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KU requests Sindh govt to allow resumption of coronavirus research

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KU requests Sindh govt to allow resumption of coronavirus research
KARACHI:27 March: The University of Karachi (KU) has formally contacted the Sindh government with a request to allow the recommencement of scientific research related to the development of anti-coronavirus drugs, an activity which had to be stopped due to the lockdown.

In a letter addressed to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and the provincial regulatory authority for universities, KU vice-chancellor Dr Khalid Iraqi explained the gravity of the situation and requested the government to allow the resumption of research activities related to COVID-19 drugs.

When contacted, the CM House confirmed that a letter from the KU administration has been duly received.
As earlier reported by The Express Tribune, the university’s International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) and the Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drugs Research were temporarily shut down, due to which the ongoing research on medicines for the novel coronavirus had to be suspended and scientists were sent packing.

“Our scientists had been diligently working to prepare medicines and COVID-19 testing kits so that Pakistan could join hands with the world and contribute to research on the deadly virus,” said ICCBS director Dr Iqbal Choudhary. “But just when our scientists started making progress by identifying several compounds that could inhibit the growth of the virus, the research centre was temporarily closed due to the lockdown.”

He added that since the varsity has formally approached the CM and has sought permission to resume the research, it is hoped that swift action will be taken.

“In our letter, we have assured the provincial government that the ICCBS is a world-renowned research institute and is one of the few organisations in Pakistan that can help us fight the deadly virus,” he said.

Scientists at the ICCBS were working on six important components of research, including the diagnosis of COVID-19 disease, the spread of the coronavirus genome in Pakistan, research on anti-coronavirus medicinal plants, analysis of pharmaceutical components, the study of the structure of coronavirus proteins, molecular biology to develop anti-coronavirus drugs, nuclear magnetic resonance, and other spectroscopic support services.

Per sources, as the centre carried on with its research despite the closure of educational institutions, complaints began to surface on social media about it, after which authorities ordered it to halt all research-related activities.

Dr Choudhary confirmed that all research, including experiments for the preparation of coronavirus vaccine, had been stalled earlier this month.

“Some teachers secretly made a video of scientists entering and leaving the institute despite a lockdown,” he said. “Subsequently, they uploaded the video on social media, giving the impression that scientists were violating the government’s orders. Under such circumstances, it became very difficult for us to carry on with the experiments and administer the institute, because of which we were compelled to suspend all research activities.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2020.
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