The government is supporting hundreds of projects in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic and more than 100 start-ups have developed innovative products to deal with COVID-19, Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Monday.
Speaking at the India-Portugal Tech Summit, organised by the Department of Science and Technology and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Mr Vardhan said the government has announced a $120 million grant for COVID-19 vaccine research.
This is being provided for COVID Suraksha Mission and is to be used purely for research and development in this field, he said.
"From the development of indigenous vaccines, novel point-of-care diagnostics and therapeutic formulations based on traditional knowledge to establishing research resources and offering services, Indian R&D entities both public and private, are working relentlessly to develop effective interventions for combating the pandemic," the minister said.
"Hundreds of projects are being supported. More than 100 start-ups have developed innovative products for COVID-19," Mr Vardhan said.
Just after the pandemic struck, the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Biotechnology launched a series of initiatives ranging from funding efforts towards finding therapeutic formulations to vaccine development.
About 30 vaccine candidates are in different stages of development, said Mr Vardhan, who is also the Minister for Health and Family Welfare.
Two of them are in the most advanced stage of development – 'Covaxin', being developed through ICMR-Bharat Biotech collaboration, and 'Covishield' from the Serum Institute of India.
"Both are in the Phase-III clinical trial stage. Our premier institution -- the Indian Council of Medical Research -- is involved in their trial executions," he said.
"India is also hosting clinical trials for all the major vaccine contenders. Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, is conducting trials for the vaccine developed by Oxford University. One of our pharma giants, Dr Reddy's Laboratories, will distribute the Russian vaccine in India," Mr Vardhan said.
The minister said India has nurtured over 50,000 start-ups over the last five years of which about 33 have achieved the Unicorn status with their valuation over $1 billion.
With these start-ups, the government is encouraged to launch Mission Start-up India 2.0, he said.
Mr Vardhan said Portugal too is becoming the most attractive start-up hub in Europe. "Spurred by an open culture and a keen focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, Portugal is building a flourishing start-up ecosystem," he said.