As India prepares to relax curbs around movement and manufacturing and ease the Covid-19 lockown, Tata Sons is gearing up to commercially produce an indigenously developed rapid testing kit using a cutting edge technology that can be useful for mass testing. Developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) scientists and named after the famous Bengali fictional sleuth 'Feluda', the kit is going to be ready for use on ground by the end of this month.
The Feluda test strip, basically a paper based test strip, has been developed by a team led by two Bengali scientists. Souvik Maiti and Dr Debojyoti Chakraborty, at the CSIR's Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) in New Delhi.
It is like a pregancy test strip and no specialised skill is required to carry out the test. At present, the cost of RT-PCR test is capped at Rs 4500 per test. It has to be conducted in a laboratory using expensive machinery, reagents and RNA extraction kits. In contrast, reports suggest that the Feluda test could cost as low as Rs 500 per test and due to the ease of use, it can be also scaled up easily, thus making it a useful tool for large-scale testing.
India is testing less than one person per 1,000 people (0.76 to be precise).
The government said on Tuesday that CSIR-IGIB and Tata Sons have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for licensing the know-how related to development of the Feluda test kit. In its statement, the Ministry of Science and Technology noted that the test has been indigenously developed for mitigating the ongoing Covid19 situation and cater to mass testing.
"Its main advantages are its affordability, relative ease of use and non-dependency on expensive Q-PCR machines," the statement read. The license will include knowledge transfer for scaling up the kit production that can be used on ground as early as May-end. Tata Sons will now work on commercialising this technology.
Feluda, named after Satyajit Ray's popular fictional detective character, is an acronym for FNCAS9 Editor Linked Uniform Detection Assay. CSIR IGIB and TATA Sons will now work together to bring it for widespread use at the earliest, the press statement said.
Banmali Agrawala, president, infrastructure and defence & aerospace, Tata Sons said "We are happy to enter into a partnership with IGIB of CSIR for further development and commercialisation of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) based technology for COVID-19 detection."
This innovative 'Feluda’ test uses CRISPR technology for detection of genomic sequence of novel coronavirus. "It uses a test protocol that is simple to administer and easy to interpret enabling results to be made available to the medical fraternity in relatively lesser time, as compared to other test protocols. We believe that CRISPR is futuristic technology that can also be configured for detection of multiple other pathogens in the future," Agrawala added.
Director general of CSIR Shekhar C Mande said that the partnership with industry is part of CSIR's strategy in mitigation of Covid-19. The technology was conceived and developed at CSIR-IGIB under sickle cell mission.