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IICT working on molecule for coronavirus drug

MOHAMMED SHAFEEQ   |  Hyderabad

06-March-2020

The Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) has started working on a molecule for a drug for the treatment of coronavirus, which has so far killed over 3,000 people in China and other parts of the world.

A team of 15 scientists at the city-based IICT, a part of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is working to develop the molecule for the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) to help the companies to finally come out with a drug.

IICT Director Dr S. Chandrasekhar told IANS on Friday that the work began three days ago and he expects the molecule process to be ready in 3-4 months. "Per say we don't need more than 3-4 months to make the process ready and keep the compound ready. In the meantime, if coronavirus disappears, it may not be required," he said.

He observed that since Gilead Sciences has started clinical trials of its drug in China, they thought they should also be ready. "If clinical trial passes and the disease still continues, I am sure Gilead will launch the product globally. We are doing as a back-up. In case it gets through clinical trial and that company does not give (technology) to India, then we can," he said.

"They registered 1,000 patients in China now but looks like the number of cases in China are coming down slowly. The mortality rate has also come down. Initially they said it is 3 per cent but looks like it is not so virulent that people are dying. I think symptoms are mild and people are recovering fast. We wish and pray that our service is not required," he said.

The scientist said the idea of developing a molecule emerged when they were talking to some industries working on anti-virus drugs and one of them called for working together. "We told them that we will start working on the process with our resources and in case, the clinical trial passes, we would like to help them."

He observed that companies generally will not be very aggressive unless someone pushes them. He pointed out how the companies had built huge stocks of Tamiflu but the disease disappeared quickly.

"That company basically does not even know that the molecule will pass clinical trial. We are throwing a stone, only then something happens. It is better to start now and be ready instead of suddenly starting work after a few months," he said.

Chandrasekhar said if the IICT develops a technology, they will not share with just one company. "If we develop a technology it is essential that we don't give to one company because there will be monopoly in pricing. If really required we will give to at least 7-8 companies so that the price will be under control."

He pointed out that India is very good in reverse engineering and it transformed the entire generic industry. IICT, IDPL and other had played very important role in this.

He recalled that IICT had made the first HIV drug in 1987. He said Cipla still sells its product globally with their technology. IANS