CSIR-CIPLA Partnership in Nation Building -- An Alliance of Science with Social Responsibility

The other day, while CIPLA Foundation (CF) and CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT) joined hands to promote mask making among MSME’s it brought back fond memories of association between the two great organizations, dating back to the genesis of both the organizations. The joint partnership between CIPLA and CSIR In the 1920’s, when there was a growing need to promote publicly supported R&D in Science and Technology, it was Abdul Khwaja Hamied who proposed to start a Technical Research Institute. These efforts did not bear immediate success. However, Abdul Khwaja Hamied went on to start the Chemical, Industrial and Pharmaceutical Laboratories, now abbreviated and better known as CIPLA.

Hamied renewed his efforts to convince the British Government for public support to R&D, and was eventually successful when he joined hands with Arcot Ramaswamy Mudaliar and convinced the Government to start the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)1. Hamied then continued to guide CSIR in his capacity as the member of CSIR’s Governing Body for next several years until his death in 1972.

Abdul Khwaja Hamied’s son, Yusuf Hamied, later tied up with AV Rama Rao of CSIR to make AZT to make HIV drugs affordable. This made the price drop by six times, making it affordable2. Moreover, India was then requested to provide the drug to many sub-Saharan and African countries to provide the affordable drug manufactured by CIPLA. Thus, the CSIR-CIPLA collaboration continued to bring glory to Indian S&T and Industry together.

The trusted partnership continued further with Dr S Chandrasekhar, in the year 2016 for the development of process know how on total synthesis of Eribulin, an approved drug for treatment of patients with metastatic breast cancer.

During the current unprecedented situation of challenging times with corona virus, CSIR swung in to action to fight the COVID by pursuing focused R&D on new & repurposed drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and hospital assisted devices. While, CSIR partnered with several industries in these efforts, CIPLA was one of the first to partner with CSIR to work on the repurposed drugs for treatment of COVID-19. Together they successfully launched the generic version of Favipiravir drug in the market known as CIPLENZA in July 2020 which has increased access to the drug.

Apart from carrying out R&D projects and developing technologies and products, CSIR has taken up an initiative to deploy the CSIR offerings under scientific social responsibility (SSR) in villages as the virus is spreading rapidly across the country. A new sustainable model of partnering with social entrepreneurs - start up’s/ MSMEs, self-help groups and social/voluntary organizations - was conceived with a scope of income generation to the stakeholders and free distribution of the offerings to rural population for COVID mitigation.

CSIR was on the lookout for collaboration with interested corporate partners to execute the projects and pursue the common goal with complementing strengths under their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity. CIPLA, through CIPLA Foundation, has supported the facemasks project as they have been shown to reduce the spread of COVID infection.

Realizing the need for a scientifically validated reusable, washable and affordable non-medical face mask, CSIR has come up with a novel design of four layered, high quality face mask with alternative coextruded polymer and cotton layers that renders antimicrobial and optimum barrier properties. The hydrophobic outermost layer provides 95-98% bacterial filtration efficiency3 rejecting respiratory droplets of up to <0.3 micron size and the layers add a tortuous path of travel. Additionally, compliance to parameters such as breathability, reusability4 (30 washings or 2-3 months), comfort, adequate fit and above all cost competitiveness were taken in to consideration while designing the mask.

CF has agreed to partner with CSIR for mass production of the CSIR designed face masks under the project name “SAANS”. The project addresses the issue of availability of scientifically validated, high quality, low cost face mask for community setup and free distribution of one lakh face masks to rural populace particularly to the school children and the elderly in 5-6 mandals of rural parts of Telangana in phase I. A pack of two masks will be distributed to 50,000 people for personal protection from COVID up to 2 months with convenience of washings. CSIR & CF have expansion plans for “SAANS” project in phase II for further scale up through knowledge transfer to like-minded partners of CF located in different parts of the country for wider dissemination and reach-out of the project's benefits.

The generous support of CSR funding by CF as seed grant for execution of the SAANS project reflects the trust in the partnership. CSIR in turn shall provide the knowledge and depute expert scientists and help linking with respective state government departments as and when required for successful execution of the project. The unique multi-stakeholder collaborative approach will leverage the innovative and affordable technology-driven solution to safeguard lives, empower communities and improve quality of hygienic life in rural India for effective mitigation of COVID.

Thus, the CSIR-CIPLA collaboration continues in S&T and also towards fulfilling social responsibility. There is a need for more such Industry-R&D institute partnerships to catalyze socio-economic development in rural India and pave the path towards building an Aatmanirbhar Bharat.

References

  1. Khwaja Abdul Hamied (1898-1972)- Pioneer Science Industrialist. Singh, H. Ind. J. Hist. Sci. (2010) 45, 53- 558.
  2. Interview with Yusuf Hamied, interviewed by Tarun Khanna, Bombay, India, April 29, 2013, Creating Emerging Markets Oral History Collection, Baker Library. Historical Collections, Harvard Business School.
  3. K.P.Chellamani, D. Veerasubramanian, R.S. Vignesh Balaji, Surgical Face Masks, Manufacturing Methods and Classification, Journal of Academia and Industrial Research Vol 2 (6), (2013), pp 32-324.
  4. Reusability of facemasks during an influenza pandemic: Facing the flue, The National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine, The National Academies Press (2016) 106 pages, ISBN 978-0-309-10182-0, doi 10.17226/11637
  5. D Shailaja1 and Dr Shekhar C Mande2
    1 Head, Business Development, CSIR-IICT
    2 DG-CSIR & Secretary DSIR