Harsha Vardhan launches Drug Discovery Hackathon for Covd19

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“We need to establish a culture of Computational Drug Discovery in our country. In this initiative, MHRD’s Innovation cell and AICTE will focus on identifying potential drug molecules through the Hackathon while CSIR will take these identified molecules forward for synthesis and laboratory testing for efficacy, toxicity, sensitivity and specificity,”  said the Minister for Science & Technology and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan.

He was speaking at a first of its kind Drug Discovery Hackathon initiated by his Ministry for supporting drug discovery process here today in the presence of Union Minister for Human Resource Development Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’. Pointing out that drug discovery is a complex, expensive, arduous and time-consuming process, Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “While we pursue clinical trials of few repurposed drugs for COVID-19, as they are faster and can quickly be launched, it is also important that we find other suitable repurposed drugs while at the same time continue working on new drug discovery to develop specific drugs against COVID-19”. He added, “in-silico drug discovery which utilizes Computational methods such as Machine Learning (ML), AI and Big Data will help in accelerating this process”.

The HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ said: “MHRD and AICTE have huge experience in organizing Hackathons but for the first time, we are using the hackathon model for tackling a great scientific challenge. More importantly, this initiative is open for researchers and faculty across the globe as we are keen on attracting international talent to join and support our efforts.”

Minister of State for HRD Sanjay Dhotre also appreciated the concept and said, “Our government has kick-started Hackathon culture in this country which is very critical for challenging our youngsters to solve some of the daunting problems faced by our nation.”

Prof K. VijayRaghavan, PSA, Govt. of India said, “The Hackathon consists of challenges that are posted as problem statements and, are based on specific drug discovery topics which, are open to the participants to solve. It will have three phases of three months each and the whole exercise is to be completed by April-May 2021. At the end of each phase, successful teams will be rewarded. The ‘lead’ compounds identified at the end of phase 3 will be taken forward for the experimental level at CSIR and other interested organizations.

During the launch function, Dr.AbhayJere, Chief Innovation Officer explained the concept of Drug Discovery Hackathon, while Prof. Anil Sahasrabudhe extended all the support from AICTE and appealed all technical institutions to participate in this initiative in big numbers. Dr.ShekharMande extended all the required commitment from CSIR’s side for this initiative. He also expressed satisfaction on the quality and variety of problem statements released today.

The Hackathon was a joint initiative of MHRD’s Innovation Cell (MIC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and supported by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), MyGov, as well as private players.