By Dr Atya Kapley :
History tells us that Shivaji Maharaj was a great strategist. He won many wars because of his out-of-the-box thinking. He used strategic exploitation of geography of the region, had a brilliant espionage system, excellent perception management of the enemy and carried out surprise attacks. His bravery has earned him the love and respect of all Indians even eons later. The war we are facing today, requires the same out of the box thinking to win and like every war, we need to build our defensive strategies, offensive strategies, put our strategic concepts into place and look at the economic priorities of the nation. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Ministry of Science and Technology, Govt. of India, with its dynamic network of 38 national laboratories, 39 outreach centres, 3 Innovation Complexes and 5 units has pledged to fight this war on all fronts. Defensive Strategies: The most important defence is social distancing.
With a population of 135 crore (and counting), this task is easier said than done. Thankfully, the Government had clamped down a strict lockdown regime that could slow down the spread of disease. But social distancing alone would not be enough. What we needed to do was to test the infected people and keep them isolated and provide them with healthcare. CSIR rose to this challenge. Detection centres were opened in two of our labs and with their training, 16 CSIR labs across the country are involved in testing for the virus. CSIR-IGIB has also developed aunique Crispr-Cas9 based paper detection method that promises to bring down cost of current detection methods. Personal protective equipment or PPEs are also essential defensive gear and CSIR has made this possible by designing safe and protective gear for frontline warriors of the COVID pandemic.
This includes masks for the general public as well as full gear for hospital staff. Offensive Strategies: Being such a densely populated country, offensive strategies are as important as the defensive ones. What this translates into, is, rigorous means of fighting transmission by keeping personal hygiene. Washing hands with soap and water frequently and use of sanitizers especially when outdoors and when people come in contact with any possible contaminated surface is essential. This is not only required by the frontline warriors like hospital staff and police, but by all people. Many NGOs work at shelter homes and need sanitizers to keep themselves safe; the inmates of shelter homes, the vendors selling essential goods, the delivery guys, all are in need of sanitizers.
CSIR, in a true example of taking science to society has started making sanitizers and distributing to people. Our outreach activities need to ensure that we cover a large population especially when the availability of sanitizers is low. Strategic Concepts: It is correctly said that prevention is better than cure and our defensive and offensive strategies take care of that.
However, to ensure that we not only win the battle but need to win the war, we need long term strategic plans. CSIRis doing just that with its multi-pronged approach (i) sequencing mission; a goal to sequence more than 500 viral samples pan India. This will reveal the genetic codes by which we can understand the disease, study the life cycle of the virus, understand its variants and look into drugs binding patterns (ii) surveillance by increasing testing. CSIR has planned a community testing strategy that will ensure we keep track of new outbreaks and thus contain them before they can spread (iii) Development of New Therapies, including Repurposing of Drugs and New Drugs: Vaccine Development, (iv) Hospital Assistive Devices, and a very important link (v) Supply Chain and Logistics CSIRs motto for the country: Taking Science to Society This pandemic calls for a conglomeration of all weapons, use different guns for different aspects and join us in this fight. n You may follow CSIRs role in fighting COVID-19 on csir.res.inor follow us on twitter @CSIR_IND (The author is Head, Director’s Technical Cell, Senior Principal Scientist / AcSIR Faculty Environmental Biotechnology and Genomics, CSIR-NEERI)