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Trials of India and Israel’s jointly developed COVID testing completes nine days of mass testing

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A crucial collaboration between DRDD, Ministry of Defence Israel and DRDO, PSA of India; coordinated by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Israel and India entered its ninth day today. The trials are a part of a collaboration involving the mass testing and collection of thousands of samples from India for the trials of new technologies for rapid, non-invasive COVID-19 testing.

According to a press release, the data collected from India will be corroborated with samples collected from Israel to find an effective diagnostic solution and help both countries in tackling the ongoing pandemic. If all goes according to plan, the rapid tests are expected to be available for mass use within a few months.

Ambassador of Israel to India, HE Ron Malka and Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Ayog visited the special testing site created at the Dr Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital to witness the ongoing trials.

Speaking on the occasion, Kant said, “I am pleased and proud to see the great advances made by Indian and Israeli scientists working together on COVID-19 Research and Development. If their cooperation produces the expected results, this will be a path breaking development for the entire world.  I see immense potential here for continuing scientific and technological cooperation, and India will provide all the necessary expertise, personnel and resources needed for this and future missions.”

Speaking on the collaboration, HE Ron Malka, Ambassador from Israel in India said, “We had offers from other countries for this collaboration but decided to go with India because we have excellent relations with the country and there have been many successful collaborations between the India and Israel in the past. Not only are we confident about the scientific and technological capabilities of India, but once the R&D stage is over, we are also looking to collaborate with India for manufacturing as they have excellent industrial infrastructure for large scale production.”

The trials began on July 28 and are being conducted under the guidance of the Israeli delegation at six locations in Delhi – Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Lok Nayak Hospital, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, the DRDO office in Rohini, Akash Hospital and Lady Hardinge Hospital. The data collected in Delhi, along with the samples previously collected in Israel, will assist in developing and validating the algorithm of the AI technologies used in the tests. Such technologies will not just be restricted to the coronavirus, but also have the potential to overcome any biological threat or pandemic of such scale in the future.

Speaking on the functionality and importance of the tests, Cdr. Yaniv Meirman, DDR&D Attache from Israel, said, “Unlike other existing COVID-19 tests, these rapid tests have the potential to open up the economies fully and make international travel and day-to-day activities possible again. A person can just take these simple, affordable tests at home and check whether he will be able to go to work or go to public places without the risk of transmission. This will be a game-changer in terms of quickly diagnosing the virus by the people themselves.”

Four different technologies are being developed for quick detection of coronavirus, and the success of even one of them of them could provide a breakthrough, globally. The first is a breath analyser that requires a person to blow through a tube, after which a high frequency scan is used to analyse the humidity in the breathe and detect the presence of the virus in less than a minute.

The second test is a thermal test which requires a saliva swab and has the potential to be purchased off the shelves and used at home itself, similar to an at-home pregnancy test. The third technology uses polyamino acids which can detect the proteins present in the virus in 45 seconds.

Lastly, an audio recording test is also being developed that can be downloaded and used as a mobile phone application. The test will detect the changes in a person’s voice to detect COVID-19 and other lung diseases. Once the technologies are validated, the aim is to make the tests accessible to the masses at low rates and achieve higher accuracy rates than the current PCR test.

Cdr. Yaniv Meirman further added, “It has been an excellent experience working with the DRDO. We have also been impressed by the response of the hospitals and more importantly, the general Indian public who have come forward to volunteer and put in ample time and efforts to assist in this fight against corona virus. We are confident that by coming together, India and Israel will be able to achieve targets much faster and more efficiently than they would have managed on their own.”

These trials are a part of a multi-pronged mission visiting India from Israel to cooperate on COVID-19 research and development, further cementing the strategic relationship between the two nations.

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