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India’s CSIR taking steps to fight COVID-19

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) constituent leading biology lab, the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), based in Hyderabad, is employing several tools and approaches in the country’s fight against COVID-19.

The government released a press statement detailing some of the key recent highlights:

Testing patient samples

CCMB is an authorised testing centre for COVID-19 and receives patient samples from government hospitals across 33 districts of Telangana to check for SARS-CoV-2 virus. Currently, test capacity is around 350 samples a day.

Training for COVID-19 testing

The centre has trained 25 medical doctors, technical staff and students from five government hospitals. These include NIMS, IPM, the Government Fever Hospital in Hyderabad, and the Kakatiya Medical College in Warangal.

The trained staff members have been deployed for the testing activities at their respective hospitals. Further, CSIR-CCMB has also created training videos on best practices for handling patient samples and on RT-PCR. These videos are available for authorised centres and can be gotten by contacting director@ccmb.res.in

Sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 genome

CSIR labs are leading the way in the genome sequencing of the virus. CCMB is performing Next Generation Sequencing and an analysis to map out the whole genome sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The patient samples with CCMB that show a high viral load are chosen for the genome analyses. CCMB has sequenced a few patient viral isolates and aims to sequence several hundred virus isolates in the next 3-4 weeks.

Culturing SARS-CoV-2 virus for testing repurposed and new drugs

A key tool lacking for the R&D community is viral cultures to test repurposed drugs, new drugs or new molecules predicted by various molecular modelling. CSIR-CCMB has been engaged in this task and is setting up a system for culturing the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Vero cell line which is permissive for growth of viruses.

CCMB has also been actively engaged in conveying various precautions and advisories on the outbreak by innovative means in regional languages on social media platforms.

As OpenGov reported earlier, the government recently launched a Hackathon with the objective to garner support, resources, and ideas from all quarters in the fight against COVID19.

The winning ideas from a few top participating teams, as implementable solutions on the corona crisis, are expected to help India and global citizens.

There are over 2,000 teams with more than 15,000 participants who will fine-tune their working prototypes in the 48-hour hackathon.

These teams will have expert mentoring from India, Estonia and Finland. The top teams from India will participate in ‘Hack the Crisis – World’ global hackathon in the coming weeks.

At the launch, an official said that COVID -19 has thrown unprecedented challenges for the world and industries alike.

While each government continues to fight these challenges as a country to manage human suffering, business disruptions and remote working scenarios, it is important for all segments and sectors in countries  – governments, industry and individuals – to jointly participate wholeheartedly together to overpower the pandemic and emerge stronger as humanity.

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