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02 September 2020 | Story Andre Damons | Photo Supplied
Dr Satyajit Tripathy
Dr Satyajit Tripathy, a postdoctoral fellow from the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, won the medal for the best oral performance at a UNESCO/UNITWIN network web seminar attended by more than 300 people from various institutions around the world.

A postdoctoral fellow in Pharmacology at the University of the Free State (UFS) was awarded a medal for the best oral e-poster presentation (Postdoctoral Fellow category) at a UNESCO/UNITWIN Network web seminar.

The two-day webinar with the theme Current concepts of Environmental Pollution by Electromagnetic field and Coronavirus was held in early August and was attended by more than 300 delegates from approximately 30 institutions from different countries.

Dr Satyajit Tripathy from the Department of Pharmacology won the medal for his outstanding research presentation on Employment of old options to control novel Coronavirus: Pros and Cons (authors: Barsha Dassarma, Satyajit Tripathy, MG Matsabisa). His presentations looked at immunotherapeutic techniques, such as the convalescent plasma (CP) therapy and possible diverse modes of action of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) against COVID-19 infection.

The award will serve as motivation

He was excited to hear that he had won the award, says Dr Tripathy.

“I never thought I would win, but I tried my best. On the topic of possible modes of action of HCQ against the viral infection, we have published in the ‘International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents’ (S Tripathy, B Dassarma, H Chabalala, S Roy, and MG Matsabisa / International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents 56 (2020) 106028). All the authors are grateful to Prof Glen Taylor, Research Director at the UFS, and the UFS Department of Pharmacology, for giving us the opportunity,” says Dr Tripathy. 
According to him, receiving this award is a validation and boost to his confidence. “I am thankful to Prof Motlalepula Matsabisa (supervisor) and Dr Barsha Dassarma (my wife), who are also contributing actively to this project. Moreover, the award is a symbol of respect for my work and the acceptance of a greater responsibility to keep the UFS flag flying high.”
Dr Tripathy goes further to say that it will motivate him to work on HCQ or nano-HCQ delivery research on Coronaviruses. In his doctoral study, it has been found that chitosan-based nanochloroquine delivery increases antimalarial efficacy against rodent parasites. Against the Coronavirus, this type of approach might work to reduce the dose and increase the efficacy of HCQ, explains Dr Tripathy. 

Immediate saviour from the pandemic

In his presentation, Dr Tripathy argues that while the world is finding expedited approvals for the development of vaccines that are time-dependent, preventative, and possibly not a cure, physicians are considering the convalescent plasma (CP) therapy as an immediate saviour, and the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as therapeutic options against COVID-19 infection, after assessing results from larger prospective, randomised, dose-determining controlled clinical trials. 
He concludes that, “Overall, in this situation of unavailability of specific medication, the CP therapy and HCQ treatment might act as an immediate saviour for society from the pandemic.”

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