Delhi to use indigenously developed Feluda kit for Covid testing soon
To scale-up testing for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) further, the Delhi government will deploy the faster gene-editing technology based testing kits developed by the researchers from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB).
The test named by the researchers as Feluda after the Bengali fictional detective is being marketed by Tata Sons as TataMD Check. An official from the Delhi government confirmed, “As soon as the testing kits are made available on the government e-marketplace (GEM), we will purchase and deploy it.”
“Actually Delhi Government is also deploying it simultaneously,” said the director of IGIB Dr Anurag Agarwal in a tweet to counter the claim that the technology developed using public funds was available only in private sector hospitals.
Tata Sons had announced in November third week that they were partnering with the Apollo Group of hospitals to launch the tests in 8 metropolitan cities initially.
“The kit is manufactured by TATA and available through them as per supply capacity. Also, it is not really being manufactured with public money. The technology was given non-exclusively by CSIR but with commercials attached as per guidelines,” said Agarwal in another tweet. This means, the technology can be transferred to other companies for manufacturing and branding of their own.
The kit manufactured by Tata Sons can give out the result of an accurate molecular test in just 45 minutes after the RNA has been extracted from the patient sample. In comparison, the current RT PCR tests take about four to five hours in the lab.
Once a swab sample from which RNA is extracted and amplified using a thermocycler. The sample is then tested using a paper strip barcoded with the Cas-9 protein of the Crispr system, which recognises the genetic material of the Sars-CoV-2 virus. Once dipped in the processed solution, the strip displays lines that can be interpreted as positive or negative using a mobile phone app available with the Tata Sons kits.
The kits can be monitored at every level of transportation and a sensor on the packaging checks that they were stored at the right temperature.
Another benefit of the Feluda-based kits is that it uses a commonly available thermocycler rather than a sophisticated RT PCR machine to process the sample. These thermocyclers are available in smaller labs in the city as well as most science institutes, which will help in scaling up testing.
The increase in the testing in Delhi since mid-November – when the government decided to conduct up to 100,000 tests a day half of which would be molecular – was mainly due to increased capacity for Delhi samples in central government labs in Delhi as well as the neighbouring Noida and Gurugram along with the mobile laboratories deployed by the central government.