PCI joins MHRD Innovation Council for Drug Discovery Grand Hackathon
The Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) has collaborated with the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) Innovation Council (MIC) for the ‘Drug Discovery Grand Hackathon – Innovate4NewDrugs’ and is inviting applications for the project.
The drug discovery grand Hackathon is an initiative the MHRD’s Innovation Cell along with the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) under the guidance of the Office of Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India. It is an international research initiative to discover solutions against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The project is designed for the faculty and professionals in pharmacy, computer science, chemistry (synthesis), biotechnology (testing) and students studying in India. All Indian students studying abroad but holding an Indian passport are also eligible for the project. The Hackathon project will be conducted in three phases of two months each and the entire exercise is expected to be completed by March 2021.
It will be based on the use of computational modelling and in silico tools towards drug design or for identifying ‘lead’ compounds from existing data. The aim is to develop new tool and algorithms that can shift through big data using artificial intelligence (AI) and predict drug-like compounds with minimal toxicity and maximal specificity and selectivity. Reportedly, all generated data will be available in open source and promote the open innovation philosophy.
Dr B Suresh said
Highlighting the objectives of the project, Dr B Suresh, President, Pharmacy Council of India said, “It is a government-funded project and the objective is to bring bright faculty, research scholars and masters students with expertise in silico models to help search or design possible new molecules that can combat COVID-19. Once a potential molecule is designed through software they will be then taken up for synthesis in national laboratories and follow with the studies on safety and efficacy. PCI will help in identifying experts, assist in organising the hackathon and extend support to the MHRD innovation cell in this mission.”
“For Phase I, we need about 150-200 young faculty/postdocs/doc students or even master students who are working in silico drug discovery and Absorption Distribution Metabolism Excretion and Toxicity (ADMET) space. The selected youngsters will be recognised as Ambassadors of the programme. In Phase II and Phase III, they will be leading a team. Moreover, the selected ambassadors will not be excluded from participating in any competitions,” he further informed Dr Suresh.
He also added, “Once we see initial reports of any molecules showing positive signs at national laboratories across the country, we will call for industry participation in the project.”
The PCI has called on all pharmacy institutions in the country to participate in the hackathon in large numbers. It is also inviting pharmacy professionals to volunteer and become ‘Ambassadors’ for the programme.