Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Political games CSIR plays: Work on India's dream anti-HIV molecule comes to an unceremonious halt

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 24: Work on India's dream anti-HIV drug has come to an unceremonious halt after the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research refused to further fund the project.

The anti-HIV molecule, Zn Diprolinate, has already been patented and successfully tested in laboratory against HIV. The molecule was about to be tested on monkeys when the CSIR backed out, refusing permission on animal trials. The project would have brought down the over all cost of anti-HIV and AIDS therapy.

Zn Diprolinate was developed by National Institute of Oceanography from a sea shell, and was tested for its efficacy against HIV cell lines at National Centre for Cell Sciences. The research has to be abandoned midway with the CSIR changing its mind.

"CSIR had given us major funding and as we were expecting major encouragement from it. Thanks to several technical reasons and discouraging attitude of CSIR, we did not go further to complete this challenging task of converting the molecule into anti-HIV drug," Dr Anil Chatterji, a senior scientist associated with the project told this correspondent.

NIO scientists had developed the anti-HIV molecule from the extract of Indian Green Mussel (Perna viridis), which contains some complex bioactive compounds with tremendous potential in medical science. The molecule is non-toxic on human T-lymphocytic cell line.

The mussel extract showed about 40 per cent inhibition of HIV production in treated cells. Since mussels are available at cheaper rates, the cost of HIV drug will be economically viable.

"We wanted to go for in vivo (animal) test but due to limited financial support we could not do it. These tests can be done only in USA on monkeys. We tried our best to convince policy makers but could not succeed in getting the nod," said Dr Anil Chatterji, who now works with the Institute of Tropical Aquaculture, University of Malaysia.

The molecule developed by NIO-NCCS team is relatively better than other drugs available in the market. It works on two targets and scientifically proved to inhibit RT (reverse transcriptase) as well as protease activities, whereas other drugs do not have such novel activity.

"The group formed at NIO has also been ruined. I do not see any hope to revive this activity due to lack of interest of CSIR and research planners at NIO," he added.

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