Rs. 100 crore fund from PM CARES Fund for COVID19 vaccine to PSA to PMO : Progress till now?

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Sumit Kumar

Dr K Vijayraghavan (PSA to PMO) was visible on national TVs to much extent until the announcement of 12 or 13 May, when he got 100 crore Rs. for the development of vaccine against COVID19. Since then it is very difficult to find him on any national news platform to see what developments he is directing toward the assigned tasks of vaccine development, communicated Sumit Kumar to Biotech Express. (https://www.livemint.com/news/india/pm-fund-allocates-rs-3-100-cr-to-boost-fight-against-covid-19-11589391319927.html)

As per the office’s press release the following tasks were facilitated but how they were unique and useful we will check them later. Here is the complete List of initiatives by the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, on COVID-19:

The office of the PSA has played coordinating role for government ministries/departments, scientific institutions, academia and enterprises to accelerate decisions on dealing with research and innovation based actions to meet the COVID-19 challenges.

It has enabled ICMR to issue the required notification allowing institutions under DST, DBT, CSIR, DAE, DRDO and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to self-assess and prepare their BSL labs for research and testing of corona virus.

The O/o PSA has been instrumental in the launch and outreach of the AarogyaSetu App.

The O/o PSA has issued a detailed manual on homemade masks for curbing the spread of Coronavirus.

The O/o PSA issued illustrative guidelines with precautions and measures for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in densely populated areas on April 13, 2020.

The Office of the PSA has converged efforts across various government departments and programme to identify innovations that can tackle COVID-19 challenges.

The O/o PSA worked with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs for issuing an enabling OM for the use of CSR funds for research and innovation projects for providing solutions to meet the COVID-19 challenges.

A “Science & Technology core team” has been set up in the office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to crowdsource ideas and solutions from experts, companies, academia and citizens to tackle the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the country.

Source: http://psa.gov.in/sites/default/files/pdf/PSA_Office_Initiatives_COVID-19.pdf

It is nowhere understood from the above points that why the scientist sitting on topmost scientific position of country is not talking about science and its development. For example, in this PR, it is not discussed what initiatives he has taken to identify vaccine candidate, what facilities they are using and when the vaccine will probably come.

Earlier a article written in Biotech Express show how different govt. department formed their own groups of expertise and then start taking their own initiatives. Inspite of enormous collaboration and support from govt. departments, office of PSA to PM office has not shown any sign of development w.r.t vaccine development.

Editorial: Why Indian Bioscience Response is ‘‘Not Enough’’ to curb Global “COVID19” Biological Pandemic: What are We Missing?

The most demanding thing in this world now is vaccine against novel CoV, many countries have launched their candidates but thanks to the politics of Indian sciences we have not registered even a single candidate vaccine on global platforms.

Recently, ICMR launched COVAXIN but soon was surrounded by controversies on risk criteria and timeline. Though ICMR was criticized, we cannot ignore two facts, that such announcement were also made by other regulatory organizations in past few months and several drugs were approved for emergency use authorization and secondly, at least ICMR either independently or in collaboration with industry player(s) has come up with a candidate.

Coming back to PSA, I(we) are curious to know that how he is planning to use these precious 100 crore of public donation that he received for vaccine development and what are the activities done till now in this regard. As we have seen no innovation from PSA office, is it correct to ask whether our 100 crore will be utilized or will be wasted.

To know more about vaccine development, we communicated questions posed by Sumit Kumar to Dr Vijayraghavan but despite several attempts we could not get any response from PSA to PMO, Dr K Vijayraghavan.

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