A two-year old Pune-based start-up, funded by the Department of Science & Technology (DST), has developed rapid diagnostic kits for screening of COVID-19, an official said here on Wednesday.
Founded in 2018 by doctor Preeti N. Joshi, FastSense Diagnostics is currently developing two modules for detecting Covid-19 as the pandemic grips Maharashtra in a big way.
"The major challenges of testing for COVID-19 are speed, cost, accuracy and accessibility at the point-of-care or use. Several startups have developed rather creative and innovative ways to address these needs. DST is supporting the most promising of these to facilitate their development to the commercialisation chain if found suitable on the technical grounds," said DST Secretary, Prof Ashutosh Sharma, in a statement.
In the lines of their existing universal platform "Omni-Sens" for early detection and screening of complex diseases i.e. cancers, liver ailments and neonatal sepsis, the company has proposed a technology CovE-Sens specifically for Covid-19.
A patent has been filed for CovE-Sens which would provide a rapid, point of care detection along with screening and confirmatory test as well with ease of operation.
The company plans to roll out two products -- a modified polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based detection kit for confirmatory analysis in lesser time compared to existing detection methods (approximately 50 samples can be tested in an hour) and a portable chip based module for rapid screening of target population based on the on-chip sensing technology that would provide results on-the-spot in less than 15 minutes per sample.
The sample size for confirmatory tests can also be increased in the future to 100 samples per hour, Sharma added.
The point-of-care detection kits of FastSense Diagnostics that can provide on the spot detection rapidly and without highly trained technicians, are expected to boost India's testing efforts in the fight against Covid-19.
The two proposed modules can be deployed at any real locations and hotspots like airports, densely populated areas and hospitals where screening of population can be done to prevent corona spread to healthy individuals and data can be generated with ease in less than an hour.
The FastSense Diagnostics is also working on the cost to make it more affordable, the DST head said.
The team is also planning to collaborate with National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune for which the formal approval is under process for performance evaluation and they are in touch with existing market players for scaling up and large-scale deployment of the device.
The team working on this comprises experts in virology, molecular biology and bioinstrumentation that can deliver the prototype in eight to 10 weeks, and the company has in-house facilities to scale up the production.
Besides, preventing further spread of the disease during the current pandemic, the portable rapid diagnostics kit can also prevent future relapse by regular monitoring, Sharma pointed out.
It also plans to collaborate with the National Institute of Virology (NIV) for which the formal approval is under process for performance evaluation, and they are also in touch with existing market players for scaling up and large-scale deployment of the device.
The low cost and ease of operation can make help reach out to the rural population and prevent overloading of urban health infrastructure.