- IIT Kharagpur developed COVIRAP, a machine to diagnose COVID-19.
- IIT Foundation, US, is funded to meet different expenses in the clinical testing phase.
- ICMR-NICED has declared the test to be remarkably user-friendly.
THD NewsDesk, Kharagpur: Researchers from IIT Kharagpur developed COVIRAP, a machine to diagnose COVID-19. It has been approved for its efficiency in COVID-19 diagnosis by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) after being analyzed under ICMR guidelines at ICMR-National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED).
COVIRAP, developed by a team led by Prof Suman Chakraborty, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Kharagpur, and Dr. Arindam Mondal, Assistant Professor, School of Bio-Science, IIT Kharagpur. It has been invented for easy handling, economical and delivers results within an hour. It is used in an ultra-low-cost compact device unit. The test results are submitted by a custom-made mobile application, without demanding any manual interpretation.
Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Minister of Education, Government of India, Praised the IIT Kharagpur researchers and stated, “I am glad the researchers from IIT Kharagpur have achieved the goal of Atmanirbhar Bharat through this medical technology innovation. This would impact the lives of many in rural India as the device is portable and can be operated on a very low energy supply. Minimally trained rural youth can operate this device.”
He further commented on the nominal rates of the test, “This innovation has made high-quality and accurate COVID testing affordable for the common people with a testing cost of around ₹500/- which can further be reduced through government intervention. As informed by IIT Kharagpur, this machine can be developed at the cost of less than ₹10,000/- with minimal infrastructural requirement making the technology affordable to common people. The testing process in this new machine is completed within one hour. I congratulate Prof V K Tewari, Director, IIT Kharagpur, and the research team led by Prof Suman Chakraborty and Dr. Arindam Mondal for this path-breaking innovation taking molecular diagnostics from high-end labs to the field.”
The Institute provided the funding in late April 2020. Prof Tewari was determined to build a sturdy fund to help COVID-19 associated research and product development according to the initiative by the Ministry of Education, Government of India. He comprehended the vision of Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.
Prof Tewari stated, “This is indeed one of the greatest contributions in the history of medical science, particularly in the area of virology, and is well set to replace PCR-based tests to a large extent.”
Prof Tewari spoke about the commercialization of COVIRAP, “While the Institute can produce the testing kit up to a certain scale, patent licensing will facilitate commercialization opportunities for medical technology companies. Any corporate or start-up can approach the Institute for technology licensing and commercial scale of production. The Institute is open to tie-ups, with due measures of protecting the interest of public health amidst the pandemic situation.”
IIT Foundation, US, subsequently funded to meet different expenses in the clinical testing phase. The Common Research and Technology Development Hub on Affordable Healthcare partially financed the project. It is established by, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Government of India, at IIT Kharagpur.
Dr. Mamta Chawla Sarkar elaborated on the validation process of COVIRAP. She is an esteemed virologist who analyzed the patient trials for ICMR-NICED. She stated, “A detailed scrutiny of the testing results has clearly shown that this assay holds the capability of detecting extremely low levels of viral loads that any other method based on similar principles of testing, even those from the most celebrated research groups across the world, could not come up with so far. In practice, this means that very early stages of infection can be detected, thereby isolating the patient and arresting the uncontrolled spread of infection in the community via asymptomatic patients.”
Dr. Shanta Dutta, Director, ICMR-NICED stated, “While overseeing the testing and validation, I was very impressed with the portable, low-cost machine unit that can truly be a game-changer for COVID-19 diagnostics at peripheral laboratories with the support of unskilled human resources as operators. This now needs a rapid commercial scale-up to cater to the needs of the underserved population. ICMR-NICED will be pleased to facilitate support for further improvisations in the method towards even superior performance.”
Prof Suman Chakraborty, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering Department, IIT Kharagpur, elaborated on the test, “The patented machine unit has not only been proven to be robust during patient sample testing but also extremely flexible and generic. This means that other than COVID-19 testing, many other tests, falling under the category of ‘isothermal nucleic acid-based tests’ (INAT), can be performed in the same machine. In other words, influenza, malaria, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, tuberculosis, and many other infectious and vector-borne diseases can be tested using the same machine. This will virtually minimize the need for thermal cyclers or real-time PCR machines, without sacrificing the expected high standards of a molecular diagnostic test.”
Dr. Arindam Mondal, Assistant Professor, School of Biosciences, IIT Kharagpur, stated, “During the testing phase of patient samples, all kits, exclusively developed at IIT Kharagpur, were transported in an uncontrolled environment for hours to the testing unit, which shows high levels of stability of the reagents that are being used for the testing.”
Prof Suman Chakraborty stated, “Today, it is COVID-19; yesterday, it was leprosy and tuberculosis; tomorrow, it will be something else. This technology is set to create a revolution in rapid and low-cost detection of all these by bringing high-end molecular diagnostics from the lab to the field. The impact of this, therefore, is long-lasting, empowered by the capability of detecting unforeseen pandemics in the coming years that may potentially endanger human lives time and again.”
The tests revealed that these new trials’ results are of standards corresponding to the famous RT-PCR tests, with an exceptionally high level of potency and responsiveness. It meets the two standard measures employed as signs of efficiency of any diagnostic test.
ICMR-NICED has declared the test to be remarkably user-friendly. Prominently, the number of trials can be expanded in a one-hour group in a single machine unit to a higher number for diagnosing on a mass scale.