In what can be termed as a big shot in the arm for India’s fight against COVID-19, premier research body, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has revealed that Drugs Controller General of India has approved the commercial launch of Tata Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) Covid-19 test aka “FELUDA”.

What is FELUDA?

Feluda is a low cost paper based strip that will now be used as a COVID-19 diagnosis tool. It uses an indigenously developed, CRISPR technology for detection of the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Feluda test kit was developed by a research team led by Debojyoti Chakraborty and Souvik Maiti

What’s important to note is that Tata CRISPR test achieves the accuracy levels of traditional RT-PCR tests however the turnaround time is much quicker, less expensive and easier to use.

While RT-PCR tests can take hours to arrive at the conclusion, Feluda can reveal the results in nearly 45 minutes.

This can help in quicker diagnosis of the virus which has already wrecked havoc across the world. The test has 96% sensitivity & 98% specificity to detect Coronavirus infections.

Feluda to detect Covid cases

FNCAS9 Editor Linked Uniform Detection Assay or FELUDA, is an homage to the fictional detective who was created by famous Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray.

The creators of this test, who are of Bengali origin, named it after Feluda as the detective was quick in solving cases.

The scientists then drew a link between the two scenarios and coined this quirky name for the test strip.

What is CRISPR?

CRISPR is a genome editing technology used to diagnose diseases which has been developed by CSIR’s Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology.

Tata CRISPR test, powered by CSIR-IGIB, received regulatory approvals today from DCGI for commercial launch, as per ICMR guidelines, meeting high quality benchmarks with 96 per cent sensitivity and 98 per cent specificity for detecting Novel Coronavirus. The Tata Group has worked closely with CSIR-IGIB and ICMR to create a high-quality test that will help the nation ramp up Covid-19 testing quickly and economically, with a ‘Made in India‘ product that is safe, reliable, affordable and accessible

CSIR

How does it work?

Just like the pregnancy test kit, FELUDA will change its colour when it detects the virus. There are two lines on the strip, one which is the control line & the other which is the test line.

Tata CRISPR test is the first diagnostic test to deploy a specially adapted Cas9 protein to which can detect the virus causing COVID-19.

Scientists who spearheaded this project reveal that the Cas9 protein has been barcoded to communicate with the SARS-CoV2.

This virus-protein complex is then put on the paper strip, following which it can be determine if the case in question has acquired the virus or not.

CSIR is hopeful that this technology that can also be used to detect multiple other pathogens in the future.

The Tata group which was also instrumental in this successful endeavour added that the world can benefit from India’s contribution to the covid fight.

The approval for the Tata CRISPR test for Covid-19 will give a boost to the country’s efforts in fighting the global pandemic. The commercialisation of Tata CRISPR test reflects the tremendous R&D talent in the country which can collaborate to transform India’s contributions to the global healthcare and scientific research world

Girish Krishnamurthy, CEO, TATA Medical and Diagnostics Ltd

CSIR reveals that the work started under the sickle cell mission had actually paved the way for the new diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2.

The two scientists where studying the disease which affects the shape of the Red Blood Cell and quickly adapted their work against the pandemic.

While COVID tests cost anywhere between 1000-3000, expectations are that Feluda will cost Rs 600 once it hits the commercial market.

This development comes at a time when India has over 1 Million (10 lakh) active COVID cases, we are conducting nearly 10 lakh COVID tests daily, adding nearly 90,000 cases, daily!

With the curve refusing to flatten and India steadily opening it’s economy, FELUDA, hopefully will help India tackle the dreaded virus swiftly and smoothly.

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