The contribution of Pakistani researchers, engineers and scientists toward attaining self-reliance in manufacturing equipments like masks, sanitizers, ventilators and oxygenators to fight the prevailing health crisis of COVID-19 is not only a miraculous development but evident of having brilliant minds in the science and technology sector.
The researchers and scientists of the country, once lagging behind in the science and technology sector, are now diligently working on manufacturing equipments, which can assist its people in fighting this pandemic instead of depending on the aid from other countries.
Soon after the pandemic outbreak, the researchers team of National University of Science and Technology (NUST) took lead in developing disinfecting tele-operated robots and aerial spraying drones for decontamination of spaces, robust and cost-effective testing kits for detection of coronavirus, high-quality sanitizers for microbial control, thermal monitoring camera to detect without touching, bilingual COVID-19 self-screening app and ventilators systems for short term stabilization of the patients.
While Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) was tasked to work on manufacturing of indigenous ventilators which were in the process of licensing.
The driving force behind all these initiatives was the Minister for Science and Technology, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain who revived this dormant ministry and motivated the scientists, engineers and researchers to come forward and utilize their energies to make the country self-sufficient.
Recently, the Ministry of Science and Technology, in cooperation with Pakistan Engineering Council, hosted an exhibition of medical products at Comstech Centre where the country’s exhibitors showcased their potential to produce essential medical supplies.
According to Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan would be able to export various items related to COVID-19 in the near future while cotton masks are being exported already.
He said Pakistani engineers and medics took the challenge head-on and, in a short span of two months since the coronavirus outbreak, the country is ready to not just cater to local demand, but also export high-quality medical equipment to the countries in need.
Talking to media, prominent scientist, Dr Atta-ur-Rahman said this was a good beginning for Pakistan that it has started focusing on manufacturing equipments related to health and medicine.
As a chairman of the Task Force on COVID-19, he said a number of initiatives have been taken so far.
He said one of those initiatives was manufacturing of ventilators, which were with the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) for approval. Seven shortlisted designs of ventilators were finalized out of over 50 received by Pakistan Engineering Council while the prototypes have also been developed.
Such efforts would pave the way for large scale manufacturing of ventilators in Pakistan, he said.
Different institutions of the country are also working on developing coronavirus testing kits while the testing kits developed by National University of Science and Technology were found to be more accurate which are also with DRAP for approval.
Listing another initiative, Dr Atta said the scientists and researchers at Jamil-ur-Rahman Centre for Genome Research, Karachi have isolated the coronavirus and discovered changes in its structure at nine places as compared to the original virus found in China.
Pakistani researchers are working on a 100 genome project to observe the genome from different coronavirus patients to identify the changes occurred in its structure.
He said they have also initiated a programme of clinical trials with involvement of 16 organizations to find a medicine which can actively help fight this virus.
The medicines including hydroxichloroquine, erthromycine are being used in the trials.
In another initiative, our researchers are also working on using artificial intelligence to track and trace those patients who are infected and come in contact with others.
Dr Atta hoped that promotion of local manufacturing of different things like masks, suits, gloves, sanitizers, testing kits etc would help increase exports of the country.
Earlier the country was spending a lot of money on import of all such things but now local manufacturing will make the country self-reliant and enable it to earn revenues through exports, said.
Dr Atta said since he was chairman of Task Force on Science and Technology and Vice Chairman on Task Force on Knowledge Economy, a number of programmes were being initiated under these task forces to materialize the dream of knowledge economy.
He said knowledge was the key driver to socioeconomic development of any country. Only those nations who were focusing on knowledge could progress.
He said over 13 billion has been allocated for science and technology related projects to be implemented by different ministries.
The budget of the Ministry of Science and Technology has also been increased 600 times which is a major change that is taking place, he added.