CSIR to Provide Affordable Healthcare with Global Partnership

Press Release | Ministry of Science and Technology-India | March 23, 2011

In the past two years OSDD has gathered momentum as an internationally recognised open innovation model. Today, OSDD has more than 4500 registered users from over 130 countries. The offshoot of OSDD is a new model of imparting higher education to young aspirant scientists in remote areas of India and of nations less endowed with scientific opportunities. 

New initiatives taken by CSIR

1. Setting up of an OSDD Chemistry laboratory at CSIR-IICT Hyderabad, exclusively dedicated to synthesis of potential anti TB compounds. 

2. Large scale screening of molecules against TB to find novel molecules which may end up as new TB drugs. For this, CSIR laboratories will open up its small molecule libraries, from synthetic as well as natural sources 

3. Sequencing Mtb strains in large numbers to study variation in Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). This is an Open Screening Facility where all researchers who are having interesting TB strains are welcome to contribute them to OSDD. These strains will be synthesised and results will be available on OSDD open portal. 

4. A collaboration with ICMR to bring clinicians and researchers together for improving TB drug research. 

5. OSDD will extend to other neglected diseases like Malaria. 

Open Source Drug Discovery Initiative for Malaria

The early success of the Mtb OSDD programme has presented a model for the way drug discovery research for infectious diseases may move in the future. As the next step, CSIR proposes to initiate a pan-India open source program for malaria with global participation. 

In extension of the OSDD paradigm, the malaria initiative proposes to expand on wet lab approaches while retaining and building upon the computational approaches that have yielded important results in the area of tuberculosis. 

Researchers in malaria as well as interested students and individuals from other fields are invited to participate. 

Initiatives of DBT

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) funds about 120 tuberculosis researchers for development of diagnostics, novel vaccines, booster to the existing vaccine BCG, Drug Development and creating appropriate infrastructure. The research includes clinical trials for increasing the efficiency/cure-rate of existing Anti Tuberculosis (ATT) Drugs. DBT has been supporting immuno-modulation clinical research using some known immuno-modulators i.e. Mycobacterium indicus pranii (Commercially available as IMMUVAC) for increasing the cure rate of ATT in Category II TB patients who are most difficult to treat.

Initial results show apriori defined improvement in cure-rate. Other well-known immuno-modulators that work at the cellular level such as Vitamin D & Zinc are being clinically tested to shorten the ATT regimen in Category I patients with encouraging early results. Scientists at University of Delhi South Campus (UDSC) have identified several proteins produced and secreted specifically by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) during growth. They have developed high affinity monoclonal antibody pairs to detect several of these Mtb-specific proteins called MTCAg. These antibodies have been used to develop a test to detect the presence of two MTCAgs in the cultures of specimens from suspected TB patients.

The presence of both or any one of the MTC specific antigen in the sample confirms the presence of Mtb. The test is specifically designed as a rapid immunochromatographic format that allows easy and rapid screening of specimens for confirmation of growth of Mtb. It can be performed with minimal training and provides results in less than 20 minutes. This visual test for detection of tubercle bacilli in culture has been developed and is available with trade name ‘Crystal TB confirm’. 

A team of scientists at ICGEB led by Dr. Kanury V.S. Rao have made an important breakthrough in TB research. About 20 Mtb-derived antigens presented in the early stages of the infection have been identified and are now under evaluation as potential vaccines for TB. The rationale is to supplement immune memory of the host to improve protective efficacy.

Understanding the biology and immunology of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infections, ICGEB, New Delhi, the team is aiming to use the knowledge generated for the development of new therapeutic strategies for tuberculosis. The scientists are collaborating with a pharmaceutical company to translate these leads into candidate drugs that can be tested in the field.