The NITI Aayog on Thursday said that around 30 groups in India are trying to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus. The government body said that human trials of potential vaccines will start within a few months, both in India and abroad.

“Our country’s science and technology institutions and pharma industry are very strong,” NITI Aayog member VK Paul said during the daily briefing by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Hindustan Times reported. “The fight against coronavirus will be won through vaccines and drugs.”

Principal Scientific Advisor K Vijay Raghavan said that India is on the right track to develop a vaccine. “There are about a total of 30 groups in India, big industry to individual academics, who are trying to develop vaccines, of around 20 are keeping a good pace,” Raghavan said. He added that the All India Council for Technical Education and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research have embarked on a “drug discovery hackathon” for students.

Dr K Vijayraghavan, the co-chair of the coronavirus task force, however said that no Indian company or collaborations were in the clinical trial stage for the vaccines yet.

Asked whether the virus had mutated since it was first detected last December in China, the scientific advisor said there has been no change in the “fundamental properties” of the virus yet.

During Thursday’s briefing, Paul claimed that anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, whose trials the World Health Organization has stopped citing safety concerns, has more benefits than risks. “We want it to be used as per recommendations made by the scientific community,” he added.

The Indian Council of Medical Research on Tuesday said that the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine may still be used against the coronavirus as it has not found any major side-effects on its use.

India has so far reported 1,58,333 cases of Covid-19, including 4,531, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. A nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25 to control the spread of the coronavirus. It has been extended thrice, and is scheduled to end on May 31.

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