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SCTIMST unveils cost-effective kit to test coronavirus 

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The kit uses an innovative technology for isolating RNA using magnetic nanoparticles to capture the RNA from the patient sample

A magnetic nanoparticle-based RNA extraction kit for use during tests for detection of COVID-19 was unveiled in Thiruvananthapuram.

Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) announced the commercial launch of Agappe Chitra Magna, the RNA extraction kit.

The kit uses an innovative technology for isolating RNA using magnetic nanoparticles to capture the RNA from the patient sample,a press release issued by SCTIMST said.

The magnetic nanoparticle beads bind to the viral RNA and, when exposed to a magnetic field, give a highly purified and concentrated RNA, it said.

As the sensitivity of the detection method is dependent on getting an adequate quantity of viral RNA, this innovation enhances the chances of identifying positive cases.

The launch of the kit was announced through video conference by NITI Aayog member and President of Institute body of SCTIMST Dr VK Saraswat at an event which was attended online by the secretary of the Department of Science and Technology professor Ashutosh Sharma.

The kit was developed by SCTIMST, Trivandrum, an Institute of National Importance of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) along with Agappe Diagnostics, an in-vitro diagnostics manufacturing company based in Kochi.

Saraswat said it was a major step to make India self- reliant in detecting COVID-19.

“This can help increase the rate of testing and bring its costs down, a crucial step for combating the pandemic. It can also be an example of rapid commercialisation and implementation of a state-of-the-art technology for the world to emulate,” he said.

The RNA extraction kit, developed under the leadership of senior scientist Dr Anoop Kumar Thekkuveettil, was transferred to Agappe Diagnostics in April 2020, and would now be available in the market as the Agappe Chitra Magna RNA Isolation Kit.

“The molecular medicine division headed by senior scientist Dr Anoop Kumar has been working on such diagnostic platforms and we are excited at the prospect of having developed the magnetic nanotechnology-based RNA extraction technology that will reduce our import dependence and facilitate cost-effective confirmatory testing of COVID-19,” Dr Asha Kishore, Director, SCTIMST said.

Kishore said it was estimated that India would require about eight lakh RNA extraction kits per month during the next six months, and Agappe Chitra Magna RNA Isolation Kit priced around Rs 150 is expected to reduce the cost of testing and the country’s dependence on imported kits which cost around Rs 300.

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