Pregnant to a full term, virologist Minal Dakhave Bhosale was fighting two deadlines- one was her baby’s due date and the other one was to develop a working test kit for Covid-19 which could detect the coronavirus in just two and a half hours instead of the six-seven hours by imported kits. Yes, Minal, the Pune based Mylab’s research and development chief, headed the team of 10 that designed the coronavirus testing kit called Patho Detect in a record time of six weeks instead of three or four months.
“Our kit gives the diagnosis in two and a half hours while the imported testing kits take six-seven hours,” said Minal to the media. “It was an emergency, so I took this on as a challenge. I have to serve my nation”.
Minal was just out of the hospital following pregnancy complications when she started working on the test kit. She gave birth to a baby girl just one day after delivering the perfected test kit for evaluation by the National Institute of Virology.
It was just hours ahead of her Caesarean that she submitted the proposal to the Indian FDA and the drugs control authority CDSCO for commercial approval. The accuracy of the testing kits was of utmost importance because the results had to be accurate every time a test was conducted on the same sample. Hence the team had to recheck the parameters over and over again to make sure there was no scope for mistakes. If 10 tests were carried out on the same sample, all 10 results had to be the same. And their kit perfected it.
“We were running against time,” said Dr. Gautam Wankhede, Mylab’s director for medical affairs, to the media. “Our reputation was at stake, we had to get everything right on the first go, and Minal was leading our efforts from the front.”
Mylab Discovery Solutions is working through the weekends and can supply up to 100,000 Covid-19 testing kits a week and can produce up to 200,000 if needed. Each kit can test 100 samples and costs 1,200 rupees, a quarter of what India pays to import Covid-19 testing kits from abroad.
India is being criticized for its low testing rate and this may mean that testing facilities can be made affordable and readily available to more people in the country.