Govt launches Drug Discovery Hackathon to develop anti-Covid drug

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 2

Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan and HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank on Thursday launched the first of its kind national initiative to support drug discovery process for Covid-19.

The Drug Discovery Hackathon will be open to researchers from the areas of computer science, chemistry, pharmacy, medical sciences, basic sciences and biotechnology.

The three-phase hackathon consists of challenges posted as problem based on specific drug discovery topics which are open to the participants to solve. Government’s MyGov portal will be used for the challenge and any Indian student can participate along with professionals and researchers from across the world.

Track 1 launched on Thursday will deal with drug design. Track 2 will deal with designing and optimising new tools and algorithms which will have an impact on expediting the process of in-silico drug discovery and third track called “moon shot” allows for working on problems which are ‘out of the box’ in nature.

Harsh Vardhan said, “We need to establish the culture of computational drug discovery in our country. In this initiative, MHRD’s innovation cell and AICTE will focus on identifying potential drug molecules through the hackathon while CSIR will take these identified molecules forward for synthesis and laboratory testing for efficacy, toxicity, sensitivity and specificity.”

“The objective is to identify drug candidates against SARS-CoV-2 by in-silico drug discovery through the hackathon and follow up by chemical synthesis and biological testing,” he said.  

The government said while it pursued clinical trials of few repurposed drugs for Covid-19 it was important to find other suitable repurposed drugs and specific new drugs against Covid-19.

K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the government, and Chairman of the hackathon organising committee said that the challenge would help India establish a new model to expedite drug discovery process.

“It will have three phases of three months each and the whole exercise is projected to be completed by April-May 2021. At the end of each phase, successful teams will be rewarded. The lead compounds identified at the end of phase 3 will be taken forward for experimental level at CSIR and other interested organisations,” said Raghavan.

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