COVID-19 virus has spread rapidly throughout the world, a crisis which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has termed as a pandemic. Given the lack of availability of suitable chemotherapeutic interventions and an efficacious vaccine, the global population has been hit hard with utmost vulnerability to the current coronavirus outbreak. In the wake of increasing CoVID-19 infections in India, the Department of Science and Technology – Science and Engineering Board (DST-SERB) announced several special research project calls to urgently ramp up national research and development (R&D) efforts against the epidemic.
The first set of five projects has been selected by DST-SERB, which will be supported for further development into implementable technologies. Three of these projects concern the highly important issue of antiviral and virustatic surface coating of inanimate surfaces, such as personal protection equipment (PPE); while another one deals with the identification of metabolite biomarkers in COVID-19 infected patients enabling therapeutic target identification; and the last one concerns with the development of antibodies against the receptor-binding domain of the spike glycoprotein of coronavirus.
Professor Sandeep Verma, Secretary, SERB informs about the set of five projects approved to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The projects are as follows:
Identification of global metabolite biomarkers in COVID-19 infected patients for targeted therapy
The project aims to identify the global metabolite biomarkers in Coronavirus infected patients. It will help in search of potential biomarker signature for COVID infection and recognition of novel targets for therapy.
Development of functionalized inanimate surfaces with repurposable multi-targeted viricidal agents/drugs for preventive and cost-effective antiviral applications
The project will help develop viricidal coatings for inanimate surfaces used in healthcare settings such as surgical masks for the prevention of infectious diseases caused by highly contagious pathogens such as severe acute respiratory syndrome-related novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
Development of antiviral surface coatings to prevent the spread of infections caused by the influenza virus
As the attachment of viruses onto surfaces leads to the spread of deadly infections, the objective of the proposal is to develop small molecular and polymeric compounds which will be coated, both covalently as well as non-covalently, on various surfaces and kill respiratory viruses completely upon contact.
Development of formulations for viral decontamination of inanimate surfaces
The project will focus on developing a material which may be used as a virus tactic and be applied to mops to disinfect the surfaces to remove any adhering viruses or bacterias.
Antibody-based capture of 2019-nCoV and its inactivation using lipid-based in-situ gel
The project will help develop antibodies against the receptor-binding domain of the spike glycoprotein of CoV involved in recognizing a host cell-surface receptor, namely, zinc peptidase angiotensin-converting enzyme 2. Another objective is to develop unsaturated free fatty acid-based emulsion loaded in-situ gels to inactivate the virus at the point of entry.
The projects were selected after peer-review and assessment by a Special Expert Committee for COVID-19 projects.