55 startups aiding India’s COVID-19 fight get Rs 64 crore from ACT Grants

ACT Grants is Rs 100-crore initiative of venture capital firms and startup founders to help firms working on solutions to fight coronavirus in India.

August 18, 2020 / 02:55 PM IST

Four months into its launch, ACT (Action Covid-19 team) Grants, a not-for-profit initiative of venture capital firms and startup founders, has disbursed more than Rs 64 crore among 55 firms working on solutions to fight the coronavirus in India.

The grants range from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 10 crore, depending on the need of the startup, Nachiket Mor, an investment committee member and the spokesperson of ACT Grants told Moneycontrol.

The Rs 100-crore initiative was started by venture capital firms such as Sequoia India, Accel Partners, Lightspeed Ventures, and SAIF Partners to support startups working on products or services in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The startups that have been given grants include those manufacturing protective gear and medical equipment and those working in the field of mental wellness.

StepOne, which launched a national COVID-19 telemedicine helpline, received Rs 25 lakh. Pune-based MyLab that has developed and manufactures RT-PCR testing kit for coronavirus got Rs 1 crore, ACT website says.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Kits developed by MyLab are cheaper and available faster when compared to international peers. The company in July also received funding under the National Biopharma Mission of the Department of Biotechnology.

A grant of Rs 20 lakh was given to Venture capital-funded lingerie maker Clovia that has also been manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE).

In the early days of the outbreak, shortage of gloves, protective clothing, face shields, goggles and other such gear was coming in the way of the fight against coronavirus as imports and supply chains were hit by lockdown restrictions.

The situation has since eased as more and more manufacturers chip in with PPEs.

Shekhar Kirani and Prashanth Prakash, partners at Accel, Mohit Bhatnagar, managing director of Sequoia Capital, Vani Kola, managing director of Kalaari Capital, Mekin Maheshwari, founder of Udhyam Foundation, and Abhiraj Bahl, founder of Urban Company, are the other members of the investment committee.

Besides funding, ACT Grants is also providing startups access to networks and mentorship. It has partnered with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Wadhwani Foundation and Michael and Susan Dell Foundation to support them in expanding their outreach.
Priyanka Sahay
first published: Aug 18, 2020 02:50 pm

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