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Feluda, the cheaper CRISPR based Covid test launched by Tata group

Tata Medical and Diagnostics Ltd. (TataMD), the healthcare venture of the Tata Group, on Monday announced the launch of ‘TataMD’s CHECK’, which is the gene-editing technology CRISPR based test for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) developed by the researchers from the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology.

“It is the world’s first CRISPR Cas-9 based diagnostic tool to be launched globally. Within a short span of 100 days from licensing the technology to its commercial launch, intense collaboration between the CSIR-IGIB team, other reputed scientific research bodies and the Tata MD R&D team helped develop, a compelling end-to-end diagnostic solution that will set the new standard in testing..,” said TataMD in a statement.

A CRISPR-based Covid-19 test called ‘Sherlock’ has emergency use authorisation by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The test uses Cas-13 (CRISPR associated protein) for detecting the virus instead of Cas-9 used by the Indian kit.

The FELUDA test barcodes the Cas-9 protein to interact with the genetic material of Sars-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. This complex of Cas-9 and CoV2 is then applied on a paper-strip test, which gives the result in the form of two lines for a positive and a single line for a negative just like the home pregnancy test.

TataMD CHECK has been approved by Indian Council of Medical Research and Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) and will be available through diagnostic centers and hospitals across India shortly.

The test will be quicker and more cost-effective than the gold standard RT-PCR test. And, it uses a readily-available machine called thermocycler, which will help in scaling up testing. It was named after the fictional Bengali detective Feluda who stars in a series of novels by filmmaker Satyajit Ray and is an acronym for FNCAS9 Editor Linked Uniform Detection Assay.

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“Finally, massive efforts by @AnuragAgrawalMD @souvik_csir @IGIBSocial @CSIR_IND and the whole FELUDA team. Work has only begun though, testing has to become more simplified, more POC (point-of-care), more affordable in the coming months. We’re at it,” tweeted Debojyoti Chakraborty, one of the researchers who developed the test from Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) laboratory Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB).

Tata Group said the paper strip-based simple test will deliver results in 45 to 50 minutes, as compared to five or six hours needed for a traditional RT PCR test. “The test is traceable, transparent, and trusted, with digital quality control and AI-based result reporting tool,” the post said.

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Girish Krishnamurthy, CEO, Tata Medical and Diagnostics said, “Tata MD aims to be a trusted, long term partner and help shape the evolution of the healthcare industry towards building a more inclusive and integrated patient-centric model. With TataMD CHECK, we are committed to significantly enhance the testing experience of the consumers as well as work with laboratories and hospitals to ensure wider availability and easier access to testing.”

TataMD Check test kits will be manufactured at a quality-controlled production facility near Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The production plant presently has a capacity of producing 1 million kits in a month. TataMD is also tying up with leading diagnostic chains, hospitals, healthcare centres to enhance the adoption of these tests apart from partnering with Government agencies, according to the company statement.

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