The event has been started to provide a platform to all people who have ideas for the development of cures against COVID-19.
Drug Discovery Hackathon: Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ launch Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020! As the world battles with the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conceptualised a unique initiative to involve talented people from amongst the common public in the process of developing effective drugs for the COVID-19 pandemic. Called the Drug Discovery Hackathon, the event has been jointly organised by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), according to government’s website for innovation. The Hackathon was inaugurated on Thursday by Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and Union Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ in a virtual event.
Objective of Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020
The event has been started to provide a platform to all people who have ideas for the development of cures against COVID-19, and wish to participate in an open-source drug discovery platform for the purpose. The aim is to identify effective drug candidates against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus which causes COVID-19, using in-silico drug discovery. The discovery would be followed by chemical synthesis and biological testing.
The hackathon would cover various processes of drug discovery, leading to identification of effective methods, leads and tools to fight the infection, which would then be taken forward to the routine process of drug discovery. While the hackathon would begin with competing, its end goal is to subsequently share drug discovery and information.
The government’s idea is that while the novel coronavirus is still being understood due to its complex nature, collective intelligence is needed to overcome the pandemic that has brought the world to a virtual standstill. According to the government’s website for innovation, the hackathon is a way to utilise the young minds from around the world in the fight against COVID-19.
Moreover, apart from the discovery of a cure, the hackathon would also build a large community of researchers who are skilled in data analysis and management in drug discovery.
Methodology of India’s Drug Discovery Hackathon
The Hackathon has been divided into two major tracks. The first track deals mainly with the designing of drugs for anti-COVID-19 hit/lead molecule generation. For this, the participants can use tools like molecular modeling, molecular docking, pharmacophore optimization, or hit/lead optimization among others.
The second track is regarding the optimization or designing of tools and algorithms that will lead to an expedited in-silico drug discovery process. This would improve the screening efficiency.
The tracks have been broken down into as many as 30 specific problem statements by an experts panel. These problem statements would be standalone challenges and they would have specified boundaries, and expected outcomes to aid the competing teams in their thought process. According to the government website, the Hackathon has been proposed to be conducted in three phases, each of which would last for two months.