For the mitigation of COVID-19 pandemic, R&D efforts are directed at the development of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. The specimens collected from COVID-19 positive subjects can be a valuable resource for the R&D efforts. NITI Aayog has recently issued guidelines for sharing of bio specimens and data for research related to COVID-19. As per the directives of the Cabinet Secretary, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has notified 16 bio-repositories for collecting, storing and maintaining clinical samples (oropharyngeal/ nasopharyngeal swabs, broncheoalveolar lavage, sputum, blood, urine and stool) of COVID-19 patients.
The enlistment of 16 Bio Repositories are as follows: ICMR – 9, DBT – 4 and CSIR – 3. The four Bio Repositories under the purview of the Department of Biotechnology are, NCR-Biotech Science Cluster (i) THSTI, Faridabad – Clinical samples (ii) RCB Faridabad –Viral samples, Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar, InStem, Bangalore and ILBS, New Delhi .Oropharyngeal / nasopharyngeal swabs, bronchoalveolar lavage, sputum, blood, urine and stool of COVID19 patients will be collected and archived for future use to develop validated diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines etc.
These designated facilities will develop uniform Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) for sample collection, transportation, aliquoting, storage, and sharing. The role of bio-banks for COVID-19 samples would be development of a vaccine and treatments; guidance regarding handling, including nasopharyngeal swabs; and conditions under which the higher BSL-3 practices should be followed.
In addition, they are also authorized to share the samples with academia, industry and commercial entities involved in development of diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines etc., after scrutinising the purpose of the request and ensuring benefit to the country.