CSIR-CDRI scientists develop indigenous RT-PCR kit ‘Om’ for Omicron variant

Under the Government initiative to make India self-reliant in RT-PCR diagnostics, CDRI developed an indigenous RT-PCR diagnostic kit

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Image: CDRI Team of researchers: Dr. Atul Goel, Dr. Niti Kumar, Dr. Ashish Arora, Ms. Surbhi Mundra, Ms. Varsha Kumari, Mr. Kundan Singh Rawat, Ms. Priyanka Pandey.
New Delhi: As the Corona virus continues to mutate, it becomes challenging to diagnose and treat different variants of concern. Some like the Omicron, though milder in symptoms and fatality, is a super spreader and is propagating like wild fire across the world.
Currently, detection of this variant depends upon tests like the S-gene drop out or by NGS (Nextgen sequencing) of the whole viral genome. Whereas the S-gene drop out method is not specific to pinpoint the type of variant and the NGS (Nextgen sequencing) method has its limitations in terms of expense, turnaround and the number of centres which can provide such service.
CSIR-CDRI Director, Prof. Tapas K. Kundu informed that the current upsurge in Covid infections indicates variants of SARS-CoV-2 virus circulating in Indian population. So far most of the RT-PCR based diagnostic kits do not confirm whether Covid infection is caused by the highly mutated Omicron variant. The scientific team comprising Dr. Atul Goel, Dr. Ashish Arora and Dr. Niti Kumar at CSIR-CDRI, Lucknow along with our industry partner Biotech Desk Pvt. Ltd., Hyderabad have successfully developed the indigenous RTPCR Kit INDICoV-OmTM for specific detection of the Omicron variant. In the entire world our kit is one of the very few specific kit for detecting Omicron.
Dr. Atul Goel, team leader said that with the joint efforts of Dr. Ashish Arora and Dr. Niti Kumar we have developed an indigenous diagnostic kit for direct detection of Omicron variant in patient samples. This CDRI’s primer probe kit has been tested and validated by Prof. Amita Jain in number of Covid positive patient samples at King George Medical University Lucknow.
This provides an advantage of a quick and a cost-effective detection of Omicron variant over genome sequencing for a large population. Further, this indigenous technology can be aligned for detection of other emerging variants of COVID infection and other respiratory infections. Dr Goel further mentioned that our indigenous fluorescent dyes and quencher technology will help us to become self-reliant in the development of RTPCR based detection kits for emerging infections in future.
Dr. Shradha Goenka, Managing Director Biotech Desk Pvt. Ltd., Hyderabad informed that since this wave is happening now and there is not much time, it is quite an uphill task to be able to deliver to the market a detection kit which shall make this specific detection within the reach of the common man. However, since we have been in the supply business for long, it has been possible for us to source all components of the kit in record time so that we can roll out our kit, the INDICoV-OmTM by mid-February. We are now working on regulatory approvals and the assembly of the kit, and keep our fingers crossed for an early release.
Prof. Kundu, Director CSIR-CDRI further informed that at present CDRI is gaining sufficient expertise in the antiviral research for therapeutics and diagnostics to combat any kind of viral infections. The team lead by Dr Atul Goel is fully prepared for the detection of broad spectrum and specific pathogenic viral infection. This kit for SARS-Cov-2 omicron diagnosis has been submitted to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for independent validation and should be available for the people of India. We are delighted to serve the nation.