‘Only Rs 500 per test’: Kolkata firm develops low-cost indigenous Covid kit

KOLKATA: A Kolkata based biotech firm has developed an indigenous corona test kit which costs only Rs 500 for a single test,. The test kit includes a one-step QRT PCR Master Mix primer-probe as well as RNA template each of which has been locally developed at the laboratory of the company located on the southern outskirts of Kolkata.

Describing the latest development as a ‘real-time’ kit, Raja Majumdar, the managing director of GCC Biotech, a start-up, said it can detect a single-day infection and takes only 95 minutes to give the result.

Despite the Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) that visited Bengal and stayed two weeks to conduct ground reality study in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak accused the state government of conducting least number of tests, the Bengal government is yet to collaborate with the company which has already started supplying to neighbouring states like Odisha and Assam.

“It is totally indigenous because it contains all reagents produced by us. We are not importing anything. Everything has been produced by our team,” said Majumdar.

Majumdar said his company had the advantage of producing the reagents that have been used in the indigenous Covid test kit. “We have been supplying these reagents to a host of top research bodies across the country. With our existing capacity, we are in a position to manufacture one crore tests per month,” he said.

According to ICMR guidelines, the cost of a single Covid test in a private lab cannot exceed Rs 4,500. “Our product costs one-ninth of it that is Rs 500 only,” Majumdar said adding, “Even if a person with very low viral load and just a single day exposure to the infection, the kit will pick up signals. The kit will not need an incubation period.”

While communicating with the Bengal government, both the IMCT and the Ministry of Home Affairs pointed out the low-test issue in the state against its total population.

Bengal, the fourth populous state in the country, recorded 30,141 tests since the outbreak of the coronavirus infection. The state presently has a population of more than 11 crore.

Bengal home secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay said 2570 tests had been conducted in part 24 hours which was highest in a single day.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and top functionaries of the state government, including chief secretary Rajiva Sinha, have accused the central government on several occasions of not supplying enough kits for tests. The state government also accused the ICMR of supplying 10,000 faulty kits which were returned to the nodal body.