On February 26, the first Coronavirus case was reported in Pakistan, until then the World Health Organization (WHO) hasn't declared it as a pandemic. This new strain of pathogen first detected in China's Wuhan city has so far infected over 3.6 million people and became the cause of 255,596 deaths worldwide.

Anticipating the gravity of the situation the Dow University under the leadership of Vice-Chancellor, Professor Muhammad Saeed Quraishy, took the timely decision of importing the testing kits and Personal Protective Equipment, commonly known as PPEs. And when an outbreak occurred the Dow University was already playing its role to deal with the coronavirus by holding various awareness campaigns and seminars at its OJHA campus. Global experts including those from the United States were the part of the seminars through the virtual conferencing system. This struggle to create mass awareness is still an ongoing process.

Besides, the University also decided to take practical measures and pioneered to allocate Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory which assures safety net to researchers who work with microorganisms that may cause serious or potentially lethal disease and may be dangerous to the environment. This first testing facility is a source of satisfaction to the thousands of people.

The Dow University was also at the forefront to set up much-needed isolation facilities to quarantine and treat the infected patients. In early February, Vice-Chancellor Professor Saeed Quraishy had highlighted the measures and readiness to deal with the deadly virus in his interview with one of the leading English newspaper.

He also highlighted the supply of PPEs which included body overalls, disposable gloves, goggles, facemasks and other protective gears by WHO to University on request of Sindh Government, though the university had its stock of PPEs.

At present Dow University has increased its corona testing/screening capabilities and with its limited resources and manpower, has acquired a capacity of 1,000 tests per day. The Dow University's coronavirus treating initiative which started with ten patients has gradually expanded to accommodate 64 patients.

Ignoring the routine patients can also result in deteriorating their condition as well as unethical. Considering this free telemedicine clinic were started which offer its services six hours a day from Monday to Saturday. Patients from Gynae, Medicine, Surgery and Psychiatry avail free consultations and prescriptions from specialists.

Dow University as the leading health science institute of Pakistan not only focused on treatment but simultaneously on research. This research endeavour is not only on globally prescribed treatment but also on finding innovative treatment.

The researchers initially started to evaluate the effects of a compound of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin, a globally prescribed drug for corona patients. Effects of each dose given to different patients under medically approved principles were carefully reviewed.

Based on its ability to conduct speedy testing, the University's Department of Molecular Pathology has made a breakthrough by conducting the genome sequencing of the coronavirus, led by the Head of Department Professor Saeed Khan. This breakthrough was achieved with the assistance of the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) of Karachi University.

This genetic sequencing revealed the strain of the virus found in Pakistan was mutative. The study revealed that the virus was slightly different from the Wuhan virus with few mutations, which means the virus can adjust according to the local conditions. Though, the genetic sequencing the first step but it is believed that it could help scientists to diagnose, treat, and develop a vaccine for the virus.

In another breakthrough, a team of teachers and students led by Professor Mushtaq Husain, Vice-principal of Dow College of Biotechnology, discovered two naturally occurring mutations in the human genes that can resist the novel coronavirus.

The study that was published in the International Journal, Journal of Medical Virology revealed that the genes of some people were resistant to the impacts of coronavirus even if the persons contracts the virus.

The research team is confident that the outcome would help determine medical resources for this global epidemic coronavirus. The presence of these genetic mutations can also be detected from the test samples taken for the screening.

The presence of both or one of these mutations will reduce the chances of the symptoms of the coronavirus getting worse, in which case the person infected with corona will only need quarantine in one room of the house. Otherwise, the infected person will need medication and the hospitalization that may need a ventilator.

The Dow University as a matter of pride developed the world's first immunoglobulin (IVIG) injection for the treatment of Corona. The credit for the development of this injection goes to Professor Shaukat Ali and his team of biotechnology. This method has already been extensively employed worldwide for the treatment of SARS, MERS, and Ebola.

It is a type of passive immunization and instead of using whole plasma, only antibodies are taken for the treatment. The treatment method is safe and effective which is approved by the Federal Drug Agency FDA of Unites States.

The National Bio-Ethics Committee and the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) have also approved its clinical trials, to be performed by the research team.

Thus, Dow University is at the forefront of the war against deadly coronavirus through research and development, and treatment. The determination is to fight the deadly virus until the final victory.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020