Covid-19: DST-backed cancer screening startup develops low-cost Covid-19 screening, testing kits

The modules are currently under validation and are likely to be deployed at point-of-care locations such as hospitals and even ‘mohalla’ clinics in eight-10 weeks.


Pune-based cancer screening startup FastSense Diagnostics, which is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), is developing two modules for screening and confirmatory tests (detection kits) for Covid-19 using its technology platform CovE-Sens. This is an extension of its existing Omni-Sens platform used for early-stage detection and screening of cancer and other diseases. “We have initiated this with DST. It is a universal platform that can be deployed anywhere easily. It is a box kind of a system wherein you would simply have to put the blood sample and you will get the result in 5-10 minutes,” Dr Preeti Nigam Joshi, Founding Director at three-year-old FastSense Diagnostics told Financial Express Online.

The time and manpower required for testing using FastSense’s solution are significantly less given that “there is a large problem trained personnel required for whatever molecular biology techniques are there. You need sophisticated instruments, labs as well,” she added. The two modules include a modified Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based detection kit for confirmatory analysis and a chip-based module for rapid screening of the target population based on the on-chip sensing technology.

While the molecular PCR technique can test 50 samples in an hour, the chip-based screening device can provide for rapid screening of population and given results within 15 minutes for every sample. Moreover for testing, “you can train a regular PSC worker to do the test with minimal training,” said Joshi who is a bioinstrumentation expert and have scientists in the field of virology, molecular biology, etc in her team working on the solutions.

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“The major challenges of testing for COVID-19 are speed, cost, accuracy and accessibility at the point-of-care or use,” said Professor Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST. The department is supporting “most promising of these (solutions) to facilitate their development to commercialization chain if found suitable on technical grounds” said Professor Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST. The Ministry of Science and Technology announced the development of screening and testing kits by FastSense Technologies on Wednesday.

The modules are currently under validation and are likely to be deployed at point-of-care locations such as hospitals and even ‘mohalla’ clinics in eight-10 weeks. The startup is aiming to keep the screening cost with Rs 200 and under Rs 1,000 for confirmatory analysis (per sample) even as it would reduce the price once the solution scales. The accuracy of the two modules would be ascertained post validation from the National Institute of Virology based in Pune even as Joshi is hopeful of 98-99 per cent accuracy.

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