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5 new projects India will pursue to find treatment for Covid-19 and similar diseases

The government has sanctioned the projects with a funding of upto Rs 25 lakh each for upto a year.

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New Delhi: The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has announced the first set of approved projects that will work towards finding novel solutions in the fight against the Covid-19 coronavirus, which currently has no known vaccine or treatment.

Over the last month, the DST put out several calls for special research projects to ramp up the efforts to find effective medical solutions to stop the coronavirus pandemic.

The DST’s Science and Engineering Board (SERB) selected five projects that will work on developing implementable technologies after they were assessed by a special expert committee.

Each project will receive funds of upto Rs 25 lakh for upto a year, Sandeep Verma, secretary, DST-SERB told ThePrint. He added that more approvals will follow depending on when researchers apply.

These are the projects that have been approved.

Also read: How the novel coronavirus is mutating, and if you should be concerned

Identifying unique biomarkers

A team at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, led by Sanjeeva Srivastava, will look for metabolite biomarkers in patients infected with Covid-19. Metabolites are small molecules that get formed during the cellular processes, which can act as unique biomarkers for a disease.

This will help scientists in search for molecular signs of the infection. These molecules can then be targeted with novel therapies.

Materials with anti-viral coating

A team led by Nagma Parveen at IIT-Kanpur will work on developing materials with coatings that can effectively destroy viruses. These materials will be cost-effective, can be repurposed and will be used in various healthcare settings — such as surgical masks — to prevent the spread of highly contagious infections like Covid-19.

Another team led by Jayanta Haldar at Bengaluru’s Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) will develop small molecular and polymeric compounds which can be coated on various surfaces to kill respiratory viruses completely upon contact.

Also read: How experts are using maths to stay ahead of the coronavirus

Anti-viral decontamination of inanimate surfaces

A global shortage of sanitisers and disinfectants has made it necessary to develop other ways to remove virus from surfaces. At IIT-Delhi, a team led by B.S. Butola will work on developing a material that attracts the virus and kills it. This can be effective in any setting as regular mops can be fitted with the material and used to disinfect surfaces.

Currently, special disinfectants are used to remove viruses.

Developing anti-bodies against SARS-CoV-2

This project will be led by Kiran Kondabagil of IIT-Bombay and will work on developing anti-bodies against the ‘spike’ glycoprotein of the novel coronavirus. The spike protein helps the virus attach itself to the human cell.

The project also aims to develop a fat-based solution that can render the virus inactive.

Also read: This is how my team isolated the new coronavirus to fight the global pandemic


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