ICMR nod for IIT Kharagpur’s Covid-19 diagnostic device

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on October 21, 2020

At ₹500, COVIRAP test is inexpensive but comparable with RT-PCR results

A novel portable rapid diagnostic device that can detect Covid-19 infections within one hour and at a fraction of the cost of existing diagnostic tests, developed by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, has been approved for commercial use by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

The novel diagnostic platform, called COVIRAP, developed by IIT Kharagpur researchers led by Suman Chakraborty, a professor of mechanical engineering and and Arindam Mondal, an assistant professor at School of Bio-Science, was subjected to rigorous testing protocols at ICMR-National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (ICMR-NICED) at Kolkata as per ICMR guidelines.

The tests revealed that results from this new assay are comparable to the gold standard RT-PCR tests.

Cheap and efficient

According to its developers, who have already applied for a patent for the contraption, each Covid test using COVIRAP could cost as little as ₹500 as compared to existing tests that cost thousands of rupees.

The device tests whether a person is infected by the virus, or not, by looking for fragments of RNA unique to the virus in the swabs taken from patients. The device is expected to cost ₹10,000 apiece.

The test results are made available through a custom-made mobile App without requiring manual interpretation.

IIT Kharagpur Director VK Tewari said any corporate house or start-up is welcome to approach the institute for technology licensing and commercial scale of production.

“While the Institute can produce the testing kit up to a certain scale, patent licensing will facilitate commercialisation opportunities for medical technology companies… The institute is open to tie-ups, with due measures of protecting the interest of public health amidst the pandemic situation,” Tewari said in a statement.

Elaborating on the validation process, Mamta Chawla Sarkar, ICMR-NICED virologist, who oversaw the patient trials said this assay as the capability to detect extremely low levels of viral loads.

In practice, this would mean that very early stages of infection can be detected. If the patient is isolated early, an uncontrolled spread of the infection in the community could be arrested.

Chakraborty, who together with Mondal developed the technology said, the device has not only been proven to be robust during patient sample testing but also extremely flexible and generic.

As a result, this could be used not just for Covid-19 testing, but also for many other diagnostic tests, falling under the category of ‘isothermal nucleic acid-based tests’ (INAT), for diseases including influenza, malaria, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, and tuberculosis.

Published on October 21, 2020

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