Published: 26th March 2020
Meet the team of IIT Guwahati students, researchers who are developing a COVID-19 vaccine
The lab at IIT Guwahati is exploring the possibilities round cloning the immunogenic proteins of SARS-CoV-2 to be used in diagnostics and possible vaccine candidates, the institute said
Researchers at The Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati are working to develop a vaccine for the Coronavirus and stem the pandemic. They are also developing rapid detection and portable diagnostic kits for various viruses and microorganisms. The team of researchers is led by Professor Sachin Kumar, Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering.
Explaining that they are currently analysing data, Professor Sachin says, "We haven't started the work on the vaccine yet. We are analysing the data. We are analysing the sequence of Coronavirus from samples from Kerala and China. It is also difficult to say how much time the vaccine will take to be fully functional. However, the diagnostic could be done fast. Currently, what we have is a realtime PCR based-diagnostic for CoV-2 detection."
Adding how they are taking the research forward he says, "We are working on a virus that causes Newcastle Disease. It is a poultry pathogen. It is a very important pathogen in the poultry industry as a lot of modalities related to poultry is going on. We are trying to develop some kind of vaccine and diagnostics for this poultry disease. In addition to the development of vaccine and diagnostic, we have developed this virus as a vector. Now, what is done is that this virus can express some foreign protein which can be useful in protection from other diseases as well. Though we are working on poultry, we can use this tool as a marker for the development of some kind of a vaccine."
How far away is the cure? Quite a bit.
At this point, it is just a proof of concept and the work requires a thorough validation in cell culture and animal model before coming to any conclusion. Similarly, the development of rapid detection and portable diagnostic kits for various viruses and microorganisms is also being pursued at the institute
IIT Guwahati statement
The team comprises of PhD students, MTech students, Junior Research Fellows and Post Doctoral Fellows. "The viral immunology laboratory at IIT Guwahati works primarily on the avian paramyxovirus. The lab is actively involved in the development of vaccines and diagnostics against avian paramyxovirus. Besides, the lab has developed a viral vector system to deliver foreign antigens. Recently, the research group led by Prof Sachin Kumar, Department of BSBE has developed recombinant vaccines against Japanese encephalitis and classical swine fever virus which got published in the journal Vaccine and Archives of virology, respectively. The lab could substantially contribute to the research and development towards severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus -2 (SARS-CoV-2). The lab at IIT Guwahati is exploring the possibilities to clone the immunogenic proteins of SARS-CoV-2 to be used as diagnostics and possible vaccine candidates," the institute said in their statement.
What these researchers are looking forward to is that their research output, which will suggest if they can use the same tool, as they had developed for Japanese encephalitis virus and classical swine fever. Then they will use the same to extract the foreign protein of COVID-19. "We can use this tool which is there in our lab for generating a fast diagnostics against Coronavirus so that it can be used in the field condition as of what we have," he concludes.