India launches Drug Discovery Hackathon for drug discovery


India on Thursday, July 2, launched Drug Discovery Hackathon, the first of its kind in the country for supporting drug discovery process.

The Hackathon will see the participation of professionals, researchers, faculty and students from varied fields like Medical science, Chemistry, Computer Science, Pharmacy, Basic Sciences and Biotechnology. It is a joint initiative of MHRD’s Innovation Cell (MIC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). It is supported by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), MyGov and private players.

At the launch, Union Minister for Science and Technology Dr. Harsh Vardhan said “we need to establish the culture of Computational Drug Discovery in our country. In this initiative, MHRD’s Innovation cell and AICTE will focus on identifying potential drug molecules through the Hackathon while CSIR will take these identified molecules forward for synthesis and laboratory testing for efficacy, toxicity, sensitivity and specificity.” Pointing out that drug discovery is a complex, expensive, arduous and time-consuming process.”

“While we pursue clinical trials of few repurposed drugs for COVID-19, as they are faster and can quickly be launched, it is also important that we find other suitable repurposed drugs while at the same time continue working on new drug discovery to develop specific drugs against COVID-19,” he said.

HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said that though MHRD and AICTE had good experience in organising Hackathons, it was for the first time that they were using hackathon model for tackling a great scientific challenge. “More importantly, this initiative is open for researchers/faculty across the globe as we are keen on attracting international talent to join and support our efforts,” he said.

Methodology of Hackathon

  • The Hackathon consists of challenges that are posted as problem statements and, are based on specific drug discovery topics which, are open to the participants to solve.A total of 29 Problem Statements (PS) have been identified.
  • MyGov portal is being used and any Indian student can participate.
  • Professionals and researchers from anywhere in the world can participate.
  • TheHackathon will have three Tracks.Track 1 will primarily deal with drug design for anti-COVID-19 hit/lead generation: this is done using tools such as molecular modelling, pharmacophore optimization, molecular docking, hit/lead optimization, etc.
  • Track 2 will deal with designing/optimizing new tools and algorithms which will have an immense impact on expediting the process of in silico drug discovery.

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