IIT Guwahati develops high quality and affordable Sterile “SPILD” VTM kits, RT-PCR kits and RNA isolation kits

Guwahati 17th June 2020: The Minister of Finance, Health and Family Welfare, Assam Shri Himanta Biswa Sarma, today launched the Viral Transport Media (VTM) Kits in presence of Shri Samir Kumar Sinha, Principal Secretary (IAS),  Prof. Siddhartha Sankar Ghosh and Prof. Parameswar Krishnan Iyer, professors from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IITG), Dr Achyut Chandra Baishya (Principal cum Chief Superintendent) GMCH, Dr Ajanta Sharma (MD) GMCH, Dr Lahari Saikia (HoD), GMCH, Dr Pankaj Choudhary, Technical Manager, RR Animal Health Care Ltd. and other officials.

The ‘Made in Assam/India’ kits will spur affordable and high-quality healthcare products development in Assam and provide access to world-class kits and product development as well as career opportunities to healthcare professionals and students and an important step in PM’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan

These affordable and sterile Viral Transport Media (VTM) kits, RT-PCR kits and RNA isolation kits have been developed at IIT Guwahati jointly with RR Animal Healthcare Ltd. with inputs from GMCH. Due to the huge demand for these kits and the high price associated with their timely procurement, the National Health Mission (NHM), Assam had approached IIT Guwahati for their development and procurement. The requested kits were already under development stage and on knowing the immediate requirement of these kits in high quantity, the research teams led by Prof. Parameswar Krishnan Iyer, Prof. Siddhartha Sankar Ghosh from IIT Guwahati and Dr Labanyamoy Kole of RR Animal developed these kits as per the standards laid down by the GMCH and have already delivered them ~950 VTM kits, which have now been tested and validated.

Speaking about this at the launch of these kits, the Hon’ble Minister Shri Himanta Biswa Sarma, said, “Assam has been successfully leading the fight against COVID-19 pandemic and our initiatives have gone a long way in containing this disease in the entire NE region. We want to identify and contain this disease at an early stage and we must have all the crucial kits and materials so that our frontline healthcare workers and doctors who are doing a commendable job do not face any hurdles. We are very happy with this product development and launch of the VTM and other COVID-19 related kits in IIT Guwahati, Assam and I congratulate The Director, IIT Guwahati and the faculty members for this development as well as acknowledge other help being provided to us.

The viral transport media or VTM kits are the first stop source used to collect the nasal and oral swab specimens from the individual source to the laboratory safely for culture and testing. During this period the virus, if present, in the sample specimens should remain intact until the testing procedure is completed. The “SPILD” VTM kits developed at IIT Guwahati, consists of a comprehensive solution specially formulated for the collection and transport of SARS-CoV-2. These kits comprise of a CDC recommended and validated transport medium and one each Nasopharyngeal and Oropharyngeal specimen collection swabs. The complete package is suitable for the collection, transport, maintenance, and long-term freezer storage of viral specimens. The unique formulation of the transport medium helps in preserving the viability of viruses for up to 72 hours (at refrigerated temperatures). The swabs have been designed ergonomically with a pre-moulded breakpoint on their shaft for enabling secure sampling. These sterile “SPILD” VTM kits comply with the CDC recommended configurations for viral specimen collection for COVID-19 and are packed in user-friendly individual packs.

Speaking about this timely and remarkable development, Prof. T. G. Sitharam, Director, IIT Guwahati, said, “IIT Guwahati is thankful to Shri Himanta Biswa Sarma for launching these VTM kits, specially developed by IITG on request from the state government. He further added that IITG has been in the forefront in this fight against COVID-19 and has been supporting the Assam state government in this time of the pandemic. On receiving the request from Director, NHM to provide these VTM kits, the institute immediately acted upon this request and began production of these sterile and affordable VTM kits and the first batch have already been delivered to GMCH. IITG is leaving no stone unturned in making the country self-reliance (Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan) as mentioned by the Hon’ble Prime Minister and is fostering relations with the industry in healthcare products manufacturing in Assam”.

In addition to the sterile “SPILD” VTM kits the Institute has also developed “SPILD” RNA isolation kits and “SPILD” RT-PCR kits jointly with RR Animal Healthcare Ltd. which are imperative to safely isolate the RNA from COVID-19 virus. The purified RNA is then converted to DNA by an enzyme Reverse Transcriptase, which are utilized to confirm the presence or absence of COVID-19. The large scale production of all these kits has commenced to meet the requirement of the Assam State as well as will be made available across the country.

The entire logistics to meet the deadline set by the state government has been strictly adhered to which has led to the timely development and production of these sterile kits. An important initiative of the entire programme has been the involvement of industry right from the conception stage and assuring that the production of these kits will bring high quality and affordable healthcare product development in Assam.

Talking about the development of these kits, Prof. Parameswar Krishnan Iyer, Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Center for Nanotechnology, said, “This collaboration of academia with industry and the timely development of these high-quality sterile kits as requested by the state government will immensely help in conducting large scale testing and identification of COVID-19 cases and prevent the spread of this pandemic”.

Prof. Siddhartha Sankar Ghosh, Professor, Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering and Center for Nanotechnology, added, “The entire kit development, the quality of which is comparable to the best in the world, to scaling up was very exciting since the demand from GMCH and NHM, Assam was immediate and with industry joining IITG, we could deliver the necessary ‘SPILD’ VTM kits successfully.”

Speaking about this unique initiative, Dr Debashis Dutta, Director, RR Animal Healthcare Ltd., stated, “We are very delighted to jointly work with IIT Guwahati and the Assam State government for the development of these COVID-19 diagnostic kits which has allowed us to serve the society, especially in the north-east region of India at this time of the pandemic. We look forward to providing an affordable and high quality one health solution to the Region and the entire Nation”.

Dr Labanyamoy Kole, Head, Research and Development, RR Animal Healthcare Ltd, also added, “This process of COVID-19 related kit development with IIT Guwahati has been a very good prospect to serve people promptly and deliver important healthcare products”.

RR Animal Health Care Limited (MSME) is a Research-Oriented Indian MNC, now based at Research Park, IIT Guwahati with a major focus in Animal and Human Health care specialities, with a belief that the ongoing concept of 75% of the emerging diseases in humans may have been originated from animals and it is time for the Veterinary Health scientists to work coherently for improving human health and to contribute as an integrated effort towards “Human-Animals Plants” in ‘One Planet-One Health and we are One’.

The large scale production of all these COVID-19 diagnostic kits has commenced and would be delivered to the Assam state officials as well as other testing centres across the country as and when the demand arises. This is also likely to create lots of employment opportunities in research and development, sales and marketing and spur development of other related healthcare products.