Defects on CDRI campus slow down India's drug research

Defects on CDRI campus slow down India's drug research

A Rs 339-crore new campus of one of India's premier drug research centres is in a sorry state of affairs within a year of its completion, adversely affecting the pace of research on several new candidate drugs.

Besides poor civil construction and electrical work, the new campus of the Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI) in Lucknow is also without its main animal house, as the contractor did not stick to the specifications.

The Engineering Project India Ltd (EPIL), a central government agency, acted as project consultant and executing agency for CDRI's new building at Jankipuram Extension on Sitapur Road in Lucknow.

Within a year of shifting from the old campus in the heart of the city, CDRI scientists are facing problems in conducting research due to frequent water seepage, cracks, mould infestation and algal deposits on the walls, poor drainage and problems with the electrical and air-conditioning systems. “Why should these problems come up in a brand new building?” asked one of the CDRI scientists in conversation with Deccan Herald.

A top Council of Scientific and Industrial Research official described the building as a “white elephant”. Despite poor construction, the project cost went up by more than Rs 135 crore. It was to cost Rs 204.82 crore initially, but the CDRI ended up paying Rs 339.68 crore. It was also delayed by more than two years. “Everything happened due to improper materials being used in construction. The materials are second or third grade in quality, while payment made to contractor was for first-grade materials,” said another scientist.

With more than 60,000 rodents, hundreds of rabbits and a few monkeys, the CDRI has one of India's biggest animal houses, which are essential for drug research.

As per government norms, an animal house has to have air-conditioning and steel doors of a particular specification, which was conveyed to the EPIL. But in the new building, wooden door was installed in the animal house. Round-the-clock air-conditioning could not be provided due to high electricity consumption to maintain a large amount of “dead space” in the building.

As a result, over the past year, students were travelling to the old campus – 14 km away – every day to conduct animal experiments, as the main animal house is still located there. “What took half and hour earlier now needs half a day. It slows down the work,” said a scientist. Round-the-clock air-conditioning is also not available for experimental facilities that need it.

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