Kerala-based TCM Ltd rolls out first batch of RT-PCR test kits for COVID-19

"In a week’s time (we) will produce 500 kits per day which are good for 50,000 tests per day,” said Joseph Varghese, managing director, TCM Ltd

Published: 21st October 2020 05:11 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st October 2020 05:11 PM   |  A+A-

'Covi-DetecT' is the only Real-Time PCR based COVID test kit manufactured in Kerala

By Express News Service

KOCHI: Kochi-based TCM Ltd, a chemicals manufacturer till recently, which was originally founded by Nobel laureate C V Raman back in 1943, on Wednesday said it has rolled out COVID-19 test kits based on technology developed by IIT Delhi.

TCM Ltd is among the six companies chosen by IIT Delhi nationwide to manufacture the much-awaited COVID test kits.

Announcing this here in Kochi, Joseph Varghese, managing director, TCM Ltd, said 'Covi-DetecT' has thus become the first and only Real-Time PCR based COVID test kit manufactured in Kerala and will take the region’s fight against the dreaded disease a long way.

“Our fully equipped unit in Kinfra Biotechnology and Industrial Zone in Kochi has already reached capacity for 10,000 tests per day and in a week’s time will produce 500 kits per day which are good for 50,000 tests per day,” he was quoted in a release issued here.

He also said that currently, Kerala is fully dependent on supplies from other states for COVID tests, which normally take a minimum of 48 to 72 hours, sometimes even more time to reach the state through a dry-ice packed journey.

“In such cases, chances of quality deterioration are comparatively higher as against our capability to deliver the Kerala-made kits within 4-5 hours anywhere across the state. COVID-19 (RT-PCR) test kits are to be kept under minus 20° Celsius at all times and any variation will affect quality. Also, local labs do not need to stock the test kits in big quantities now, as they are made and available within their close proximity. And of course, there will be price advantages too,” he said.

Presently, the number of Covid tests done in the state hovers around 40 to 50,000 and the national average is over 1 million tests per day. “With costs coming down, we could increase the number of tests and reach out to all the nooks and corners of the country. The aim should be to increase the number of tests done at government laboratories and hospitals with an affordable cost and maximum reachability. We are ready to sell “Covi-DetecT” to the government at near-cost prices and join the bandwagon to fight the dreaded disease,” Varghese said.

Manju Abraham, chief scientific officer, TCM Healthcare Pvt Ltd, a fully-owned subsidiary of TCM Ltd, said the RT-PCR assay developed by IIT-Delhi is by far the surest method available in India as it identifies the presence of the virus by analyzing the RNA coding for spike glycoprotein, which is a protein expressed on the viral surface.

Normally, like all viruses, novel coronavirus also undergoes quick mutations and undergoes genomic alterations and thus may get unidentified. IIT-Delhi has chosen the region of identification by in-silico studies by analysing the genomic sequences of the coronaviruses and has chosen the region that is highly conserved, therefore the chances of mutation in this region are infinitesimally small, and thus ensures that there will not be any false-negative cases.

"The biggest advantage of our test kit is that it also checks a human gene [GAPDH] along with the viral gene in the test and thus identifies any sample insufficiency which could have occurred due to improper sample collection, sample transport, or RNA isolation. The Real-time PCR kits largely used currently in India are not taking care of this sample insufficiency, which leads to false-negative reporting. Also, the user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI) software supplied along with the kits to the labs helps the management of data including result analysis, interpretation and segregation easier and faster. Normally, it takes hours to analyse the Real-time PCR data and with this GUI, it only takes minutes," Manju Abraham added. She also said that real-time PCR tests normally require a lot of experience and precision, but with the help of this GUI, it’s a lot easier.

Benny Joseph, country head – sales, said the IIT-D developed kits do not depend on imported fluorescent probes, resulting in the cost difference. Once demand from south Indian states is met, the company wants to expand its products nationwide.


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