Monsoon session: Govt supporting 8 Covid-19 vaccine candidates, minister tells LS

The Department for Biotechnology (DBT), under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), is supporting the development of eight vaccine candidates against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the country at a cost of Rs 75 crore, 17 proposals for diagnostic devices at a cost of Rs 10 crore and 13 possible therapeutic interventions at a cost of Rs 9.6 crore, according to a reply given by Union Minister for Science and Technology minister Dr Harsh Vardhan in the Lok Sabha (LS) on Wednesday.

The department has also allocated Rs 86 lakh for five other interventions against the viral infection that is raging across the country.

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The DBT, in collaboration with Union Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) and National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB), is working on identifying medicinal plants and classical formulations that may have anti-Sars-CoV-2 properties in cell culture models at an estimated budgetary allocation of Rs 5.9 crore.

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes Covid-19.

Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a public sector undertaking (PSU), has invited proposals for botanical ingredients and traditional formulations that can work against SARS-CoV-2.

The government has also set up five bio-banks that will collect viral and clinical samples for research at a cost of Rs 10.9 crore. These bio-banks have been set up at Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI) and Regional Centre for Biotechnology (RCB) in Faridabad; Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine (inStem) in Bengaluru; Institute of Life Sciences (ILS) in Bhubaneswar; National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) in Pune; and Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) in New Delhi.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has supported six projects for Covid-19 under one of its existing schemes at a cost of Rs 9.6 crore and 36 other projects under a special category at a cost of Rs 25.4 crore.

The projects include developing various diagnostic techniques such as the CRISPR Cas9 gene editing technology-based Feluda kit developed by a team from CSIR’s Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB). The Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) has also worked on developing processes for synthesising drugs such as Favipiravir and Remdesivir and the findings have been shared with the industry.

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