THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At a time when the central and state governments are on their toes to make available Covid-19 testing kits in large numbers, the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) here has initiated steps to develop cost-effective diagnostic test kits.
The plan is to develop a cheaper version of the kit. Currently, a single test costs around `2,500 to `4,500. However, the lockdown has come as a huge blow to the centre’s research activities. The RGCB is optimistic of getting their kits validated within three to four months. An RGCB official said a Pune-based company has developed the Covid-19 diagnostic test kit recently approved by the Drugs Controller of India and the National Institute of Virology. “But that particular kit is also expensive,” the official told TNIE.
“Our team has already started working on a cheaper version. Because of the lockdown, our researchers are unable to come to the institute. We will be able to develop the kit within two to three weeks.”With most countries shutting down airports, bringing in certain individual components required for manufacturing the kits presents a huge challenge. “We import some essential components from Germany. But the global shutdown has caused a crisis,” the official said.
Although they are capable of developing test kits for research purposes, the current requirement is different given the larger scale. “It will be a challenge to ensure a steady supply of these components on a large scale for mass production of the kits. Once the lockdown is lifted, we will be able to work in full swing,” the official added. For research purposes, the centre has tied up with private hospitals to get samples of pneumonia patients with no travel history.
“We have now requested the government to allow screening of patients at government hospitals too for the purpose,” said the official. RGCB is among the diagnostic labs roped in by the state government to carry out Covid-19 testing. The centre claims to have the capacity to conduct around 500 coronavirus tests per day.
“We received only a single batch of testing kits from the Indian Council for Medical Research,” the official said.
“We are unable to mobilise more because of the lockdown. Within a week or so, we will be able to do more tests. On Saturday, we did around 100 samples. We have been asked to test Covid-19 samples from Ernakulam and Kollam.”