Assam scientist

Karimganj: When the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) developed the anti-COVID drug, there was extra reason for Assam residents to feel joyous and cheerful. A scientist from the Karimganj district, Jubilee Purakayastha, was among the scientists who pioneered the anti-COVID drug in the DRDO lab. 

The breakthrough research of the Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS)—a lab of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)—in collaboration with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL), Hyderabad, has led to the discovery of an oral drug 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) for the treatment of moderate to severe coronavirus patients. Clinical trials have shown that the molecule helps in the faster recovery of hospitalised patients and reduces supplemental oxygen dependence.

Jubilee did her schooling at Mahisasan School, followed by Karimganj College. She did her PhD from the North East Institute of Science and Technology in Jorhat and joined the Defense Research Laboratory of DRDO in Tezpur as a scientist in 2008.

The daughter of Lt Sudarshan Purakayastha and Mrs Binoy Kumari Purakayastha, Jubilee said she was inspired by her mother’s smile and she would continue to serve the nation. “All credit goes to my department, who were striving hard since the onset of the pandemic,” Jubilee said in a video message.

Pursuing the Prime Minister’s call for preparedness against the pandemic, DRDO took the initiative of developing an anti-COVID therapeutic application of 2-DG. 

In April 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic, INMAS-DRDO scientists conducted laboratory experiments and found that this molecule works effectively against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and inhibits viral growth. 

Based on these results, the Drugs Controller General of India’s (DCGI) Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) permitted a Phase-II clinical trial of 2-DG in COVID-19 patients in May 2020.

As per the efficacy trends, the patients treated with 2-DG showed faster symptomatic cure than Standard of Care (SoC) on various endpoints. A significantly favourable trend (2.5 days difference) was seen in terms of the median time to achieving normalisation of specific vital signs parameters when compared to SoC.

Based on successful results, the DCGI further permitted the Phase-III clinical trials in November 2020. The drug comes in powder form in a sachet, taken orally by dissolving it in water. It accumulates in the virus-infected cells and prevents virus growth by stopping viral synthesis and energy production. Its selective accumulation in virally infected cells makes this drug unique.

In the ongoing second COVID-19 wave, a large number of patients are facing severe oxygen dependency and need hospitalisation. The drug is expected to save precious lives due to the mechanism of operation of the drug in infected cells. This also reduces the hospital stay of COVID-19 patients.

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