After indigenously making personal protective equipment (PPEs), ventilators and other items to fight covid-19, government on Sunday launched indigenous fluorescence probes and Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) mix used in covid-19 testing kits.
A typical, PCR based test kit has three critical components— oligos, enzymes and molecular probes. The first two are partly available in India and partly imported while molecular probes used in covid- 19 tests, however are only imported so far.
The molecular probes are used to track the amplification in PCR. Their immediate application is for covid-19 testing, but they are also general-purpose molecular tools for molecular diagnostic tests of several diseases.
As the government has been professing for Make-In-India and Aatmanirbhar Bharat missions, VNIR Biotechnologies Private Limited, a spinoff by Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology (DST) has developed the probes. VNIR Biotechnologies Private Limited is incubated at Bangalore Bio-innovation Centre (BBC) of Government of Karnataka.
Prof. T. Govindaraju and Dr Meher Prakash co-founders of VNIR have developed the Florescence probes and PCR mix for RTPCR detection.
Enzyme and oligo needs are partly met from Indian manufacturers, and VNIR aimed to address the third critical component— molecular probes. Professor T. Govindaraju said that there is no Indian company making these molecular probes.
The government said that molecular diagnostic tests used to be limited to research laboratories or for limited applications. Covid-19 has presented a unique problem that the finest level of molecular diagnostic test has to be performed almost at a complete population level if needed, the government added.
The government has realised that given the scale of tests required for covid-19, it is very important to become self-reliant with the critical test kit components.
“The probes for RT-PCR based covid–19 tests is an example of leveraging our basic science knowledge for development of critical new products that are until now being imported. Nor is this knowledge limited to one particular virus, but would help us rapidly develop molecular diagnosis in the future for other viruses as well,” said Professor Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST.
The innovation may also help in lowering the prices of covid-19 testing in the country. Taking a view on the indigenous manufacturing of raw materials, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) last month wrote to states to reduce charges of covid-19 testing in private laboratories.
Meanwhile the covid-19 cases continue to rise in the country. India as on Sunday recorded 854240 coronavirus cases, though the number of patients recovering is also rising.
In the last 24 hours, a total of 19,235 patients were cured of covid-19 resulting in the cumulative total number of recovered cases rising to 5,34,620 on Sunday. The recovery rate has presently improved to 62.93% and the recovered cases exceed active cases by 2,42,362, the union health ministry said in a statement.
The present health infrastructure dedicated to providing medical attention to the COVID affected includes 1370 Dedicated COVID Hospitals (DCH), 3062 Dedicated COVID Health Centres (DCHC), and 10334 COVID Care Centres (CCC). For the successful operation of these facilities, the Centre has so far provided 122.36 lakhs PPE Kits, 223.33 lakhs N95 masks, and 21,685 ventilators have been delivered to various States / UTs / Central Institutions, the government said.