Published: 30th March 2020
IIT Guwahati is in the forefront of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic in India
Students and staff of the institution have been providing scientific support, sophisticated instrument facilities as well as being involved in the immediate development of life-saving equipment
The Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati has been in the forefront in the fight to stop the spread of novel coronavirus and has been providing scientific support, extension of sophisticated instrument facilities as well as being involved in the immediate development of life-saving equipment to Assam State and Guwahati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH).
Since the initial days of this outbreak, IIT Guwahati has prepared hand sanitizers at its various departments and academic centres and is in the process of preparing at least 5,000 sanitizer bottles and providing them to GMCH and the Assam government. The Institute has provided two real-time PCR machines to GMCH for the diagnosis of Coronavirus. These machines would help in ramping up the testing process by analysing 1000 samples if run for 12 hours continuously and 2000 samples in 24 hours.
On the research front, multiple efforts are being made for vaccine development at the Department of Bioscience & Bioengineering. Various other departments are involved in developing multiple routes to have a diagnostic and therapeutic approach for the early detection of various viral infections. The faculty members of Bioscience & Bioengineering and Chemistry Departments and Center for Nanotechnology have also initiated research proposals to combat COVID-19.
In addition, the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Electronics & Electrical Engineering are making efforts to develop several state-of-the-art technologies which include robot-based drug/food carrying units to work in isolation wards and robot-based screening units, large and high capacity autoclave machine, handheld temperature measuring units, hospital beds including ICU beds, ventilators, medical waste disposal in the isolation wards, shower for disinfection, WHO specified masks and hand sanitizers. The Departments of Chemistry and Bioscience & Bioengineering are developing prototype protective gears with antiviral and superhydrophobic coatings while the Department of Chemical Engineering is working to develop Biodegradable plastic based Medical Textile. The Department of Design has developed a prototype 3D printed full face shield including head gear which can be scaled up immediately.
Further, faculty members also have developed a PCR machine in-house which has been patented and is ready for commercialization whereas portable OFET sensors fabricated at the Institute could be integrated for COVID diagnosis. In addition, the Institute is also in the process of setting up an advanced research centre (BSL-III/IV laboratory) for COVID-19 analysis, which would help the entire Northeast region to test for COVID-19 and other dreadful virus detection and diagnosis.
Talking about setting up a research centre for COVID-19 analysis, Prof. T. G. Sitharam, Director, IIT Guwahati, said, “Our idea is to make this a state-of-the-art facility for the entire Northeast region. This centre in future would help to develop highly competent manpower for diagnosis of different infectious diseases in the early stage of infection and thus its prevention too”.
As there are no approved drugs presently for this disease, the faculty members are in the process of developing small molecules inhibitors for the treatment of COVID-19 using modern biotechnological tools. The overall idea is to develop safe, efficacious and affordable drugs for this disease and other dreadful viral infections.
The Institute has been working tirelessly to educate the community at large on practicing social distancing and hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The institute hospital and Center for Nanotechnology have also initiated training of health center doctors and nurses and healthcare workers - for handling and necessary precautions to be followed during COVID-19 breakout on campus. The academic activity of the Institute remains suspended presently and based on the overall situation, the Institute is likely to announce the revised academic calendar. In the meantime, disinfection of hostels and guesthouses including academic and residential areas is being carried out.