CSIR transfers saline gargle RT-PCR testing tech to MSME industry
As part of the RT-PCR test technology transfer deal, the licensees are expected to set up manufacturing facilities for commercial production in the form of compact, easy-to-use kits.
The Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has transferred the technology of indigenously developed saline gargle reverse transcript polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) technique for testing Covid-19 samples, the government announced on Sunday.
The technology that also provides instant test results and is well-suited for rural areas with poor connectivity, given its minimal infrastructure requirements, has been transferred to the Union ministry of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME). It is supposed to be simple, cost-effective, patient-friendly, and comfortable.
“…the innovation developed by the institute has been ‘dedicated to the nation’ to serve the society. The knowhow has been transferred to the Union Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME), on a non-exclusive basis. This would enable the innovation to be commercialized and licensed to all capable parties, including private, government and various rural development schemes and departments,” said a statement issued by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), government of India.
As part of the technology transfer deal, the licensees are expected to set up manufacturing facilities for commercial production in the form of compact, easy-to-use kits.
The technology transfer was expedited in view of the pandemic and a probable third wave of Covid-19 coming, said the PIB statement.
The principal inventor of this is NEERI scientist Dr Krishna Khairnar and a team of research scholars of environmental virology at CSIR-NEERI, Nagpur.
The government had in May announced the development of this technology that was also approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
“Swab collection requires time. Moreover, since it is invasive, it is a bit uncomfortable for patients. Time is also lost in transporting a sample from the collection centre to the laboratory. The saline gargle RT-PCR method is instant, comfortable and patient-friendly. Sampling is done instantly and results are generated within three hours,” Khairnar had said in May.
The method is non-invasive and simple enough for a patient to collect his/her own sample for testing. A simple collection tube filled with a saline solution is used. The patient gargles with the solution and rinses it inside the tube. The sample is then taken to a laboratory where it is kept at room temperature in a special buffer solution prepared by NEERI. An RNA template is produced when this solution is heated, which is further processed for RT-PCR test.
“This particular method of collecting and processing the sample enables us to save on the otherwise costly infrastructural requirement of RNA extraction. People can also test themselves, since this method allows self-sampling. The method is environment-friendly as well, since waste generation is minimised,” Khairnar had said.
The team is hopeful that this innovative testing will be especially beneficial for people living in remote areas that are hard to reach.
Experts have welcomed the development, but they also fear that monitoring self-sampling will be a challenge.
“What the sensitivity levels of this kind of technology will be remains to be seen as we know with both nasal and oral samples together we get sensitivity levels of close to 70%. Also, a lot will depend on the conscience of the people when the onus of providing test samples lies on them. Monitoring whether the sampling is done as per the rules can be difficult,” said Dr Navin Dang, founder and chairman, Dr Dangs Lab, which was one of the first laboratories to be approved for Covid-19 testing in the country last year.