Tata Medical and Diagnostics Ltd (TataMD) on Monday launched new diagnostic testing for COVID-19 -- claiming it to be more efficient and simpler than the existing ones -- with the ability to scale up test on a large scale across the country.
The company's test 'TataMD CHECK' has been developed in partnership with CSIR-IGIB (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology).
It has been approved by Indian Council of Medical Research and Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) and will be available through diagnostic centres and hospitals across India shortly, the company said.
To make the test available across India, the company is talking to hospital chains, diagnostic players and laboratories for partnership and it is ready with a monthly production capacity of 10 lakh units a month to start with at its Chennai factory.
"We have come to a solution which provides end-to-end testing experience. We make the testing much more efficient and reliable and scalable, that creates more access and availability. Moreover, this whole thing is developed in India," Tata Medical and Diagnostics Ltd CEO Girish Krishnamurthy told PTI.
In June, CSIR-IGIB came up with a breakthrough to detect the COVID-19 virus by gene sensing through innovation on a platform called FELUDA using the latest CRISPR technology, which is generally used for gene editing, he added.
"We partnered with IGIB lab and then worked very closely with them. Getting the whole science from the lab into a product, today we are ready for a commercial launch of the product within about 100 days. We worked very very hard to get this system," he added.
TataMD CHECK is a paper strip-based test with an image-based visual result readout. It requires standard laboratory equipment and small batches of tests can be conducted. Moreover, it has a fast reaction time of 45-50 minutes in the laboratory and the total testing time from RNA-extracted samples in the lab to result is 75 minutes only, the company said.
Also, it can "provide high quality, quick results using standard equipment and minimally trained staff allow for rapid adoption and scale with potential to reach remote locations of the country".
Elaborating on the advantages of the test, Krishnamurthy said this product does not require any complicated machine, unlike the current testing models, thereby making it easier to set it up in a lab. Besides, it also takes lesser steps as compared to the current models and hence making it less complicated and reducing inefficiencies.
Moreover, a major advantage of the company's test is that testing can be done in any denomination of sample, while the current models of testing require the test to be run in batches of a certain number of samples and bring out the results in a batch.
"Here, this test can be done in any denomination. That makes it very very efficient. From the time a sample is taken and brought to the lab, you can publish the results almost immediately," he claimed.
When asked about the company's preparedness to meet demand, he said, "Today we have created a capacity for one million per month to start with. Then we will scale it as we move along and mature it. (We are) scaling it for the need of the country because we are here to solve the problem and whatever it takes to solve the problem we will do".
The company is currently producing the testing kit in its factory in Chennai, he said.
When asked about pricing of the test, Krishnamurthy said it is currently getting standardised and regulated by the states.
"The testing pricing is done through the laboratories and diagnostics. We give the whole end-to-end testing model to the labs and diagnostics, so the pricing comes from them, but since we have a lot of efficiencies and other things we are building in, automatically it will play an impact on the pricing," he said without putting an exact number.
He further said, "We are not selling a test, we are selling a testing experience. The pricing is on the overall testing, which is done by hospitals, laboratories and diagnostic centres. We are giving a very efficient and simple test to them and that will play a role with them".
On the company's future plans, he said, "We are entering into the diagnostics space with a fantastic futuristic technology which is in line with our strategy. The TATA Medical and Diagnostics is focussing on science-based futuristic technology to address a larger problem and COVID happened to be the first problem we are trying to solve".
The similar technology has got a lot of relevance in a lot of other areas and other diseases, he said, adding "certainly we will be coming into multiple fronts for product and space. The problem here and now is COVID-19 and there is a huge demand and huge problem to be solved. That is our first focus..."
Krishnamurthy said, "The pandemic has encouraged us to reflect on the healthcare sector and our role in bridging the many gaps that exist. Our collaboration with R&D institutions will continue to be a critical part of our strategy to introduce new diagnostic technologies like CRISPR, and develop R&D-led healthcare solutions for consumers for COVID and other infectious diseases".