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India had “tried to partner” with a Denmark-based biotechnology major for working on development of vaccine for chikungunya about 10 years ago, but the “deal fell through”, a former member of National Disaster Management Authority claimed on Monday.
“Around 2006, a team was constituted under the then Manmohan Singh government’s Department of Science and Technology for disaster management and combating chikungunya was one of the top priorities for it,” former NDMA member, Lt Gen (retd) J R Bhardwaj said.
He was speaking at FCC-UN-FICCI round-table session organised on Monday on Disaster Management and Risk Reduction in India and South Asia, at the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC).
Bhardwaj, who was part of that team, says, Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV) and Denmark-based biotechnology major Bavarian Nordic were to partner for working on the project, but the “deal sort of fell through”.
“Indian government was to give USD 11 million to Nordic but by that time Nordic got a call from US, so it went to Africa to research on Ebola virus. There were other issues too, which the two sides could not sort out,” Bhardwaj claimed.
Bavarian Nordic’s Vice-President for Global Governmental Affairs Jesper Elsgaard said, “We are always in search of trusted partners around the world. And, we still are keen on partnering with governmental or private biotech firms for research and development in chikungunya virus field.”
“I cannot comment much on what happened back then with India and our company, but we need funding to function, and once we get the right partnership, we collaborate, like we have done in other countries such as Canada and Malaysia,” he said.
The panelists also included United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) Coordinators, Sujit Mohanty and Andy McElroy, Member Secretary, Department of Science and Technology H K Mittal and Senior Director at FICCI Nirankar Saxena.
Chikungunya cases in Delhi have shot up to 423, a massive rise in the figure released by civic authorities, who had reported just 20 cases till last week.
The last such spurt was in 2006, when over 13 lakh suspected chikungunya fever cases were reported across the country, according to National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP).
This year till July 28, 9,990 suspected cases of the disease have been recorded, with Karnataka reporting 7,591 cases.
Health experts have attributed the rise to a possible “evolution” in the virus that carries this disease and change in weather factors like humidity.
All the experts at the round-table agreed that bio-terrorism was the next level of disaster that all countries must be wary of.
“More than traditional disasters like earthquakes and flood, we need to equip ourselves to deal with bio-hazard disaster like dengue, chikungunya, Ebola, Zika and Anthrax and other emerging diseases,” Saxena said.
He said, FICCI has proposed a USD 100 million fund for disaster risk reduction.