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IIT Alumni Council announces withdrawal from vaccine development

IIT Alumni Council announces withdrawal from vaccine development race

August 24, 2020

IIT Alumni Council announces formal disbanding of the Vaccine Initiative that was part of the six-month C19 Task Force. The vaccine team concluded that none of the available approaches and claims were adequately backed by disclosed scientific data, patient research and clinical studies. In addition to getting the vaccine paradigm right, factors like adjuvants could play a critical role. Folded protein simulation, antibody genome library creation, antibody characterisation etc are all necessary precedents to vaccine production.

In its press release, the IIT Alumni Council said that 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 as well as 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.

“IIT Alumni Council team concluded that developing a vaccine based on conventional research and clinical trials takes several years. Even then there is no certainty. For example even after 28+ years and over USD 100 Billion of funding, a HIV Aids vaccine is yet to succeed. 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,” said Ravi Sharma, president of the IIT Alumni Council.

“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. 

“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. 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,” said Daljit Singh, an IIT Alumnus and former President of Fortis Healthcare.

Read: IIT Alumni Council announces the winner of Covid19 Pool Testing strategy


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