Apart from the pulmonologist, Dr Shankar Prinja from the school of public health has been nominated to the operations research team, and Dr Bikash Medhi from the department of pharmacology vaccine and drugs research and development team.
Three doctors from PGIMER have been nominated to the research groups formulated under the National Task Force for COVID-19 by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). The teams’ primary responsibilities include identifying research priorities by reviewing evidence, creating a protocol development team and identifying partners for implementation of protocols.
Out of the five research teams, each dedicated to focus on a particular medical research field, Dr D K Behra from the Department of Pulmonary Medicine and a Padma Shri awardee has been nominated to the Clinical Research Group. Dr Behra states that though no formal meeting has taken place between members of the clinical research team yet, he has done significant research of existing literature on COVID-19 and is prepared with ideas that he wises to pitch to the team, which includes prominent medical experts and scientists including Dr R R Gangakhedkar, who is the head of the ICMR’s Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases Division.
“Though I am not sure what exact research we will produce since we haven’t held a formal meeting yet, there is a broad sense of what the research will entail. We will primarily look at clinical patterns of the disease, especially in the context of India,” states Dr Behra, adding that though there is existing research on the clinical charectiristics of the disease from other countries such as China, the disease has not be contextualised in India to that extent as yet.
“We need to begin looking at how many asymptomatic patients are there and from which age groups, how many patients have milder symptoms, and what demographic has the most severe symptoms. A consolidated study on such clinical patterns will give way to understanding how to tackle the disease,” Dr Behra says.
Apart from clinical patterns, research teams will be dedicated to look at the efficacy of existing drugs such as hydrochlorquine and the discovery of curative vaccines and drugs in India. “We might also concentrate on the immunology of Indian patients, especially because there are talks that the BCG vaccine has made a lot of Indians immune to the disease. All of this needs to be scientifically established,” says Dr Behra.
Apart from the pulmonologist, Dr Shankar Prinja from the school of public health has been nominated to the operations research team, and Dr Bikash Medhi from the department of pharmacology vaccine and drugs research and development team. Previously, Dr Medhi led a team of researchers who identified key proteins and enzymes that scientists need to target to develop a drug for COVID-19.