The first indigenous drug to treat COVID-19 is likely to be made available to the public soon with the completion of clinical trials, which showed “excellent results”, informed Tata Institute for Genetics and Society (TIGS) director Rakesh Mishra on Friday.
The product ‘Vincov-19’ is a collaborative effort of CSIR-Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB), University of Hyderabad (UoH) and city-based VINS Bioproducts. In this, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is inactivated and injected into horses. The anti-bodies generated through the blood serum is synthesised and purified to be turned into a drug, which would then be injected into humans for neutralising the COVID virus.
“It is a kind of sophisticated and scientific plasma therapy similar to a snake-bite antidote,” said the top scientist, also the former-director of CCMB, while delivering a lecture on ‘Lessons learnt from the pandemic and the way forward’ organised by CSIR-IICT.
In a very short span, CCMB and other scientific institutes rose to the challenge and developed diagnostic kits, testing facilities, devices, genomics, worked on more than 170 potential drugs and regents, making one wonder why “we don’t do these more often”.
The pandemic has shown that the country has to become self-reliant in terms of healthcare and not depend on imports alone. The road map prepared for development of regents and testing kits once the pandemic broke out has been successful. The price of testing from a few thousand rupees has come down and could be soon be available for even ₹15, he explained and called for similar efforts in every aspect of healthcare.
The director said, apart from wastewater surveillance to look for presence and progression of any infectious disease, zoonotic surveillance needs to be carried out as animals are capable of re-infecting human beings and “most infectious diseases are through them”.
“If we are going to trade in wildlife, consume them or destroy nature, bringing it closer, another pandemic — a more dangerous outbreak causing more mortalities — is imminent,” he warned. “We need to be ready for the next pandemic which many not take 100 years, by investing in healthcare worldwide by more than US$125 billion dollar. It is not expensive considering the devastation caused now, and we must learn to live in harmony with nature,” he said.
Vaccine development in record time, development of RNA vaccine technology, genomics and precision medicare are optimistic signs. And, how long does he think COVID-19 will last? “We are in an uncharted territory from the perspective of understanding the pandemic, how it starts, unfolds and how it ends. It also depends on us as the virus cannot transmit on its own,” he added.