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Alarmed over coronavirus, India to make list of viruses, bacteria to develop vaccines

The move is focused on developing technologies that will help India produce vaccines — within four months — in case of virus or bacteria-related outbreaks.

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New Delhi: Concerned over the coronavirus outbreak in China, the Narendra Modi government will now prepare a list of “priority” viruses and bacteria for which it needs to develop vaccines, ThePrint learnt.

The move is focused on developing technologies that will help India produce vaccines — within four months or even earlier in the event of any virus or bacteria-related outbreaks.

“India is not yet capable enough to produce vaccines for the latest outbreak of coronavirus. However, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) will prepare a list of priority pathogens. With a new list of priority pathogens, we will be ready to tackle the next outbreak,” Gagandeep Kang, executive director, Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), told ThePrint.

The THSTI is an autonomous institute functioning under the Ministry of Science and Technology’s DBT. 

Pathogens can be any infectious microorganism such as virus, bacterium, protozoan or fungus.

“The DBT will also focus on developing approaches to platform technologies, where, with just the genetic sequence of the virus causing the outbreak, it will be possible to work on vaccine development using different kinds of platform technologies,” she said.

A platform technology is the backbone for the development of vaccines that remains the same for every vaccine but the pathogens keep varying.

Also read: Trust govt, says Jaishankar as panic over Indians in coronavirus-affected Wuhan remains

What triggered the move?

India’s move to develop vaccines came after the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global non-profit organisation formed in 2016, announced last week that it will fund the development of new vaccines against emerging infectious diseases.

It also announced three programmes to develop vaccines against the novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV.

The CEPI — started by Norway, India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the World Economic Forum — has also given a fund of $12.5 million to three companies to develop coronavirus vaccines.

The organisation is trying to have vaccines developed and tested faster than ever before.

‘India will be ready with vaccinations for any outbreak’

India’s programme to develop vaccines will be jointly funded by the CEPI and the Modi government through the DBT, said Kang, who is also the vice-chairperson of CEPI.

“With this hand-holding coming in, India will be ready with vaccinations for any outbreak,” she added.

“These vaccines will be built against known pathogens that can be predicted to cause outbreaks as well as unknown pathogens for which vaccines may need to be developed very quickly without knowing the pathogen well — the so-called disease X,” Kang said. 

Also read: MEA says govt preparing to evacuate Indians from China’s Hubei hit by coronavirus


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