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Focussing on four technologies as it awaits ICMR nod for dry swab testing

While CSIR-Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB)’s revolutionary proposal of testing dry swabs collected from COVID-19 patients as a faster, cheaper alternative to RT-qPCR test awaits Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) approval, it has been focusing on four more exciting technologies, said director Rakesh Mishra.

Of those, Next Generation Sequencing (NGS)-based diagnostics is currently being standardised in Telangana and Karnataka which can handle 20,000-50,000 samples in one go. “It can be used effectively for high surveillance where 1,000 samples each can be collected, tagged and pooled into a tube. Similar number of samples can be collected from 20-50 different collection centres and brought to the NGS centres. These can be processed and barcoded before sequencing in one run. When done at such a large scale, it will not cost more than ₹200 per test and each NGS centre can test up to 1 lakh samples in 48 hours,” he said.

Second project is about anti-body detection in blood through a traditional scientific method called ‘biolayer interferometry’ used in labs for protein testing and this is being tried out for COVID sero-surveillance with a target cost of ₹50 per test and up to 200 samples done in one hour by one technician. “We are validating the process and trying to scale up”, he said.

Rapid antigen tests

Third project is with the Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad (IIT-H) where rapid antigen testing can be done for a large number of samples within half hour using nanotechnology for a price of about ₹250-350 with zero chance of cross-contamination.

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