Equine Biotech, a startup incubated at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), has developed an indigenous RT-PCR diagnostic kit called “GlobalTM diagnostic kit” for accurate and affordable diagnosis of COVID-19.
The test kit, based on Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), the gold standard for COVID-19 diagnosis, has been approved for use in authorised COVID-19 diagnostic labs by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The test takes about 1.5 hours to confirm the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in patient samples, according to Utpal Tatu, Professor in the Department of Biochemistry, IISc, and founder of Equine Biotech.
“Our startup has been working on testing for coronavirus infections for many years, even before the COVID-19 pandemic started. This experience has helped us engineer the kit for COVID-19,” says Tatu.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected more than 30 million people and caused more than 900,000 deaths worldwide. India currently has the second highest number of reported cases, with more than five million people infected. Ramping up testing in the country is crucial for tracking and controlling the spread of this infectious disease. India needs home-grown diagnostics kits that can easily be mass produced and made accessible to a larger population. But so far, only a few Indian companies have developed reliable and accurate RT-PCR kits; most of the kits used widely are imported, and therefore expensive.
In RT-PCR, RNA ‒ the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 ‒ is transcribed into complementary DNA by a process called reverse transcription, and then amplified. The PCR reaction is monitored in real time with the help of a fluorescent DNA-binding dye. The degree of fluorescence indicates the severity of the infection.
The kit developed by Equine Biotech is an easy-to-use, multiplex RT-PCR kit with 100% specificity, and its run time is relatively short when compared with the kits available in the industry, according to its founders. The company is currently seeking to licence its new COVID-19 test kit and work with med-tech companies and other industries for mass producing, marketing and distribution of these kits.
Equine Biotech has 30 years of experience working on infectious diseases, including zoonotic diseases. The company is founded on the concept of ‘One Health’, which encompasses human as well as animal health and wellness. It has previously developed diagnostic tests for screening livestock, especially cattle and horses, for blood parasitic diseases such as trypanosomiasis, trichomoniasis, theileriosis and babesiosis.
Professor, Department of Biochemistry
Indian Institute of Science (IISc)
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