With the country battling the coronavirus outbreak, genetic testing startup Redcliffe Life Sciences on April 10 said it is looking at genome sequencing tests and wants to partner the government in this initiative as it will help in dissecting the spread patterns of the deadly virus.
“The proposal is to sequence around 100 positive samples using our own funding, and finally sequence around 1,000 to 5,000 samples from across the country for which we have requested the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to look into our proposal," Ashish Dubey, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Redcliffe, told Moneycontrol.
The company is pricing its test at Rs 6,000 while RT PCR test has been kept at Rs 4,500.
"We have proposed this for a better diagnostics yield and also to understand the severity of the cases," he said.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is a laboratory technique combining reverse transcription of RNA into DNA and amplification of specific DNA targets using polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
Generally, the biggest challenge during any outbreak for scientists is to predict the pattern or evolution and disease spread, especially with RNA viruses such as COVID-19, which have very high genetic variability. This makes it difficult to understand the transmission pattern, number of active strains and their geographical locations, or if a person is affected with multiple strains.
"Sequencing is the most advanced method of any DNA/RNA based analysis, hence this is going to give us the answers for even unexplored questions, like what is the virulent potential, the spread pattern and many more such questions, this exercise is already been done in various countries like China, US, UK and Europe and a great result is been obtained, which has helped in understanding the disease in these countries. This will definitely help in patient diagnosis and treatment management," he said.
The proposal so far does not have a revenue model besides the subsidised price, and government funding will have to play a huge role for this plan to be implemented and testing to happen.
"This is a high value test and definitely needs government help, hence we are reaching out to ICMR to consider this as one way of looking at the answers of the spread of the pandemic. I am ready for creating a consortium, provided we have approval for the same from ICMR, This definitely has to be funded by the state but we are ready to put the investment for 100 samples in the beginning," he added.Follow our coverage of the coronavirus outbreak here