From development of indigenous vaccines to novel point-of-care diagnostics, India has initiated an integrated response to overcome the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, Union minister Harsh Vardhan said on Saturday.
Speaking at the 8th BRICS STI Ministerial Meeting held on Friday, Vardhan said India is also hosting clinical trials for all the major vaccines, and about 20 vaccines are in different stages of development. Two of them are in the most advanced stage of development. COVAXIN developed through ICMR-Bharat Biotech collaboration and COVISHIELD from the Serum Institute of India. Both are in Phase-III clinical trial stage, he added.
"India has initiated an integrated response to overcome this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. "From the development of indigenous vaccines, novel point-of-care diagnostics and therapeutic formulations based on traditional knowledge, to establishing research resources and offering services, Indian R&D entities, both public and private, are working relentlessly to develop effective interventions for combating the pandemic," Vardhan, who holds the charge of Health Ministry as well as the Science and Technology Ministry, said.
Valery Falkov, Russian Minister of Science and Higher Education, Marcos Pontes, Brazilian Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Huang Wei, First Vice Minister of Science and Technology, China, Bonginkosi Emmanuel Nzimande, South African Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology and several other dignitaries from member countries participated in the meeting.
Vardhan said more than 100 start-ups have developed innovative products for COVID-19. He said the government has announced a $120 million grant for COVID-19 vaccine research. This is being provided for CovidSuraksha (Mission for protection from Covid) and is to be used purely for research and development in this field, he said. "The grant does not cover the actual cost of the vaccine and its distribution expenses, which will be made separately as and when the vaccine is available," he said.
Vardhan said India is also hosting clinical trials for all the major vaccine contenders. Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, is conducting trials for the vaccine developed by Oxford University, he said. "One of our pharma giants, Dr Reddy's Laboratories, will distribute the Russian vaccine in India after conducting final-stage human trials and receiving regulatory approval," the minister said.
Vardhan said India will actively contribute in implementation of BRICS STI Calendar of Activities 2020-21 and support continuation of scientific activities under BRICS MOU on Science, Technology and Innovation. The BRICS member leaders applauded India for the 'SERBPOWER' (Promoting Opportunities For Women in Exploratory Research) scheme launched last month, the Department of Science and Technology said.
"We have recently launched a scheme 'SERBPOWER' to encourage and support emerging as well as eminent women researchers to undertake R&D activities in areas of science and engineering. We may think of networking BRICS women scientists through a dedicated platform and mechanism," he added.