Made in India virus kits boost testing, and local industry

Made in India virus kits boost testing, and local industry


NEW DELHI (AP) — As the first wave of the pandemic began to take hold in India, Sanchi Jawa and her 59-year-old father, Harish Jawa, realized that they had the symptoms of a COVID-19 infection. They decided to isolate and get tested — but this was no easy task during the spring of 2020.

The father and daughter had to make multiple calls to several private labs in the capital of New Delhi before they could arrange for the gold standard in COVID-19 testing — a real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction test, or RT-PCR.

It cost nearly $70 per test. A price Sanchi, 29, a digital marketer, and her father, a successful business owner, could afford but was out of reach for the majority of Indians, who have a per capita income of less than $160 per month, according to the World Bank.

“It (RT-PCR tests) should be accessible to the common man, and everybody should be able to get it done,” Sanchi said.

Over a year later, most Indians can access PCR tests at a fraction of the cost — due to a large-scale public-private partnership, known as InDx, that set up the local know-how and infrastructure to manufacture these tests within India.

Soon after the pandemic broke out, India's government, with funding from The Rockefeller Foundation, tasked the country’s most advanced bioscience innovation hub — the publicly funded Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms, or C-CAMP — with quickly finding a way to locally produce virus test kits.

But that was not a simple task as most components of the RT-PCR test — including the mixers required to analyze samples — were not manufactured in India and had to be imported from China and South Korea, driving the price up.

With global trade almost at a standstill, and huge demand for test kits from the U.S. and U.K., delivery was...

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