CSIR-CCMB developing digital platform to help in surveillance of coronavirus spread

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April 17, 2020 1:55 AM

CCMB and Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), New Delhi are working together on the whole genome sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus isolates which will help them to understand the evolution of the virus and its spread route.

Severe shortage of test kits is a major bottleneck in this context.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), having over 38 research institutions under its umbrella, is working with IT majors such as Intel and TCS for developing a digital and molecular surveillance platform for monitoring the spread of novel coronavirus.

According to scientists, data shared from various agencies and linking with sources like Aarogya Setu platform will help in the management and control of the disease spread. The CSIR labs are already in action or in advanced discussions with private sector giants like Reliance, Tata, Cipla, Cadila, BHEL, BEL, etc. for PPEs, hospital assistive devices, repurposing of drugs, coronavirus therapy, vaccine development, electrostatic spray, ventilator, thermometer and oxygen enrichment units.

With most of the reagents being imported, CSIR along with private sector companies is working on indigenisation of components, devices and equipment. This is a coordinated effort for indigenisation of components, reagents, chemicals and enzymes required for testing, etc. of novel coronavirus. “We are working closely with TCS and Intel and others in developing a digital platform which will help in surveillance of corona outbreak in the country” Dr Rakesh Mishra, director, CCMB, told FE.

Hyderabad-based CSIR-CCMB is an authorised testing centre for Covid-19 and receives patient samples from government hospitals across 33 districts of Telangana for checking SARS-CoV-2 virus.  Currently, the test capacity is around 350 samples a day. CCMB is also identified by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to be one of the five validation centres for Covid-19 testing in India. CCMB is the only non-ICMR lab to be part of these Centres of Excellence (CoE) that will validate the non-USFDA and non-EUA/CE-IVD approved kits for Covid-19 testing.

Severe shortage of test kits is a major bottleneck in this context. Lack of kits which are imported from other countries necessitates India to develop its own testing kits. While multiple start-ups and life science companies across the country have been already identified for their ability to develop such kits, they would need to be quickly validated. These CoE will be crucial in their validation and approval for use for the testing centres in the country.

“Since March, CCMB itself has been a testing centre for Covid-19 and has been working with hospitals across 33 districts of Telangana. It has also trained medical doctors and staff from government hospitals in the state. This new responsibility of kit validation will now enable us to support the healthcare and life science industry sector to bring all stakeholders together in this fight against Covid-19,” Dr Rakesh Mishra, said. CCMB is also setting up viral cultures which will be useful for testing of drugs and vaccine making.

Incidentally, CCMB and Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), New Delhi are working together on the whole genome sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus isolates which will help them to understand the evolution of the virus and its spread route.

“The genome sequencing will help to understand the evolution of the virus. Whole genome sequencing is the method used to determine the complete DNA sequence of a specific organism’s genome. The approach for sequencing the coronavirus involves getting samples from patients and sending these to sequencing centre. Genome sequencing needs very large number of samples for study. We get insights of the virus even as it changes very rapidly and understand its nature of transmission,’’ he said.

“Bioinformatic analysis of the sequence data on Indian isolates collected so far indicates Chinese and European routes of entry of the virus and also indicates no major mutational changes that may necessitate drastically different approaches of vaccine or drug from what is already being tried. It is, however, early make final call on these early indications,’’ he added.

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