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With vaccines becoming available, there is hope that our lives can return to a semblance of normalcy in 2021 (REUTERS)
With vaccines becoming available, there is hope that our lives can return to a semblance of normalcy in 2021 (REUTERS)

Collaboration on health will be the new normal in 2021

  • The covid-19 pandemic has nudged the international community to adopt a collaborative research culture. In 2021, collaboration could well become the ‘new normal’ as diverse players join hands to enable effective, concerted action through meaningful partnerships

Amid news of a second wave of covid-19 cases and the emergence of a mutant strain of the novel coronavirus in many parts of the world, there is hope yet that 2021 will be a better year for humanity.

Some silver linings are already visible. With vaccines becoming available, there is hope that our lives can return to a semblance of normalcy in 2021.

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Beyond vaccines, we could see the discovery of potential treatments for covid-19 complications, faster and more accurate diagnostic tests for the virus, streamlined regulatory responses to health emergencies, as well as greater collaboration among scientists globally.

The high level of effectiveness reported for Pfizer’s and Moderna’s mRNA-based vaccines has been a Eureka moment for pandemic science, proving that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines that can be manufactured rapidly at low cost are successful in producing robust immunity. mRNAs could become the default platform for vaccines going ahead, providing an effective solution for mass vaccination and marking a huge breakthrough in disease prevention.

Single-dose, nasal vaccines could also become available for mass immunization. Far easier to deliver than intra-muscular injections, intra-nasal vaccines can prove to be a game-changer. These vaccines will eliminate the risk of needle-borne infections like Hepatitis C and HIV, which can cause a bigger health catastrophe than covid-19.

Protecting a billion-plus population from a pandemic in a country that traditionally spends insufficiently on science was never going to be easy. Yet, India proved itself resilient, resourceful and proactive. India’s government, industry and academia worked overtime and in tandem to come up with innovative solutions to both big and small problems across a range of bio-medical fields, from mathematical models to mass production of masks and personal protective equipment, test kits to treatment modalities, vaccines to ventilators.

On the vaccines front, India is being acknowledged as a key global production hub as it boasts the largest vaccines manufacturing capacities in the world. India will mass-produce the Oxford University-AstraZeneca, Novavax and Gamaleya Research Institute vaccines.

A successful covid-19 vaccination programme by leveraging digital technology to drive efficiency and speed will give a huge confidence boost to India’s ailing public healthcare delivery system, setting us up for success in the years ahead.

The covid-19 pandemic has nudged the international scientific community to adopt a collaborative research culture. Scientists have fostered cross-border collaborations and pooled complementary skill sets to hunt promising leads for covid-19 vaccines and drugs. These symbiotic partnerships have lowered innovation costs, maximized efficiencies and expedited development.

In 2021, collaboration could well become the ‘new normal’ as diverse players join hands to enable effective, concerted action through meaningful partnerships.

I see 2021 as a year when we will witness huge medical and scientific advancements across the world, enabling us to come out of the crisis stronger than when we went into it. I also believe that a combination of testing, vaccination and surveillance will allow us to return to near normalcy next year.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is executive chairperson of Biocon Ltd.

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