Bhopal lab leads race to create bird flu vaccine

Colourized transmission electron micrograph of Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses (seen in gold). Image provided by CDC/C. Goldsmith, J. Katz, and S. Zaki.
NEW DELHI, adapted from a Times of India report
While the bird flu scare flies over the country, India’s most important scientist in this crisis, the Bhopal-based High Security Animal Disease Laboratory chief H K Pradhan will do Rs 8 crores worth of shopping in a bid to defeat the virus.
Pradhan, whose laboratory has tested samples from across the country and is the only facility to have isolated the H5N1 virus, is planning a 15-member expert team for a massive anti-bird flu programme.
His lab, part of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) network, is leading the race for a vaccine with the health ministry as one of the participants. Private players too may join in, as the industry bats for a Indian vaccine instead of an imported one.
Pradhan’s shopping list includes automatic sequencing machines, ultra centrifuges to purify the virus, gelled doc systems to run DNA tests on H5N1 and ultra-electron microscopes to view it clearly.
“The money is for the development of vaccines, diagnostics and survey of variability if any,” said ICAR director general Mangala Rai.
They will develop the first vaccine within six months, to be followed by DNA vaccines — one of which will hit the H5 gene, with the other hitting the vector.
Tenders for automatic sequencing machines and ultra-centrifuges have been floated, and the equipment should be with the lab inside a month. Tenders for gelled doc systems will be floated soon.

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