India has put to use significant scientific calibre in response to COVID-19 pandemic: Harsh Vardhan

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Updated: Nov 24, 2020 6:46 PM

Vardhan, who is also the minister for health and family welfare, said COVID-19 has emerged as one of the greatest global challenges, requiring a strategised, collective global response which has seen young scientists play a significant role.

Dr Vardhan also highlighted key features of this CoWIN platform.

From development of indigenous vaccines to novel point-of-care diagnostics and therapeutic formulations, India has put to use its significant scientific calibre in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Union minister Harsh Vardhan said on Tuesday. Addressing the first virtual Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Young Scientist Conclave, the minister of Science and Technology said the COVID-19 pandemic is a test, demonstrating that multilateral cooperation is the key to overcoming such global challenges. Vardhan, who is also the minister for health and family welfare, said COVID-19 has emerged as one of the greatest global challenges, requiring a strategised, collective global response which has seen young scientists play a significant role.

Talking about response by India, he said, “India has put to use its significant scientific calibre. “From the development of indigenous vaccines, novel point-of-care diagnostics and therapeutic formulations based on traditional knowledge, to establishing research resources, Indian R&D entities both public and private, have been working relentlessly to develop effective interventions for combating the pandemic,” he said. With government’s support, more than 100 start-ups have provided innovative products and solutions to tackle COVID-19, he said.

About 30 vaccines are in different stages of development, he said. Two of them are in the most advanced stage of development – COVAXIN developed through ICMR-Bharat Biotech collaboration and COVISHIELD from the Serum Institute of India. “Both are in Phase-III clinical trial stage. Our premier institution – the Indian Council of Medical Research – is involved in their trial executions. India is also hosting clinical trials for all the major vaccine contenders,” he said.

He was referring to the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, conducting trials for the vaccine developed by Oxford University. “One of our pharma giants, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, will distribute the Russian vaccine in India after conducting final-stage human trials and receiving regulatory approval,” he added. Vardhan said India has also proposed a working group on traditional medicine to spread the knowledge of traditional and ancient medicine in SCO countries so that it can complement the progress in contemporary medicine.

The first ever SCO Young Scientists Conclave is being hosted by India. Vardhan noted that India maintains close cultural and historical ties with the SCO nations. The SCO Young Scientists Conclave is a platform for young scientists to further deepen relations and the broad aim of the conclave is to bring the brightest young minds on a common platform to harness their potential to address the gravest societal challenges using research and innovation.

“The pandemic has taught us that today, the world is dependent on science, technology and innovation. It has highlighted the heightened need to transform this landscape,” Vardhan said. Innovation, he said, is the key driver for enhancing productivity and prosperity and India has emerged as a hub for start-ups and innovation. Indian youngsters have distinguished themselves with their futuristic and out-of-the-box thinking, he added.

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