Ayurvedic practitioners and researchers in India and United States plan to initiate joint clinical trials for formulations against the coronavirus, the Indian envoy to the US said on Wednesday, according to PTI.

“Our institutions have also been collaborating to promote Ayurveda through joint research, teaching and training programmes,” Indian Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu said.

In a virtual meeting with a group of eminent Indian-American scientists, academicians, and doctors, Sandhu said there are at least three ongoing collaborations between Indian vaccine companies with the US-based institutions. Scientists have been exchanging knowledge and research resources on this front, he added.

To address Covid-19 related challenges, the Indo-US Science Technology Forum had given a call to support joint research and start-up engagements, the Indian envoy said. Large number of proposals are being reviewed on fast track mode by the experts on both sides.

“Indian pharmaceutical companies are global leaders in producing affordable low-cost medicines and vaccines and will play an important role in the fight against this pandemic,” Sandhu said. “These collaborations would be beneficial not just to India and the US, but also for the billions who would need to be vaccinated against Covid19 across the world.”

Sandhu said that innovation will be the key driver in pandemic response and recovery, adding that tech companies and start-ups have already begun to take the lead in this direction. “Telemedicine and telehealth will evolve as will other digital platforms across sectors,” he said.

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India and the US have been working together in several programmes to understand important diseases at basic and clinical levels, Sandhu said. There are over 200 ongoing projects in India that are funded by the United States’ National Health Institute, involving 20 institutions from its network to create healthcare solutions, the senior diplomat added.

Sandhu said that many such programmes have focused on translational research to develop new therapeutics and diagnostics. “The collaboration under the Vaccine Action Programme resulted in the development of ROTAVAC vaccine against rota virus which causes severe diarrhea in children,” he said. “The vaccine was developed by an Indian company [Bharat Biotech] at an affordable cost. It has been commercialised and introduced in the Expanded Programme on Immunisation.”

Development of many other vaccines such as tuberculosis, influenza, chikungunya are also in progress under the Vaccine Action Programme, he said. “As I speak, the VAP meeting is in progress where experts from both countries are deeply engaged in technical discussions to expedite development of Covid-19 vaccine,” Sandhu added.

Some of the experts who attended the virtual meeting included, Subhash Kak Regents, professor at Oklahoma State University; Samuel L Wasserstrom, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School; Ashish M Kamat, professor of urology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, among others.

Several vaccine candidates are at various stages of development around the world to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. In India, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin was the first indigenous vaccine candidate that received permission from the Drug Controller General of India to begin human trials, expected to commence in August. Gujarat-based pharmaceutical company Zydus Cadila also received approval to start phase one and two of human clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine.