IIT Alumni Council has withdrawn from development of COVID-19 vaccine with immediate effect, mentioning that “none of the available approaches and claims it received were adequately-backed by disclosed scientific data, patient research and clinical trials.”

“IIT Alumni Council team concluded that developing a vaccine based on conventional research and clinical trials takes several years,” Ravi Sharma, president of the IIT Alumni Council said.

“Commercialising a vaccine within a few weeks or months should not be done considering safety aspects. The first logical step to developing a universal vaccine is accelerating research using simulation in preference to actual patient trials. It may not be advisable to subsidise or mass deploy a vaccine whose safety and long term efficacy is unproven,” he added.

Developing a vaccine in six months was part of IIT Alumni Council’s C19 task force. “Getting a vaccine right is like getting a hole in one in golf – possible but really hard to predict or achieve. Especially if you are playing blindfolded – which is the case when anyone tries to develop a vaccine without having adequate research data,” said Ashok Singh, an IIT Alumni leader who has been closely associated as a key volunteer of the C19 task force.

Some of the vaccine approaches being attempted globally involve injecting a deactivated virus or simulated protein fragment into the body so as to induce the body to generate antibodies. The adverse reaction of the vaccine injection and the efficacy and lifespan of the antibodies is unknown.

All of this is currently work in progress under initiatives like MegaTx. Even though India has more patient data than probably any other country in the world, it is not sufficient to deliver a vaccine as yet.

“Somewhere we have to consider the mathematics of an ambition statement. No more than 2% of Covid patients need critical care. There is a fair surety that most of these can be cured by antibody based biologics,” said Daljit Singh, an IIT Alumnus and former President of Fortis Healthcare.

“On the other hand, for vaccination, we would probably need to vaccinate 98% of our population. Chasing 2% of the population with a 98% sure cure has a far better probability of success than chasing 98% of the population with a 2% surety of safety and efficacy,” Singh added.

The six month C19 task force was set up by the global board of the IIT Alumni Council to supplement and compliment the efforts of the central and state governments in the fight against C19. Its term ended on August 15. The task force has taken several initiatives in the last few months — include the NSCI Dome, Covid Test Bus, MegaLab, MegaTx and MegaIncubator. All these ventures will be continue independently.

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