SCTIMST develops Covid-19 detection RT-PCR kit; gives results in 2 hours

SCTIMST RT-PCR kit technology transferred to Huwel Lifesciences for commercialization

The Covid-19 pandemic had thrown up challenges to the healthcare industry much more than expected. However, the Thiruvananthapuram-based Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) seems to have made it a habit to bring to the fore a variety of innovations that have already provided a boost to the healthcare capabilities of the nation. 

The SCTIMST, an autonomous institute functioning under the Department of Science and Technology, has also ensured that it tied up with industry partners to catch the fast track mode for commercialization for its unique innovations.

The latest in its bouquet of innovations is a multiplex RT-PCR kit for Covid-19 detection. A SCTIMST source said that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has validated this novel RT-PCR kit at the National Institute of Virology, Pune, and found it satisfactory. As per the validation, the kit boasts 97.3 percent sensitivity and 10 percent specificity in Covid-19 detection.

SCTIMST signs tech transfer deal with Huwel Lifesciences

This apart, the SCTIMST also inked a technology transfer agreement with Huwel Lifesciences, Hyderabad. Huwel Lifesciences is among the major Indian companies with a 5 percent share in India’s Covid RT-PCR kit market. The company has facilities to produce the enzymes and primers in-house. Availing the technology from SCTIMST will help the company expand the targets of Covid genes for accurate detection. Huwel is now ready to release the product commercially, the source added.

The kit developed by SCTIMST targets two SARS CoV2 genes: RdRp and ORFb-nsp14, and the human RNAse P gene as the internal control. The equipment is based on multiplex Taqman chemistry, amplifying all three genes in a single reaction. The amplification time for the assay is 45 minutes, besides the time required for the RNA isolation from nasopharyngeal swab samples, SCTIMST said.  

According to a document provided by the institute, studies have shown that RdRp and ORF1b-nsp14 genes are more sensitive in detecting Covid-19. Because the pandemic is going through a second wave, there is a significant concern about various mutant strains. Using two highly accurate confirmatory genes like RdRp and ORF-nsp14 will give precise results. 

Further, the ORF-nsp14 is one of the most minor mutated genes in Covid19. This is one of the first kits in the market to have the ORF-nsp14 gene as the target in an RT-PCR kit, it added. 

SCTIMST RT-PCR kit can be used to get results in 2 hours

The significance of the new RT-PCR kit is that it gives the test results within two hours. All the mutant strains like Delta, Delta Plus can be identified with high predictive values.  

The product development initiated by Dr. Anoopkumar Thekkuveettil and his team is the second from the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute that aids Covid-19 detection. The institute has been developing indigenous biomedical devices and transferring them to industry partners for commercialization. The first one was the Chitra Magna RNA isolation kit, which is already on the market. 

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