Date: 26-May-2020

PCI Holds Hackathon To Collaborate With MHRD For Developing Potential Drug Solutions To Combat COVID-19


In its efforts to support government of India’s initiatives to battle against the spread of COVID-19, the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) has joined hands with Ministry of Human Resources Development’s (MHRD) Innovation Cell (MIC) for a three-phased ‘Drug Discovery Grand Hackathon - Innovate4NewDrugs’.

The Hackathon, an international collaboration for drug development, is aimed to utilize the potential of Indian pharmacy faculties, pharmacy professionals and research scholars in pharmacy for the nation’s welfare. Government of India wants to develop potential drug solutions for treatments for prophylactic, curative and management of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the infection of the novel corona virus. In this effort, PCI will extend support through its affiliated institutions for the development project which is aimed to last for a period of one year.

According to Dr B Suresh, president of the PCI, development of drug solutions to contain the pandemic is a dream project of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the PCI is undertaking it as a developmental programme. The faculty members and other professionals in pharmacy are invited to join the programme undertaken by the council as ‘Ambassadors’. Apart from pharmacy professionals, students and faculties of computer science, chemistry (synthesis) and biotechnology (testing) will also be included in to the mission. The council has invited applications from the professionals through online to participate into the project.

“The PCI encourages the pharmacy institutions across the country to participate in great numbers in the Hackathon and also invites pharmacy professionals to volunteer to become ‘Ambassadors’ for the programme,” said Dr. Suresh.

According to him, this Hackathon will be based on computational modeling and will utilize in-silico tools towards drug design or for identifying ‘lead’ compounds from existing databases that have the potential to inhibit SARS-Cov-2. Besides, it aims to develop new tools and algorithms that can sift through big data using artificial intelligence (AI) and predict drug-like compounds with minimal toxicity and maximal specificity and selectivity.

In this international collaboration for drug solutions, researchers and faculties from across the world can participate. Indian students doing researches abroad are also eligible to participate and the participation is free for all. With the help of a portal participation can be ensured. All the data generated will be made available in open source to promote an open innovative philosophy, according to PCI.

Hailing the initiative of the PCI, Dr Gopal Veni, principal of the government pharmacy college in Pondicherry said, in order to combat the spread of novel corona virus, the world requires three forms of drug solutions. To prevent the infection, one solution is required and to cure the disease (COVID) an ideal drug is needed. But, to treat confirmed patients of corona virus with prevalence of co-morbidities needs another drug. So, the purpose of the drug research should be to develop potential solutions for a prophylactic, curative and management type of treatments.

The Hackathon project will be conducted in three phases of two months each and the whole exercise will be completed by March 2021. At the end of each phase, the successful teams will be rewarded based on the judgment by an expert panel.

The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) on February11 this year announced Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) as the name of the new virus which is responsible for COVID-19.