CSIR Combating Coronavirus

OEU developed by CSIR-NCL, GEnrich and manufactured by BEL


CSIR Sequences 50% of Total COVID-19 Genomes Sequenced in India

India crossed the 1000 mark for the COVID-19 genomes sequenced with 50% of the genomes sequences being from CSIR. 

During the week, 178 viral genomes were submitted to GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data) database and more are expected in the coming week. This would help in understanding the Indian viral strains and specific mutations if any.

The CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad has come out with an interactive web app named Genome Evolution Analysis Resource for COVID-19 (GEAR-19). The web app analyses the outcome of efforts of the 33 contributing laboratories across the country that have so for sequenced 1,031 genomes of SARS-CoV-2. The identification of clades or viral groups plays an important role in understanding the probable origin of a virus infecting a certain population and also in testing drugs. GEAR-2019 also gives a timeline of the distribution of virus belonging to different clades (https://data.ccmb.res.in/gear19/).


CSIR-IMTECH is a National COVID-19 Biorepository

CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology (CSIR-IMTECH), Chandigarh, is to store clinical samples of COVID-19 patients for research and development related activities. CSIR-IMTECH is one of the 16 national COVID-19 biorepositories set up by the Government of India for collecting, storing, and maintaining clinical samples of positive patients. The samples will help researchers understand the early predictors of disease severity and how it develops given the immune response and other factors.

CSIR-IMTECH has also been authorised to share the samples with academia, industry, and commercial entities after scrutinising the purpose of the request and ensuring benefit to the country. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has asked all states to provide access to COVID samples to the designated biorepositories across the country.


CSIR-NCL and BEL Manufacture Oxygen Enrichment Unit

Oxygen enrichment units have special significance in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Patient recovery can be faster with supplemental oxygen in the early stages. It can reduce the number of patients who will need ventilators. Post-ventilator treatment patients can be served with this unit, thus reducing the demand of oxygen cylinders. Its portability makes it convenient for using such units in-home care, villages and remote places.

A team of scientists led by Dr Ulhas Kharul, Head of the Polymer Science and Engineering Division of CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (CSIR-NCL) have demonstrated the use of hollow fibre membranes to enrich oxygen. The Oxygen Enrichment Unit (OEU) developed by Dr Kharul’s team is efficient in providing 35-40% oxygen concentration from the air with an adjustable flow rate of 0.5-15 lit/min. Atmospheric air at 5-6 bar pressure is passed through the membrane cartridge wherein the oxygen preferentially permeates through the membrane, due to intrinsic higher sorption capacity of oxygen into the membrane matrix.

The technology was licensed to NCL start-up, GEnrich Membranes. About 50 units were assembled and demonstrated in various forums, hospitals and primary health centres. 

With the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, CSIR-NCL applied for certification of a prototype OEU to TUV, Bangalore, which was found to be qualified. “Overcoming several hurdles right from material supply to availability of manpower, CSIR-NCL and GEnrich Membranes quickly assembled three units during the lockdown period,” stated Dr Kharul. Naidu Hospital at Pune is testing these units for treating mildly hypoxic Covid-19 patients for more than a month.

CSIR-NCL has tied up with Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL), Pune for the manufacture of OEU along with GEnrich. Mr K. Rajendra, GM BEL said, “Looking at the emerging medical crisis, BEL took this project on a war footing and manufactured 10 units in record time and that too with skeletal workforce. BEL has plans to manufacture another 100 units and supply to hospitals to meet the critical requirement.”


Contributed by Ganesh Mane and Prabhakar Ingle, Publication and Science Communication Unit, CSIR-NCL, Pune-411 008. E-mail: pk.ingle@ncl.res.in


CSIR's Sepsis Drug Shows Promising Results in Trials

CSIR and Cadila’s joint trials on Sepsivac, a drug used to treat life-threatening infection sepsis, have shown promising results. The Phase 2 trials were conducted across Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi, and AIIMS, Bhopal.

Once the necessary data from the Phase 2 trials are available, the two parties will once again approach the regulator to see if this drug can be given emergency-use authorisation in the wake of the pandemic. Approval to start two Phase 3 trials is in place — one on 600 patients, another on 500 patients. For the third phase, two more sites will be added — AIIMS Raipur and a Banaras Hindu University institute.

Sepsivac is an immunomodulator drug that boosts the innate immunity and also works to reduce the release of inflammatory Cytokine IL-6 that attacks internal organs.


CSIR, Cipla Drug Projected to be Cheaper

A multi-centre Phase-II drug trial by CSIR indicates its drug could cost lesser by at least 20-30 per cent of the current price. This could lead to a major reduction in the cost of the drug required for the treatment of mild and moderate symptoms of coronavirus.

CSIR had done end-to-end synthesis of Favipiravir in April. It is now conducting multi-centre Phase-II trials of the drug with Mumbai-based pharma company Cipla which is due to make public the trial results soon. 

Cipla is hoping to launch the coronavirus drug under the brand name "CIPREMI" and price it between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000 per dose in a tie-up with BDR Pharma to manufacture the drug.


CSIR’s COVID-19 Drugs Under Clinical Trials

CSIR is working on 25 approved drugs to repurpose them for treating COVID-19. Favipiravir and Umifenovir (Arbidol) have already been approved by Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for clinical trials to treat COVID-19. The regulatory body has approved Favipiravir for the second phase of clinical trials, and multicentre trials are underway across different locations, including Mumbai and Pune.

Along with Favipiravir and Umifenovir other CSIR drugs now in clinical trials are ACQH and Mycobacterium W (anti-leprosy drug). With the focus on repurposed drugs and with 10 in the basket so far, CSIR is hopeful of results in the next two to three months.

Multicentre clinical trials of phytopharmaceutical ACQH have also begun. It is a plant extract found in the tribal belts of Gujarat, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. Another drug Mycobacterium W (Mw) has been under clinical trials.

The Umifenovir drug also has a good safety profile and acts by preventing entry of viruses into human cells. It also works to prime the immune system and is used for the treatment of influenza. Clinical trials to evaluate its efficacy are also underway.


CSIR Makes Headway in Digital & Molecular Surveillance

Surveillance at the level of the virus, humans, and geographical origins and distributions is a critical step in combating COVID-19. While molecular surveillance involves large-scale sequencing of viral genomes, digital surveillance utilises big data at the population level. CSIR is using digital and molecular methods to conduct surveillance using a three-pronged approach; (i) gathering information about the virus (ii) pooled testing for greater outreach (iii) patient-centric approach.

In this regard, CSIR undertook community surveillance in Kolar and Jamshedpur. The surveillance report would help in tracing and isolation. Now, CSIR-IGIB has access to COVID-19 samples of health workers from Max Hospital, Delhi for studying patient data and correlating with outcomes. COVID-19 virus from patients with a varied outcome (dead, recovered) will be cultured with the help of CSIR-IMTech and correlated with their genome sequence to find the plausible cause of the particular outcome. The National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad has collected over 3000 samples which will be available to CSIR-CCMB for similar studies.

Further, an agreement is being worked out with RML Hospital, Delhi for carrying out surveillance on their health workers using antibody-based tests.

So far CSIR has sequenced >700 viral genomes with CSIR-IGIB having sequenced about 500 sequences and CSIR-CCMB nearly 300 sequences. Of these, 258 viral genomes have been deposited in the GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data) database and more are expected in the coming week. This would help in understanding the Indian viral strains and specific mutations if any.


CSIR-NCL Develops Indigenous Nasopharyngeal Swabs

CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (CSIR-NCL), Pune has developed an indigenous Nasopharyngeal (NP) swab for collecting samples from the throat cavity of COVID-19 patients. In the current pandemic scenario, global supplies of NP swabs are not dependable resulting in supply chain delays, escalating prices and variable quality. CSIR-NCL has transferred the process knowhow of indigenous NP swabs for sample collection to a Mumbai based chemical company under the COVID-19 technology transfer guidelines of CSIR.


Intubation Hood

CSIR-Institute of Minerals & Materials Technology (CSIR-IMMT), Bhubanaeswar have developed an intubation hood for doctors who require a transparent hood when carrying out treatment procedures such as intubation. Dentists can also use these during any oral examination. It is made of acrylic sheets and cutting can be done using laser cutters.

The design can be modified based on the special needs and requirements of doctors while examining the patients. The technology has been transferred to industry partner M/s Gitanjali Awards Pvt. Ltd.


Medical Waste Disinfection Machine

CSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicological Research (CSIR-IITR) in a tie-up with a Lucknow based start-up has developed a microwave-based disinfection machine called 'Optimiser' which can make PPE kits and N95 masks reusable within 10 minutes. As many as 20 PPE kits and over 40 N95 masks can be disinfected in one go using the microwave technology within 10 min. A PPE kit and an N95 mask can be recycled and reused 20 times using the 'Optimiser' machine. Over 2,000 PPE kits can be disinfected in a day which will save the cost of the new safety gears. 

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Jodhpur and Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS) in Lucknow have validated the technology.


A Sensor-based Touch-Free Hand Sanitizer Dispenser

In view of the present COVID-19 pandemic, CSIR-NIIST has developed a sensor-based touch-free hand sanitizer dispenser which sprays on to the detected surface. This technology is transferred to Cabeio Technologies, an MSME start-up situated at Thiruvananthapuram. This can have wide application at major buildings, Offices. and other public gathering locations.


Atmospheric Water Generator Technology (AWG)

CSIR-IICT's Membrane Team has implemented its Atmospheric Water Generator Technology (AWG) to provide relief to the common man in Hyderabad city through safe remineralized drinking water during Covid-19 pandemic. The mobile AWG has provided 500 Lit/day of safe remineralized water during this summer.


CSIR-CSIO Develops Protective Eyewear for Healthcare Professionals

CSIR-CSIO, Chandigarh has come up with a technology for precision manufacturing of safety goggles for the healthcare professionals involved in treating high-viral load COVID-19 patients. The technology has been transferred to the Sark Industries, Chandigarh for commercialisation and mass production.