Innovations in Covid-19 diagnosis reach pilot test stage

By, Mumbai
Apr 03, 2020 09:42 PM IST

The ball has started rolling for five innovations in areas of rapid diagnostic kits, assisted respiratory devices and preventives to combat the Covid-19 outbreak. Five manufacturers – CoSara Diagnostics Pvt. Ltd., Amligene Diagnostics Pvt. Ltd., Coeo Labs, Avyantra and Anabio Technologies Pvt. Ltd. – will now be connected to industry partners and government agencies for scaling up and deployment.

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Based on individual needs, deployment of each innovation will be preceded by pilot tests, fast-track regulatory clearances, corporate social responsibility (CSR) funding, investment and finally, industry scale-up.

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“These are times that remind us that India needs indigenously-developed innovations, given traditionally we have been working with global innovations. Supporting and investing in an innovative temperament over the last 10 years has led to this interesting churn in innovations for India,” said Dr Taslimarif Saiyed, chief executive officer and director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP), Bengaluru, an innovation hub for biosciences supported by various arms of the Indian government.

On March 26, a C-CAMP led initiative launched Covid-19 Innovations Deployment Accelerator (CIDA), to accelerate deployment of near-ready innovations to help control the pandemic. Till date, CIDA has received more than 450 ideas that are being reviewed for market readiness, scientific validity, feasibility and impact.

Of the five chosen innovations, CoSara Diagnostics and Ampligene Diagnostics, through the manufacture of their rapid test kits, will help ramp up mass-testing of suspected patients infected with Sars-Cov-2, which causes Covid-19. The CoSara kit – approved by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) – based on RT-PCR laboratory technique claims to produce results in two and a half hours. Ampligene’s kit, using loop-mediated isothermal amplification, needs to be qualified by the Drug Control General of India and promises results in 30 minutes.

With preventive protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks and sanitised hospital linen in short supply, Anabio Technologies, with Swiss collaboration, will manufacture a spray with anti-viral properties that can turn a mask or any normal piece of cotton into an effective virus-blocker, and therefore can be reused. The spray has the potential to be a consumer product that may be bought off-the-shelf.

“This anti-viral liquid to be sprayed on masks or soaked with cloth is important especially for those in the first line of defence to contain the spread of the virus. There is vigorous data on its efficiency from its use in Switzerland, and therefore will not need pilot tests in India,” said Saiyed. “This spray, heavily loaded with anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, has been used for sportswear over the last six to eight years to prevent infections among players.”

To address the shortage of ventilators at hospitals, Coeo Labs and Avyantra will manufacture continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, which have been approved by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat critically-ill Covid-19 patients with acute respiratory dysfunction. Current estimates suggest India has 57,000 ventilators. “At present, there is a worldwide rush for ventilators. Therefore CPAP machines can be used for those in the pre-ventilator stage for respiratory support. Additionally, CPAP machines can also be handled by any clinician and don’t need someone specially trained to put a patient on intubated support,” said Saiyed, adding that Coeo Labs, which has been manufacturing CPAP machines for premature babies over the last five years, will upgrade them to combat Covid-19.

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    Snehal Fernandes is senior assistant editor at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. She writes on science and technology, environment, sustainable development, climate change, and nuclear energy. In 2012, she was awarded ‘The Press Club Award for Excellence in Journalism’ (Political category) for reports on Goa mining scam. Prior to HT, she wrote on education and transport at the Indian Express.

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