Academia industry role to fight coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan

Pakistan’s academia industry role is crucial in the fight against the coronavirus. Universities and Research institutions are leading from the front.

Academia industry role to fight coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan

The quickly expanding COVID-19 outbreak in the world is soon expected to outstrip the capacity of our hospitals, as in Italy, where they have resorted to makeshift tents, hallways, and parking lots. When this happens, the question arises for academia industry role to fight coronavirus. Colleges and universities must take a leadership role in relieving this unprecedented stress on our health care system.

Universities and researchers are the key components in this fight against coronavirus. They can help the government by providing better solutions to tackle the situation. Academia can spread awareness among the masses and provide cheap sanitizers, personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, etc. Academia must try to bring drugs or vaccines against the virus.

Industries and Academia in Pakistan are trying to help the government by proving PPE and ventilators at cheap price.  There are many industries like STANZA Safety Wear that are manufacturing personal protective equipment. The University of Engineering and Technology have manufactured a full-body protective suit that have antimicrobial properties as well. Polyclinic has started to manufacture their own sanitizers and masks to overcome the shortage. Academia like Punjab University and Quaid–i-Azam University is helping in this regard by manufacturing sanitizers and diagnostic kits. PCSIR has also increased its capacity to manufacture sanitizers.

The two young scientists of the Atta ur Rahman School of Applied Biosciences (ASAB) at the National University of Sciences and Technology (Nust), Islamabad had been constantly discussing research work to curb the spread of coronavirus, with each other and with the virologists’ community in Pakistan and abroad.

With the world in the grip of an unprecedented pandemic and with the number of infected people rising by the hour, Javed and Zohaib put aside their other research activities in the lab to develop an indigenous diagnostic kit to test for COVID-19.

The cost of the current coronavirus diagnostic test is reportedly over 8,000 rupees, but this scientist duo says that with the development of their indigenous kit, the test will cost only one-fourth of that price. It was the middle of January when they started conceiving the idea and initiated discussion with virologists in Pakistan and abroad.

They have sent Emails to the collaborator for primers (components used to detect virus) so that they could initiate their work article. In February they received the first package of components, required to develop the test kit, from their collaborators. Thus began their work. The indigenously designed diagnostic kit would cost a fraction of internationally purchased kits

A team of Punjab University scientists headed by Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology’s Prof Dr Muhammad Idrees has developed a low-price diagnostic kit to test suspected Coronavirus patients and the cost of one test would be around 5 US dollars or Rs 800 only.

Talking to media, Prof Dr Muhammad Idrees, a renowned virologist and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hazara, said that development of the kit was not a big job for a scientist however now the government would be able to get diagnostic kits from its own department.  

The laboratory where the test of Coronavirus suspect was being tested should match BSL 3 standard so that lab staff and others could not be affected and the spread of the virus could be controlled. On availability of some basic ingredients, the team can develop thousands of kits within a week for the government and PU CEMB would conduct tests of Coronavirus suspects free-of-cost so that relief could be given to the people at large.

Similarly, Pakistan Engineering Council has manufactured low-cost ventilators in collaboration with NED and Pakistan Engineering board. In this hour of need, a volunteer group is offering a promising sign. Pakistan Against COVID19-Volunteers (PAC-V), is utilizing 3D printing to fabricate all the vital clinical and wellbeing hardware – including ventilators – to manage the destructive virus.

Many universities in Pakistan have initiated research on coronavirus. They have started to develop possible solutions against coronavirus. NUST and ARID have completely sequenced the coronavirus genome. Getz Pharma has also joined hands with the University of Health Sciences Lahore against the corona pandemic.

A group of researcher from DOW University of Medical Sciences has devised an intravenous immunoglobin based therapy. Lab tests and trails on animal models are successful and now they are ready to start clinical trials.

Role of academia in crucial in this pandemic. It is a war against an invisible enemy in the form of a virus. Now medical specialists and researchers have to become our frontline soldiers. Universities and Research institutions have to lead from the front in this cause.  Universities must mobilize their students in order to spread awareness among the masses. They must focus on developing a solution to the problem.

By Ahsan Ali

A young motivated person, interested in research and bioenterpreneurship in Pakistan.