Not only is India at the forefront of the race to develop a vaccine against coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the country is also putting in place a digitised network to deliver the vaccine to its citizens, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his keynote speech at the inauguration of Grand Challenges meeting 2020. The meeting, which will go on till October 21, was to be held in New Delhi before the pandemic and is being conducted virtually for the first time.
“India is at the forefront of vaccine development for Covid-19, some are in the advanced stages. We are not stopping here. India is already working on putting a well-established vaccine delivery system in place. This digitised network along with digital health IDs will be used to ensure immunisation of our citizens,” he said.
The PM stressed on the need for collaborative science and innovation to tackle large problems.
“The journey to innovation must be through collaboration and public participation. Science will never prosper in silos and the grand challenges understood this well. It has taken a global pandemic to make us realise yet again the importance of team work. After all, diseases do not have geographic boundaries. They do not discriminate on the basis of faith race gender or colour,” he said.
Grand Challenges, which was launched in 2003 by Bill Melinda Gates foundation, fosters innovation to solve key challenges in global health and development. The initiative focuses on fourteen major challenges including nutrition, vaccine development, develop needle free delivery system for the vaccine, cure for chronic infections, among others.
At the inaugural session, Bill Gates stressed the need for research into three vital fields to remain prepared for the next pandemic – development of vaccine platforms so that vaccines against new infections can quickly be developed and manufactured, monoclonal antibodies and more effective ways of manufacturing it quickly for a pandemic situation, and diagnostic platforms that are sensitive and specific and widely available so that huge number of people can be tested and accurately diagnosed.
“Given the scale of this pandemic, we weren’t prepared for it. But, we will be better prepared next time around,” said Gates.
Apart from addressing challenges related to Covid-19, this year three new grand challenges have been launched – integrating tradition and technology for fermented foods for maternal nutrition, new approaches for integrating molecular surveillance into malaria control programmes, and smart farming innovations for small scale producers.