The IIIM is also in the final stages of validation of a new machine-less coronavirus diagnostic kit, as previously reported by the PTI, which can help the country expand Covid-19 testing.
“Clinical studies are currently being carried out for Covid-19. We are involved in this in collaboration with the Ayush Ministry and Industry. Three to four clinical studies are being carried out on different plant species in relation to Covid-19 drugs with 3 to 4 formulations. Dr. D. Srinivasa Reddy, director of the CSIR-Indian Institute for Integrative Medicine (IIIM), told PTI.
“If they (any required studies) are successful, we can make drugs available soon,” said Reddy.
“We’re definitely getting closer. So many research groups from around the world are doing their best to find a treatment for Covid-19. Finding new drugs is a very long and costly process,” he said.
The director said reusing already known drugs to treat Covid-19 patients was the best option in the current circumstances.
“Several academic and industrial groups around the world are working continuously. In India in particular, the CSIR (Scientific and Industrial Research Council) is a pioneer in this direction,” he added.
Dr. Reddy, who recently took over as director of IIIM for the next year, said the first activity IIIM undertook under him was testing Covid-19 samples.
“We began testing in the first week of April in partnership with Government Medical College (GMC), Jammu. To date, we have completed over 40,000 samples,” he said.
“We are in the process of increasing the number of samples tested,” he said.
The IIIM is also in the process of developing a new formulation based on zinc gluconate and natural vitamin C from acerola cherry to boost immunity, he said.
“It’s in collaboration with a company.”
He said the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) development processes for drug conversion are ongoing and “our scientists have made significant progress in this activity and one of the processes has been demonstrated to an industrial partner in Jammu.”
“We are continuing to work in this direction and are starting some new initiatives to address issues related to Covid-19. Our scientists and students have taken this opportunity and made a significant contribution in a short period of time,” he added.
Dr. Reddy said the IIIM lab is a unique place for drug discovery based on natural products – all under one roof for herbal or new chemical unit (NCE) based medicines.
“It has a rich biodiversity in the region, known for medicinal and aromatic plants. It has a diverse pool of scientists with expertise and experience from various roles. I see many opportunities here,” he added.
He said that in addition to existing assets, IIIM can conduct programs of national importance and expand the library of extracts or natural product extracts and open it for other research purposes.
The IIIM can develop agricultural technologies and commercial cultivation in the western Himalayan Kashmir Valley and Ladakhs regions, he said.
“There are high quality medicinal and aromatic plants, (but) they seem to have problems in the supply chain, especially in international markets. The IIIM can make further efforts in this direction, “he added.