France, India bet big on drug discovery

A research centre on the IICT premises in Hyderabad.

A research centre on the IICT premises in Hyderabad.   | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

IICT and French institute expand ties in research on chemical technology and medicinal chemistry

France and India are expanding their partnership in areas of research pertaining to chemical technology and medicinal chemistry, scientists from both countries announced here on Monday.

The collaboration between Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) and the Institute for Chemical Sciences in Rennes is about a decade old, but scientists are only now forging ahead in areas of research pertaining to medicine and drug development from natural products. Scientists informed that cancer and disorders of the central nervous system, chiefly Alzheimer’s, are on top of the list.

“The collaboration has been highly fruitful as far as research in CNS disorders goes. Both natural and man-made compounds are being screened in France,” said S. Chandrasekhar, Director, IICT.

Besides witnessing academic exchange by way of student and scientist exchange programmes between the countries, the cooperation rides heavily on the molecular bank that IICT boasts. The country’s one-of-its-kind facility, the bank has over 40,000 molecules, which are not catalogued. One of the many promising compounds that the collaboration hopes will reach the market has shown potential for nerve cell growth. Experiments have shown successes in zebra fish and mice studies. Further work is underway to determine exactly how the compound works.

“Before we can go ahead with primate and clinical studies, we have to understand how the compound brings about its effect. This is underway in France,” said Prof. Rene Gree, of University of Rennes, who has been visiting IICT as part of collaborative efforts for nearly 20 years.

Of increasing interest to both Indian and French scientists is potential of lichens as a source of molecules that could lead to novel drugs. While Indian scientists many decades ago had built a significant collection, the practise lost charm over the years said Dr. Chandrasekhar.

“It is with the help of French that in the last three years, there has been an increased interest in collection and their screening,” he added.

The collaboration’s base at IICT, the Indo-French Joint Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry at Interfaces, is expected to be rechristened later this year to reflect the changing scope of the collaboration. Meanwhile, however, it continues to see many French students visit the city for exchange programmes.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 7:10:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/france-india-bet-big-on-drug-discovery/article18725190.ece

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