Hyderabad: Reagene Innovations, a bio-tech start up incubated at the University of Hyderabad, is collaborating with Tech Mahindra and private company, INDRAS, to bring out a human vascular lung model to study the novel coronavirus. The lung model, created using the 3D bio-printing technique, will be used to identify drugs that can be used to cure Covid-19.

The researchers of the lung model said that there were no animal models used for Covid-19 to design drugs. “We believe that a quick way to design drugs for Covid-19 is through a human lung model. Further, many studies do not take into account complications like blood clotting in lungs due to Covid-19. This lung model will be an answer to both,” says Dr. Uday Saxena of Reagene Innovations.

The collaborators aim to stop the entry of virus into the epithelial cells of lungs. “This strategy was chosen because the high transmission rate of Covid-19 is attributed partly to tight attachment of the virus that facilitates its entry into lung cells. Once the virus is stopped from entering the cells, it is rendered harmless,” according to the researchers.

For developing drugs, the researchers plan to use both Artificial Intelligence (AI) and rational computational approaches for identifying FDA-approved existing drugs validated using biological and pharmacological methods.

“We have to design algorithms that can bring about combinations of drugs that will be useful against Covid-19. With the human lung model and the algorithm, we might be able to rapidly identify drugs that can stop the entry of virus into the lungs,” added Saxena.

Dr. Ratnakar Palakodeti, vice president of Life Sciences vertical of Tech Mahindra said “this collaboration will bring valuable findings in therapeutic interventions through a faster route than conventional drug discovery as well as add invaluable intellectual property.”

The private company, INDRAS, will focus on utilising its silico-scientific expertise in identifying most suitable drugs which could be repurposed against Covid-19. Artificial intelligence will be deployed, in particular, to study protein-ligand interactions as well, the collaborators said.

Amritha Mohan

Amritha Mohan is a reporter at the NewsMeter. Shortly after completing her Master's in Communication at the University of Hyderabad, she began teaching courses on media and culture as a guest lecturer at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong. Amritha has previously interned with news organisations such as Greater Kashmir and Newslaundry. A lover of travel and photography, she spends most of her time planning road trips to the North-East. Nothing makes her happier than a green turf and a team to play football with. She primarily reports on education, tech, human-interesting and critical features.

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