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Sci-Tech

Web Desk
July 9, 2020

Pakistani researchers monitoring coronavirus structure in '100 genome project': Dr Atta-ur-Rahman

Sci-Tech

Web Desk
Thu, Jul 09, 2020

Top Pakistani scientist Dr Atta-ur-Rahman said Thursday researchers in the country were monitoring the structure of the novel coronavirus genome as part of the '100 genome project', with samples taken from different patients.

Dr Rahman, who also chairs Prime Minister Imran Khan's task force on science and technology, told the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) that "scientists and researchers at Jamilur Rahman Centre for Genome Research, Karachi, have isolated the coronavirus and discovered changes in its structure at eight places as compared to the original virus found in China."

Dr Rahman said the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) needed to take emergency measures to approve clinical trials for an internationally recognised COVID-19 vaccine.

"An application for conducting clinical trials of this vaccine produced by a well-acclaimed international company was submitted to DRAP for approval. The clinical trials of that vaccine have been done internationally.

"We were in contact with several international companies for vaccine production after which one company agreed to conduct clinical trials of their vaccine in Pakistan," he said.

Vaccine as early as Dec 2020 if trial successful

Hoping for the DRAP to approve clinical trials of this vaccine within two weeks, Dr Rahman said the trials will be conducted "under our supervision" soon after approval.

"It takes three to four months to complete clinical trials of a vaccine and hopefully, if DRAP grants approval within two weeks, the clinical trials will be completed within the next four months," he said.

Dr Rahman said if the results are positive, the mass production of the vaccine would begin.

Depending on the successful trial of the vaccine, it can be available in Pakistan between the months of December this year and March next year, he said.

"As we are involved the process, we will get this vaccine by the company on a preferential basis."

'PROTECT' to conduct trials of approved drugs

Listing other measures taken by the government to tackle the pandemic, Dr Rahman said a major programme titled 'PROTECT’ has been initiated to conduct clinical trials of different internationally approved drugs, including hydroxychloroquine and erythromycin in Pakistan.

This project, with the involvement of a dozen institutions of the country including hospitals, research institutions, and universities, would help check the effectiveness of these drugs on our population.

It would also reveal the extent to which these drugs can effectively fight the coronavirus strain that exists in our country, he added.

The clinical trials on these drugs were already in progress in other countries.

Govt to expand testing

Maintaining that the government was also taking measures to expand the testing capacity, he said: "We were conducting only 400 tests during the month of March and now the capacity has increased to up to 30,000 tests per day."

For this purpose, several laboratories were established — including Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) in Lahore, which is fully equipped to conduct tests on a larger scale, he added.

International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) based in the University of Karachi was also conducting tests on a larger scale, Dr Rahman said.

Locally-manufactured ventilators

On the local manufacture of ventilators, Dr Rahman said three of the 11 shortlisted ventilator designs had been approved by the DRAP. The prototypes of the selected designs were being developed, after which the manufacturing process will start.

The ventilators handed over to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) by the Prime Minister recently were based on Turkish technology. The kits were imported from Turkey and assembled in Pakistan.

However, Pakistani experts would now be able to completely manufacture ventilators with their own technology.

He said the local manufacture of safety equipment — like masks, suits, gloves, sanitisers, testing kits, etc. — would help increase the country's exports and lead to self-reliance.