The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the healthcare systems around the world to their knees and has highlighted the need for better infrastructure, more preparedness and the role of data analytics and data processing in healthcare. In order to stay future-ready, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is planning to collate all its research related to the coronavirus in a central Covid-19 database to tackle any such pandemics in the future.
ICMR is maintaining the research on Covid-19 to adopt data-led future strategies ranging from testing to treatment to managing capacity. “Covid-19 is a new disease and turned into a pandemic. We knew little about it before January. Since January, we are documenting all the work related to it. The database will serve as a guideline and policy document for handling such pandemics in future, especially zoonotic diseases,” Dr Rajni Kant, head of research management at policy, planning and coordination division of ICMR, said.
ICMR, which is the apex biomedical body, highlighted that India was also ill-equipped to handle the H1N1 or swine flu pandemic in 2009. Notably, swine flu had infected more than 13K people and led to 450 deaths in India. Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic, which is nowhere close to the end, with over 1.44 Lakh confirmed cases, as of May 25, 2020.
The main focus of the database would be zoonotic diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans and may emerge anytime in the near future, cautioned public health experts. Therefore, the databases and registries are important for the future course of action, considering the havoc Covid-19 has created. The body has been collating the data since January 2020, when the virus had come to light.
Besides looking at the role of data in fighting pandemic, the Indian government is also pushing for faster discovery and testing of a potential Covid-19 drug by roping in startups and private organisations. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) are launching a hackathon to find a drug for Covid-19. The Drug Discover Hackathon is supported by the office of the Principal Scientific Advisor of the central government and will invite ideas from startups and private organisations for the vaccine.