COVID-19 Current Affairs - 2020

Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020 launched

For supporting the drug discovery process, a national initiative called Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020 was launched on 2nd July 2020. The initiative was launched by Ramesh Pokhriyal (Union Human Resource Development Minister) and Dr. Harsh Vardhan (Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare and Science and Technology).

Objective of the Hackathon

The objective of the hackathon is to identify drug candidates for the COVID-19 virus through computational methods. Further the findings from the hackathon for chemical synthesis and biological testing.

About the Hackathon

Any professional, researchers, faculty, and students can participate from across the globe. The primary focus during the hackathon will be to focus on the computational aspects of the discovery of drugs. This will be done on three tracks:

  • Track 1: From an existing database, identifying computational modeling for drug design. The identified modeling must provide resistance or inhibit the COVID-19 virus
  • Track 2: Using data analytics, new tools and algorithms will be developed. Further by using machine learning or artificial intelligence algorithms, predict a drug-like compound that will have the least toxicity and higher selectivity and specificity.
  • Track 3: Ambitious and exploratory approaches that will lead to a novel ground-breaking projects in this field. Working on out of the box problems.

The Hackathon will help in accelerating the drug discovery process in India by establishing a new model. The hackathon will have three phases: each of the phases will be of 3 months each. The Drug Discovery Hackathon will be completed by April-May 2021.

Through the Tracks above, at the end of Phase 3, the predicted drug-like compound will be taken forward at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and other leading organizations in the country for experimental testing.

RMRC Dibrugarh becomes the 4th Laboratory in India to isolate COVID-19 Virus Strain

The Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR’s) regional centre at Assam’s Dibrugarh- Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC) has successfully able to isolate the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus strain. This success will open up avenues to conduct COVID-19 related studies such as from the development of a potential vaccine to making other uses of cultures of the SARS-COV-2 for the development of therapeutic antibodies, testing effectiveness against disinfectants etc.

Type of the Strain Isolated

There are 2 types of strains of the novel Coronavirus: L type and S type. RMRC scientists have confirmed that they have isolated the L-type strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The S type strain has slowly been disappearing from across the world.

Type of Mutation of the isolated Strain

The virus strain isolated is of A2a mutation type. The A2a mutation type is the most dominant type of Novel Coronavirus. Until the month of April 2020, 10 different types of mutation of the virus have been identified by scientists across the world.

Other Indian Laboratories to Isolate the Strain

RMRC  Dibrugarh is the 4th laboratory in India to isolate the cell of the Novel Coronavirus. It is the 3rd Government Laboratory to do so after National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune and CSIR’s Hyderabad based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology. Hyderabad based Bharat Biotech to date is the only private laboratory in India to have isolated the strain of the virus.