Gargle method offers a bunch of attractive benefits, all rolled into one. It is simple, fast, cost-effective, patient-friendly and comfortable. It also offers instant results and is well-suited for rural and tribal areas, given minimal infrastructure requirements. Speaking to PIB, Dr Krishna Khairnar, Senior Scientist, Environmental Virology Cell, NEERI says, “Swab collection method requires time. Moreover, since it is an invasive technique, it is a bit uncomfortable for patients. Some time is lost also in the transport of the sample to the collection centre. On the other hand, the Saline Gargle RTPCR method is instant, comfortable and patient-friendly. Sampling is done instantly and results will be generated within 3 hours.”

Patients themselves can collect the Sample: The method is non-invasive and so simple that the patients can collect the sample themselves, explains Dr Khairnar. “Collection methods like nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab collection require technical expertise; they are also time-consuming. In contrast, the Saline Gargle RT-PCR method uses a simple collection tube filled with saline solution. The patient gargles the solution and rinses it inside the tube. This sample in the collection tube is taken to the laboratory where it is kept at room temperature, in a special buffer solution prepared by NEERI. An RNA template is produced when this solution is heated, which is further processed for Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). This particular method of collecting and processing the sample enables us to save on the otherwise costly infrastructural requirement of RNA extraction. People can also test themselves, since this method allows self-sampling.” The method is environment-friendly as well, since waste generation is minimized.

A Boon for Testing in Rural and Tribal Areas: The scientist expects that this innovative testing technique will be especially beneficial for rural and tribal areas where infrastructure requirements can be a constraint. The non-technique has received the approval of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). NEERI has further been asked to train other testing labs to help scale up its adoption across the country.

Nagpur Municipal Corporation has given permission to go ahead with the method, following which testing has begun at NEERI, as per approved testing protocol.

Need to Implement Pan India: Scientists, researchers, and lab-technicians of the Environmental Virology Cell at NEERI have taken painstaking efforts to develop this patient-friendly technique amid surging COVID-19 infections in the Vidarbha region. Dr Khairnar and his team hopes that the method is implemented at the national level, resulting in faster and more citizen-friendly testing thereby strengthening our battle against the pandemic.

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1722373

Shri Kiren Rijiju launches ACCR Portal to aggregate information about clinical outcomes achieved

Ayush Ministry marked yet another milestone by launching its Ayush Clinical Case Repository (ACCR) portal (https://accr.ayush.gov.in/) that will serve as a platform to support both Ayush practitioners and general public. In a virtual event Minister of State (IC) for Youth Affairs and Sports and Ayush, Shri Kiren Rijiju launched the portal as well as the new version of Sanjivani app. The portal aims to aggregate information about clinical outcomes achieved by Ayush practitioners on a large scale. It will facilitate not just dissemination of information but also further analysis and research. It is expected to document the strengths of Ayush systems for treatment of various disease conditions.

The portal will not only benefit the practitioner community and the public but will also help widen the solid scientific base of all streams of Ayush. One notable feature of the ACCR portal is the dedicated section for reporting and publishing details of COVID-19 cases treated through Ayush Systems.

Website link: https://ayushnext.ayush.gov.in/detail/news/ayush-minister-launches-accr-portal-and-3rd-version-of-ayush-sanjivani-app

Updated version of AYUSH Sanjivani App launched for interdisciplinary studies involving Ayush interventions for COVID-19

The ‘AYUSH Sanjivani’ mobile app has been launched to generate data on acceptance and usage of AYUSH advocacies and measures among the population and its impact on the prevention of COVID-19.

The Ayush Sanjivani App (Third Version) is now published on Google Play Store and iOS. This version facilitates a significant study/documentation regarding the efficacy of selected Ayush interventions, including Ayush-64 and Kabasura Kudineer in the management of asymptomatic and mild to moderate COVID-19 patients. It is worthwhile to note that a national distribution campaign is on through which the Ayush Ministry is providing these two very effective Ayush formulations free to COVID-19 patients who are in home isolation.

Website link: https://ayushnext.ayush.gov.in/detail/news/ayush-minister-launches-accr-portal-and-3rd-version-of-ayush-sanjivani-app

Anti COVID-19 drug 2-DG developed by DRDO

Minister of Defence, Shri Rajnath Singh and Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan jointly launched the new COVID-19 drug 2-DG at DRDO Bhawan. The antiCOVID-19 therapeutic application of the drug 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) has been developed by Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS), a lab of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), along with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL), Hyderabad. Speaking at the launch Dr Harsh Vardhan remarked that today is a historic day in our fight against COVID-19 and congratulated the scientific community and DRDO for their patience and perseverance for developing first indigenous medicine. He said that the drug has the potential to become a game changer in our response against the pandemic as it reduces the dependence of patients on oxygen administration and has the potential of getting absorbed differentially and in a selected manner. In the COVID-infected cells, it inhibits virus synthesis and energy production for the process. Dr Harsh Vardhan further stated that around thirty hospitals were involved in the clinical trials of this drug. He said that the drug will go to the selective cells and prevent synthesis of virus and reduce recovery time.

Expressing his gratitude towards the Defence Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan said that due to the efforts of the Defence Ministry and DRDO, several PSA plants have been successfully installed in Delhi and across the country. Dr Harsh Vardhan also cautioned against complacency and said that we will win over the war against COVID-19 by collective efforts and by following COVID-appropriate behaviour. Secretary, Department of Defence R&D and Chairman, DRDO Dr G Satheesh Reddy expressed confidence that the anti-COVID drug will help the patients recover from the deadly virus, hoping that DRL, Hyderabad will take it forward and soon make the drug available for the patients. Joining the event virtually, Chairman, DRL, Shri Kallam Satish Reddy said, “Dr. Reddy’s is glad to have partnered with DRDO and INMAS in the development of 2-DG. This is a re-affirmation of our company’s efforts to address COVID through a host of therapeutics and vaccine.”

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1719393

DST-supported ventilation system to bring relief to health workers sweating in PPE suits for long hours

Health workers may soon be relieved of sweating out long hours in heavy suffocating PPE kits to meet their busy duty schedules. A compact, economical ventilation system for PPE kits developed by a Pune-based start-up can prevent excessive sweating while wearing such kits. The ventilation system, when attached with the conventional PPE kits with one simple modification, keeps the health workers well ventilated preventing not only bodily discomforts but also possible fungal diseases in the body. Nihaal Singh Adarsh, an engineering student from Mumbai along with his start-up called Watt Technovations developed the technology called ‘Cov-Tech Ventilation System’, at RIIDL (Research Innovation Incubation Design Laboratory) supported by the National Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB), Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, in Somaiya Vidyavihar University.

Adarsh, a student of K J Somaiya College of Engineering and the founder of Watt Technovations, received NIDHI’s PRomoting and Accelerating Young and ASpiring technology entrepreneurs (PRAYAS) grant of Rs. 10,00,000 from Department of Science and Technology, Government of India for prototype development and product innovation. The start-up also received Rs. 5,00,000 as support from new venture investment programme jointly conducted by RIIDL and K J Somaiya Institute of Management. The ‘Cov-Tech Ventilation System’ can be fastened over the waist just like a simple belt over which the traditional PPE is worn and can provide comfort to the doctors and medical practitioners working in the hospitals to treat COVID-infected patients. The design of the ventilation system ensures a complete air seal from the PPE kit. It provides a breeze of fresh air to the user in a gap of just 100 seconds. The product developed at a state-of-the-art prototyping facility at Dassault Systèmes in Pune was finalised as per the medical experts' advice. “A team of mentors and experts from RIIDL supported the start-up and helped them at every stage providing a conducive environment to help the innovator give the best output,” said Gaurang Shetty, Chief Innovation Catalyst at RIIDL. The result was a compact, portable, and user-friendly device to provide a ventilation system for PPE suits. The Covtech Ventilation system is being used in Sai Sneh Hospital, Pune and Lotus Multi- Specialty Hospital, Pune and the company plans to scale up the uses by May/June.

Contact Info: covtech.contact@gmail.com

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1719353


Ex-Defence doctors providing online consultation on e-Sanjeevani OPD

Ex-Defence doctors will now provide online consultation on e-Sanjeevani OPD to all citizens of the country. Veterans have come forward to answer the call of the nation and offered their services to help the people needing medical care. Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar and Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) Surgeon Vice Admiral Rajat Datta addressed the veterans who have come forward to offer their services, through video conferencing on May 7, 2021. This service can be availed by any civilian on the website https://esanjeevaniopd.in/. The e-Sanjeevani OPD is a flagship telemedicine platform of the Government, developed by the Centre for Development of Advance Computing (C-DAC), Mohali under the aegis of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). It provides free consultations to Indian citizens and is functioning extremely well. However, due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, the demand for doctors is up while the supply has reduced as doctors are being pulled out for COVID ward duties. This is where the defence veterans are stepping in to help.

The Medical Branch of HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) is providing telemedicine service for the serving and retired defence personnel and has coordinated with MoHFW and NIC to roll out this Ex-Defence OPD for civilian patients. Deputy Chief IDS (Medical) Lt Gen Madhuri Kanitkar has urged the fraternity of retired AFMS doctors to join this platform and provide valuable consultation to the citizens when the country is going through a difficult time.

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1716822


Children impacted by COVID-19 pandemic provided telecounselling through SAMVEDNA

With an objective of providing psychological first-aid and emotional support to children affected during COVID-19 pandemic, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is providing tele-counselling to children through SAMVEDNA (Sensitizing Action on Mental Health Vulnerability through Emotional Development and Necessary Acceptance) - a toll-free helpline launched to provide psycho-social mental support to children affected during COVID-19 pandemic. Tele-counselling is being provided through a network of qualified Experts/Counsellors/Psychologists trained under the guidance of Dr Shekhar Seshadri, Professor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and his team from NIMHANS, on various psychosocial issues in reference to COVID-19, using different telecounselling strategies.

SAMVEDNA is for psychological support to children to address their stress, anxiety, fear and other issues during the pandemic. This service is available on a toll-free No: 1800-121-2830 from Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. This service is exclusively for children who are willing to talk and are in need of counselling. When a child/caretaker/ parent dials SAMVEDNA1800-121-2830, they get to speak to a professional counsellor in a safe environment. Tele counselling is provided to the children under three categories:

1. Children who are in Quarantine/isolation/COVID Care centres. 2. Children who have COVID-positive parents or family members and near ones. 3. Children who have lost their parents due to COVID-19 pandemic.

This toll-free tele-counselling cater to the children from all over India in various regional languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Oriya, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali etc. This service was launched in September, 2020 and continuing to support children in the difficult times of COVID-19 pandemic.

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1719426

SCTIMST develops new multiplex RT-PCR kit with novel gene targets to facilitate detection across various mutant strains of COVID-19

A newly developed multiplex RT-PCR kit has a higher accuracy of detecting COVID-19 across the various mutant strains of the virus responsible for the global pandemic. As we are going through a second wave of the pandemic with multiple variants of the virus, the selection of target genes in multiplex RT-PCR assay is becoming critical for accurate detection of the virus. Even though coronaviruses make far fewer errors than other RNA viruses, the mutations in S, R, and N genes often interfere with RT-PCR assay. For example, the “variant of concern” B1.1.7 (also known as the UK variant) has a 69-70del, due to deletion of 6 bases in the RNA, which resulted in S gene drop out from RT-PCR assay.

The new multiplex RT-PCR kit developed by Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Department of Science and Technology, Government of India targets two SARS CoV-2 genes: RdRp and ORFb-nsp14, and the human RNAse P gene as the internal control to help detect a range of mutant strains. Various studies have shown that RdRp and ORF1b-nsp14 genes are more sensitive in detecting COVID-19. In order to target the multiple variants in the second wave, using two highly accurate confirmatory genes like RdRp and ORF-nsp14 can give precise results. The ORFb-nsp14 is one of the least mutated genes in COVID-19, and currently there are no kits in the market with ORF-nsp14 as the target.

The new kit is based on multiplex Taqman chemistry, amplifying all three genes in a single reaction. The amplification time for the assay is 45 minutes, apart from the time required for the RNA isolation from nasopharyngeal swab samples. Multiplexing two confirmatory genes will help shortlist possible new variants if one of the genes fails to amplify and can be marked for sequence analysis. ICMR has validated this kit at the National Institute of Virology, Pune and found that it has 97.3% sensitivity and 100% specificity in COVID-19 detection. SCTIMST has signed a non-exclusive license MoU with Huwel Lifesciences, Hyderabad on 14 May 2021 to commercialize the kit. “This unique RT-PCR kit will be a significant weapon in our fight against COVID-19 by a facile detection of SARS-CoV-2 mutations which are becoming increasingly important,” said Secretary, DST, Prof. Ashutosh Sharma.

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1719628

TIFAC suggests integrated COVID-19 Command Centre

A COVID-19 Command Centre should be established in each district, equipped with necessary infrastructure and manpower to ensure both-way information flow between COVID-19 Command Centre and villages. This can help optimum use of available resources and also usage of data for other scientific purposes. It has been suggested by Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), an autonomous institute under the Department of Science and Technology, a technology think tank. COVID-19 surge has become more serious than predicted, spreading faster, particularly during second wave and penetrating in the rural areas as well. As the pandemic spreads in the villages of India in varying intensity, accurate information about infection rate, recovery rate, death rate, supply of medicines, availability of medical infrastructures like hospital beds and oxygen need to be available to the administration on a click of a mouse to facilitate efficient management of resources towards containment of COVID-19 spread across India.

According to TIFAC, all the district COVID-19 Command Centres should be connected with the State COVID-19 Command Centre, which will be the repository of information of the entire state. Similarly, all State COVID-19 Command Centres will be connected digitally with the Central COVID-19 Command Centre so that information of all states and villages of India will be available centrally. The entire information should be transferred and stored digitally so that time-series data are available at Central COVID-19 Command Centre for the whole of India and at States COVID-19 Command Centre for the entire states.

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1719928

Mega make-shift COVID centre set up at Kochi Refinery premises

A 100-bed make-shift COVID treatment centre opened on 14 May at Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited’s (BPCL) Kochi Refinery-operated school, adjacent to its premises, in Ambalamugal, Kerala. BPCL, a ‘Maharatna’ PSU under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India, will provide free oxygen, power and water to the Centre. The oxygen will be supplied through a dedicated stainless steel pipeline. The medical facility will have 100 beds in the first phase, which will be later expanded to accommodate 1,500 beds, in the same premises. BPCL has been at the forefront in supporting the healthcare system, by upgrading its facilities at Mumbai and Bina Refineries for supply of 600 MT free gaseous oxygen per month to government hospitals and medical centres, besides supplying 100 MT liquid oxygen from Kochi Refinery every month.

BPCL is also setting up PSA Oxygen Plants in two government hospitals in Maharashtra, three hospitals in Kerala and five hospitals in Madhya Pradesh. Additionally, bottling compressor is also being put up at the refinery, which will help in oxygen supply through cylinders.

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1718630

AIIMS doctors provide guidance on medication and care for mild COVID-19 patients

The commonly observed symptoms among COVID-19 patients are fever, dry cough, tiredness and loss of taste or smell. Irritation in throat, headache, body ache, diarrhoea, rash on skin and redness in eyes are also observed in rare cases. If you observe any of these symptoms, you should immediately isolate yourself from others. This was informed by Dr Neeraj Nishchal of AIIMS, Delhi, during a webinar on “Medication and Care in Home Isolation”, for patients who are tested positive for COVID-19. The webinar was organized by The Centre of Excellence of the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry.

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1718783

POWERGRID takes initiatives to fight COVID-19

Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (POWERGRID), a ‘Maharatna’ Company under Ministry of Power, Government of India has actively taken up various initiatives for extending timely help to its employees in all its offices across the country. Vaccination is the most crucial weapon to fight this pandemic. In this line, POWERGRID is organizing vaccination camps for its employees and their family members across all its establishments in India, including the Corporate Centre in Gurugram, all offices including Regional Headquarters and the Sub-stations located in remote parts of the country. The cost for vaccinating the staff and their families is being borne by the Company. The vaccine camps are being organized for both age groups 18-45 and more than 45 years regularly for providing the first and second doses of vaccines. This facility has been extended by the POWERGRID to its superannuated employees, contractual employees and their families also. Besides, the vaccination camps were also organized for employees from Ministry of Power, Power PSUs. The vaccination drives are receiving an overwhelming response.

POWERGRID is providing complimentary meal service to all the affected employees and their families. The same practice is also being followed at the Regional Headquarters and other establishments of POWERGRID. POWERGRID has increased the capacity of its isolation centre in Sector 46, Gurugram which it had set up amidst the pandemic in 2020. A new isolation centre in Manesar has also been set up which is available to the superannuated employees and their families. The isolation centre in Manesar has a capacity of 50 beds and separate facility of beds for those who require to be quarantined. Under its CSR, POWERGRID had handed over nine ICU Ventilators to the tune of Rs. 1,14,30,000 to the Dean, Government Medical College, Chandrapur. These ICU ventilators are being used to treat the patients during the on-going pandemic. Further, masks and sanitizers are being distributed to the administration in various states including Odisha where 5000 masks and 500 bottles of hand sanitizers were handed over to ADM, Angul for protection and prevention of COVID-19. Understanding the importance of ambulances in the present pandemic, POWERGRID handed over an ambulance to Vadodara Municipal Corporation to take care of COVID-19-affected patients.

Dedicated teams have been constituted by the Human Resource Departments across the regions for helping the staff and their families who are unfortunately suffering from the pandemic. The team is working 24x7 for helping the staff and their family in getting hospital admission and arranging oxygen and medicines etc. The details of these services are being provided to the employees through the centralized helpline numbers which have been shared on the intranet of all regional headquarters and the intranet websites of all other establishments. The Corporate Communications Department is working towards making the employees and common masses aware about COVID-19 protocols and appropriate behaviour. Government of India initiatives are also being highlighted through creative video, templates and other motivational contents. These are helping in creating awareness.

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1718817

NTPC augments COVID Care Facilities across the country

NTPC Ltd, India’s largest integrated energy company under Ministry of Power has added more than 500 beds with oxygen support and more than 1100 isolation beds across plants in various states to provide support to the critical COVID Care. In NCR region, the Company has set up COVID care centres with facility of 200 oxygensupported beds and 140 isolation beds in Badarpur, Noida and Dadri. Further, the Company has set up a 500-bed COVID health centre at Sundargarh in Odisha where 20 ventilators have been provided. Going further, the company has already placed orders for 11 oxygen generation plants in NCR. Besides, two large oxygen generation plants having bottling facility are being set up. Further, the company is also setting up oxygen generation plants at 8 different locations in other states. In addition, the Company has extended support for installation of oxygen generation plants at different Government hospitals in other states. NTPC has also started vaccinating those who are eligible in the 18-44-year-old category at many of its plant locations. Vaccination drives have been undertaken across NTPC stations in coordination with respective State administrations.

India’s largest integrated energy player is running 24X7 Control Rooms across plants for better coordination for patients across sites which are coordinated by a special task force. The task force also helps in coordination for hospital beds and other treatment facilities across various empanelled and non-empaneled hospitals. The 24X7 control rooms also coordinated for procurement of medicines, hospital equipment, services along with daily reporting and MIS. Further, NTPC is in coordination with hospitals and its medical team to ensure that all COVID-19 patients are rendered the best healthcare support. NTPC has also collaborated with the Ministry of Power and Ministry of Health to facilitate the availability of necessary but scarce medicines and other essentials like oxygen.

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1718789

CCMB initiates training on faster, low-cost COVID-19 testing

CSIR-CCMB has shown that biological samples from dry swabs can be directly used for COVID-19 testing without RNA isolation. This will bring down the costs of COVID-19 tests. No Viral Transport Medium is needed and sample handling is easier. CSIR-CCMB are training ICMR-testing centres to adopt the protocol.

Website link: https://www.ccmb.res.in/

CDRI offers screening of compounds against selected SARS-CoV-2 targets

CSIR-CDRI offers screening of compounds and selected extracts for companies, start-ups and other institutes against selected SARS-CoV-2 targets on payment or collaborative basis as per the needs of the particular entity.

a) An attractive drug target among coronaviruses is the main protease (Mpro, also called 3CLpro) because of its essential role in processing the polyproteins that are translated from the viral RNA. CSIR-CDRI can screen compounds against the target and also will carry out cocrystallization studies based on the particular requirements.

b) The papain-like protease (PLpro) of SARS-CoV-2 plays essential roles in virus replication and immune evasion and represents an attractive drug target. CSIR-CDRI can screen compounds and carry out co-crystallisation studies against this target based on the particular project needs.

Website link: https://cdri.res.in/covid19Screening.aspx

Various stakeholders partner to provide insights into the genetic epidemiology of COVID-19 in Kerala

COVID-19 Genetic Epidemiology Kerala is a unique partnership between the Department of Health & Family Welfare, Government of Kerala, National Health Mission, Govt. of Kerala, CSIR Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) and various clinical and public health centres in Kerala aimed at providing insights into the genetic epidemiology of COVID-19 in Kerala. The initiative aims to combine genomic and epidemiological information to guide public health interventions and policies. The initiative would also enable the understanding of transmission patterns, outbreaks apart from enabling evidence-based policies for testing, intervention. It is also expected that the initiative would also serve as a framework for evaluating policies.

Website link: https://genescov2.genomes.in/home

INSACOG to monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2

INSACOG, the consortium of 10 national laboratories, is jointly established by the MoHFW and DBT to monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2 for genomic, epidemiological and clinical correlation to assist public health response. The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) is since then carrying out genomic sequencing and analysis of circulating COVID-19 viruses and correlating epidemiological trends with genomic variants. Genomic variants of various viruses are a natural phenomenon and are found in almost all countries.

Website link: http://dbtindia.gov.in/insacog

Ayush Ministry launched nationwide distribution campaign of AYUSH-64 & Kabasura Kudineer

In a concerted response to the second surge of COVID-19 infection in the country, Ministry of Ayush has launched a massive nationwide campaign today to distribute its proven poly herbal Ayurvadic drugs AYUSH-64 and Sidha drug Kabasura Kudineer for the benefit of the vast majority of out-of-hospital COVID patients. The efficacy of these drugs has been proved through robust multi-centre clinical trials. The multi stakeholder campaign being launched by Shri Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State (independent charge) for Youth Affairs and Sports and Minister of Ayush (additional charge) will ensure that medicines reach the needy in a transparent and efficient manner. The main collaborator in the campaign is Sewa Bharati. A comprehensive strategy of distribution has been chalked out and the role out will unfold in a phased manner, utilising the wide network of various institutions working under the aegis of the ministry and this will be supported by the countrywide network of Sewa Bharati. It is worthwhile to note that since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, the Ministry of Ayush has taken several initiatives toward control and mitigation of it, while also working in close collaboration with Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in the fight against the disease. With the latest initiative of the Ministry to launch a nationwide campaign for distribution of AYUSH-64 and Kabasura Kudineer, India aims to strengthen its position in fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry has taken several initiatives and setup an Interdisciplinary AYUSH Research and Development Task Force involving experts from diverse fields to formulate and develop strategies for control and mitigation of COVID-19. Many clinical and observational studies have been undertaken to understand the role of AYUSH interventions in mitigation and management of COVID-19 whereas various studies were carried out on AYUSH-64, an Ayurvedic formulation developed by the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS)and Kabasura Kudineer, a classical Siddha formulation. The Ministry of Ayush-Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) collaboration has recently completed a robust multi-centre clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of AYUSH-64 in the management of mild to moderate COVID-19 patients. Kabasura was also subjected to clinical trials for studying the efficacy in COVID-19 patients by Central Council for Research in Siddha (CCRS) under Ministry of Ayush and is also found useful in the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 infection. AYUSH-64 is recommended in National Clinical Management Protocol based on Ayurveda and Yoga which is vetted by National Task Force on COVID Management of ICMR and Guidelines for Ayurveda Practitioners for COVID-19 Patients in Home Isolation. Kabasura Kudineer is included in Guidelines for Siddha Practitioners for COVID-19, Ministry of Ayush, Govt. of India.

Website link: https://pib.gov.in/Pressreleaseshare.aspx?PRID=1716729

DRDO develops COVID-19 antibody detection kit

Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS), a laboratory of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has developed an antibody detection-based kit 'DIPCOVAN', the DIPAS-VDx COVID-19 IgG Antibody Microwell ELISA for sero-surveillance. The DIPCOVAN kit can detect both spike as well as nucleocapsid (S&N) proteins of SARSCoV-2 virus with a high sensitivity of 97 per cent and specificity of 99 per cent. The kit has been developed in association with Vanguard Diagnostics Pvt Ltd, a development and manufacturing diagnostics company based at New Delhi. The DIPCOVAN kit was developed indigenously by the scientists, followed by extensive validation on more than 1,000 patient samples at various COVID designated hospitals in Delhi. Three batches of the product were validated during last one year. The antibody detection kit is approved by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in April 2021. DIPCOVAN is intended for the qualitative detection of IgG antibodies in human serum or plasma, targeting SARS-CoV-2 related antigens. It offers a significantly faster turn-around-time as it requires just 75 minutes to conduct the test without any cross reactivity with other diseases. The kit has a shelf life of 18 months.

Industry partner Vanguard Diagnostics Pvt. Ltd will commercially launch the product during the first week of June 2021. Readily available stock at the time of launch will be 100 kits (approx. 10,000 tests) with a production capacity of 500 kits/month after the launch. It is expected to be available at about Rs 75 per test. The kit will be very useful for understanding COVID-19 epidemiology and assessing an individual's previous SARS-CoV-2 exposure.

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1720604

CSIR-CSIO transfers the UV Disinfection technology to combat SARS-CoV-2 to 27 indigenous manufacturers

There has been increasing evidence for airborne route of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via aerosols which is now considered to be important by international agencies WHO, REHVA, ASHRAE and by health authorities in several countries. The airborne transmission is a major risk in indoor settings. Significantly, research carried out by CSIR constituent labs, Centre for VIGYAN PRASAR 39 Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) and CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology (CSIR-IMTECH) in September 2020 had demonstrated experimentally that SARS-CoV-2 viral particles could be detected in air even after 2 hours of exit of infected persons from a room and at distances much greater than a few meters as well (S C. Moharir et al., 2020) strengthening evidence of airborne transmission of the SARS-CoV-2.

The product developed by the CSIR-Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO) is tested for more than 99% disinfection and could be used as a retrofit solution to Air Handling Units (AHUs) of buildings, transport vehicles and other spin off applications. The UV-C Air Duct Disinfection System is energy efficient. It improves airflow through coils, enhances indoor air quality, requires less maintenance, easy to retrofit with any existing system having AHU ducts, and has low initial setup cost. The system comes with commercialized standards and certifications. CSIR-CSIO has transferred the technology to 27 companies, for scaling up the manufacturing.

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1720933


Countrywide AYUSH COVID -19 Counselling Helpline operationalized

A dedicated community support helpline has been operationalized by the Union Ministry of Ayush to provide AYUSH-based approaches and solutions for the challenges raised by COVID-19. The toll-free number is 14443. The helpline is operational pan-India from 6 am to 12 midnight, all seven days of a week. Through the helpline 14443, experts from different streams of Ayush, namely Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani and Siddha would be available to address queries of the general masses. These experts would not only be providing counselling and feasible remedies to the patients but would also guide them about the availability of nearby Ayush facilities. The experts would also be suggesting post COVID-19 rehabilitation and management approaches to the patients. The helpline is IVR (Interactive Voice Response) equipped and currently available in Hindi and English. Other languages will be added in due course of time. The helpline will initially take 100 calls simultaneously and the capacity would be increased in future, as per requirements. Through the helpline, the Ministry of Ayush aims to contribute to VIGYAN PRASAR 40 the community-wide effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. The effort is supported by the NGO, Project StepOne.

Notably, the AYUSH systems are among the oldest living medical systems used for health and wellbeing and are formally recognised in the country. The use of these systems has increased during the current pandemic due to their unique approaches for strengthening host defence. These are found useful as effective, safer, conveniently accessible, and affordable prophylaxis in the management of COVID-19. In addition, the therapeutic potentials have also been explored and two potential Polyherbal formulations namely AYUSH-64, an Ayurvedic formulation developed by CCRAS and Kabasura Kudineer of Siddha system has been found effective in the management of mild to moderate COVID-19 conditions. The Ministry of AYUSH is promoting these medicines extensively for the benefit of common people.

Website link: https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1720519