By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, March 31
Just two weeks after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) allowed private labs to test for coronavirus, a Pune based woman virologist, has become the first researcher in the country to design result oriented kit, available at much cheaper rates.
In what may go down as a crucial benchmark in India’s fight against the “Covid-19” virus, the woman- Minal Dakhave-Bhosale, working as the research and development chief of a private bio tech company-”Mylab Discovery Solutions”, has developed the coronavirus testing kit titled “Patho Detect” within 6 weeks. According to experts, high scale testing is essential because it alone can ensure an early diagnosis of “Covid-19” and lower down the fatalities.
“Patho Detect” approved by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), will reduce the time taken for delivering a result to 2.5 hours from the prevalent practice of eight hours. The test kit will cost Rs 1,200, a quarter of Rs 4,500 per kit that the government has been spending on testing so far.
Bhosale, began work on the programme in February, days after leaving hospital with pregnancy complications and developed the kit, just a few days before her delivery. She submitted the kit to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune for evaluation on 18 March 2020. Later in the day, she submitted the proposal to FDA and the CDSCO, an hour before she herself was taken to the hospital to give birth to her daughter. The hard work paid off. “If you carry out 10 tests on the same sample, all 10 results should be the same…Our kit is perfect”, she said.
She said both the journeys – that happened in parallel – were not without challenges. There were complications in the pregnancy while work on the test kit was on. The baby was delivered through caesarean. “I felt that it was the right time to serve the people to help them in combating the coronavirus threat”.
“Mylab”, sent its kits to 150 diagnostic centres in Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, Goa, and Bengaluru and it is confident of ramping up the capacity at its plant in Lonavala (Pune district) to deliver one lakh kits a week.
With just 6.8 tests per million, one of the lowest rates in the world, India has been criticized for not testing enough. In the days following ICMR’s announcement, the Union government approved the sale of 18 diagnostic kits by private companies last week. The union government also approved 12 antibody rapid tests, known as a serological test. The antibody rapid test employs a different method than the usual RT-PCR test to diagnose Covid-19. It aims to determine even whether a person had been exposed to the virus earlier. The Government labs are also using RT-PCR probes, which are crucial in the detection of SARS-CoV-2 genome, that have been procured from the U.S.
Bhosale’s story became an inspiration to many, including industrialist Anand Mahindra, who earlier announced that his company would be manufacturing ventilators and converting Mahindra resorts into care facilities to fight against the “Covid 19” outbreak. “Ms Bhosale, you delivered not just the test kit and your baby, but you also delivered a ray of hope to the country. We stand and salute you…,” he tweeted.