CSIR COVID projects


The ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS CoV 2). The World Health Organization declared the outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and recognized it as a pandemic on 11 March 2020.

Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) has advantageously positioned itself to pursue the focused R&D to develop, integrate, scale-up, and deploy necessary technological interventions for combating Coronavirus pandemic in the Country. Considering the multifarious problems created by coronavirus which require interventions in several areas and multi-pronged strategy, CSIR has set up five technology verticals for addressing the emerging situation due to pandemic, namely:

  1. Digital and Molecular Surveillance;
  2. Rapid and Economical Diagnostics;
  3. Repurposing of Drugs, Vaccine and Convalescent Plasma Therapy;
  4. Hospital Assistive Devices and PPEs; and
  5. Supply Chain and Logistics Support Systems.

Considering the nature of the problem, Innovation Management Directorate gave Call for Proposals to CSIR labs to submit projects in the following areas:

A: Diagnostics for COVID 19

Proposals from CSIR labs were invited to develop cost effective, rapid diagnostics to test COVID cases on mass scale. Following categories of diagnostics to test coronavirus were proposed:

  1. Crispr/ Cas based Paper Diagnostics;
  2. PCR or any RNA/DNA based diagnostics;
  3. Antigen-antibody based diagnostics;

B: Protective Gears for COVID 19

Proposals from CSIR labs were invited for developing and deploying protective gears to control the spread of COVID cases on mass scale. Following categories of protective gears were proposed:

  1. Ventilator, Oxygenator and other Assistive Devices;
  2. Spray Devices for sanitizers and disinfectants;
  3. Sanitizers and disinfectants including herbal products; and
  4. Masks

C: Drugs and APIs for COVID 19

Viruses are generally difficult to treat, because antibiotics do not kill them. For this reason, elderly and immunocompromised individuals are at high risk. The best natural defence and treatment of Coronavirus (and viruses in general) is a strong immune system. Some molecules and APIs such as hydroxychloroquine, Azithromycin, Remdesivir, Lupinivir etc. have been found to be useful in the treatment of corona virus disease. The repositioning of launched or even failed drugs to viral diseases provides unique translational opportunities, including a substantially higher probability of success to market as compared with developing new virus-specific drugs and vaccines, and a significantly reduced cost and timeline to clinical availability.

The repurposing of antivirals or APIs would be a welcome approach and can be supported if the Proof of Concept strongly justifies its mechanism of action.

Proposals from CSIR labs were invited for developing and deploying drugs for the treatment and control of Covid-19. Following categories of drugs were proposed:

  1. Prophylactics such as Hydroxy-chloroquine;
  2. Repurposing, including past CSIR leads from phytopharma/ drugs from sea; and
  3. Intermediates, API, Formulations.

D: Vaccine for COVID-19

An experimental COVID-19 vaccine is being tested Moderna Therapeutics. Although clinical trial on the vaccine will take at least a year to complete, the work could provide valuable information about how the immune system can fight coronaviruses and could give scientists a head start if any new outbreaks of the virus were to occur. Whole world including India is attempting to develop a vaccine against corona virus.

Further, though a vaccine for COVID-19 is a long approach but novel cost effective ways of repurposing the known vaccines/molecules that can boost the immunity in suspected COVID cases or can revive the serious COVID cases are welcome. The Proof of Concept is however required to be in place to justify the fast track development of such vaccines.

Proposals from CSIR labs were invited for developing vaccine to control Covid-19. Following categories of vaccines were proposed:

  1. Novel vaccines; and
  2. Repurposed vaccines.

The projects that were approved and under implementation in FY 2020-21 are:

Diagnostics Vertical
Sr.No. Name of project
1. Development of a rapid Nanoparticles based immunoassay for SARS-COV-2 infection early and late phase serological diagnosis
2. Bacteriophage recombination- and CRISPER-based combined array system and SARS-CoV2-Spike protein-based serological assay to detect COVID-19 infection
3. Development of Nanobody/mAb based ELISA for COVID19 detection
4. NGS based diagnostics for COVID19
5. Diagnosis of COVID-19 at CSIR-IICB as part of the CSIR-Digital Surveillance Vertical
6. Development of sensitive, cost effective, easy to use dipstick kit for the precise detection of COVID 19 infections
7. Development of aptamer for recombinant SARS-CoV-2 Spike Glycoprotein-S1
8. Development of fluorescent probes, quenchers and their oligonucleotide conjugates for RT-PCR and Lateral Flow Assay based COVID-19 diagnosis
9. A High Throughput Screening Kit for COVID-19
10. Serological test for COVID-19 exposure at population level
11. Multiplexed lateral-flow device(s) for detection of COVID-19
12. SARS-CoV-2: Sensing Sweet Spots
13. Standardization of expression and purification of highly antigenic recombinant SARC-CoV2 Spike, S1, and N proteins using mammalian expression system for the downstream usage as antigens for preparation of serology-based diagnostic kit
Digital and Molecular Surveillance Vertical
14. INtegrative GENomics of COVID-19 (INGEN-CoV2)
15. A long-term longitudinal observational cohort study of health outcomes-Preparatory Phase
16. Genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 samples from Lucknow/Uttar Pradesh
17. * Testing for COVID-19 in wastewater as a community surveillance measure
Drugs Vertical
18. Evaluating SARS-CoV-2 Main protease (Mpro) inhibitors identified from the library of FDA approved drugs and novel CSIR molecules
19. Development of in vitro reporter based assay system for TMPRSS2 serine protease mediated COVID-19 spike protein cleavage and screening serine protease inhibiton
20. Setting up a small molecule compound library screening platform for human serine protease TMPRSS2 and SARS-CoV2 RdRp
21. Augmenting immunogenic response to COVID19 with recombinant BCG (AIRCOVR-BCG)
22. Pectin-derived prebiotics as adjuvants for prophylactic treatment of COVID-19 and other similar virus diseases
23. Evaluation of Candidate FDA-approved drugs, candidates from library of Non-toxic compounds that have been pre-clinically cleared and specific Phytopharmaceuticals for repurposing against COVID-19 infection
24. Repurposing of colchicine for management of COVID-19 patients
25. Development of Zinc gluconate-Vitamin C formulation for immunity improvement and management of Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19)
26. Setting up of anti-Covid19 screening cell culture platform
27. An Open label randomized Placebo-controlled trial on passive immunization with convalascent plasma in severe Cocid-19 disease 
28. * Development of Drug-target based Assay platforms and screening against COVID-19
29. * Clinical Trials: Phase 3, Randomized, Double-blind, comparative trial of Efficacy, Safety and Tolerability of Umifenovir and hydroxychloroquine combination therapy vs hydroxychloroquine therapy in non-severe COVID-19 patients
30. * Development of proof of concept vaccine strategies for COVID-19
Hospital Assistive Devices Vertical
31. Development of Ultrasensitive, Rapid and Portable system for COVID-19 Screening using Label-free Raman Fingerprinting and AI
32. Design and development of antimicrobial coated 3d printable face shield to protect from covid-19
33. Respiration Assistance Intervention Device: A Portable Ventilator (Respi-AID)
34. Biosensor Development for COVID-19 Diagnosis
35. * Design, Development, Certification and Commercialization of BiPAP – Non Invasive Ventilator for COVID-19
36. * CSIR Initiative on recycling of COVID-19 plastic waste from Testing Facility

*Projects approved Funds to be released

Another area where CSIR is addressing the emerging situation due to pandemic is by making India self-reliant in RT-PCR and Serological Testing for Coronavirus. CSIR is endeavoring to support the Indian industry to make these reagents in India. Real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay is used to rapidly detect the severe acute respiratory syndrome-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). The real-time RT-PCR assay is more sensitive than a conventional RT-PCR assay or culture isolation and is suitable to detect SARS-CoV in clinical specimens. RT-PCR assay requires several reagents to do the tests. These are: Kit components of RNA isolation, reverse transcription and Real Time PCR with detection system. Most of these reagents are imported and are available in limited quantity in India.

In this direction CSIR has called proposals from industries and start-ups for collaboration with CSIR in PPP mode.

The proposal on ‘Production of indigenous qRT-PCR (INDI-FluorAMP) kit for testing of Covid-19 with all MAKE-IN INDIA ingredients’ by Biotech Desk Pvt Ltd, Hyderabad with the partnering CSIR laboratory CSIR-CDRI was selected.