Published: 25th July 2020
This portable RT-PCR machine from IIT KGP can test for COVID-19 and send results to your phone in just one hour for just Rs 400
The machine costs Rs 2000 but since it is portable, the per-test cost gets reduced to just Rs 400. The tests can be done by anyone, even without any technical know-how
Researchers of IIT Kharagpur have developed a test kit that can detect COVID-19 at its nascent phase and can give you a result in just one hour. The machine is portable and will reduce the cost of the test considerably, said the researchers. The machine can be used anywhere and does not need a lab to analyse a result and can be used by anyone, even someone who has no technical knowledge. The researchers specified that this is not a kit but a replacement for the RT-PCR machine.
Dr Suman Chakraborty, Department of Mechanical Engineering Department, IIT Kharagpur said that they started working on the development of the COVID-19 Rapid Test Device from early April, "The device has been designed for manufacturing and is ready to be released into the market. Even though the machine costs Rs 2000, the portable nature of it reduces the cost per test — each test cost will be Rs 400 as of now but it can go down even further with time. Pool tests are also possible with this machine," said Dr Chakraborty, the recipient of Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award in 2013. "The machine accepts both nasopharyngeal and oral swabs and within an hour the results can be sent to the patient's phone in a dedicated app and also as a message. There is an app to detect the results as well. Developed by one of our students, the app detects the colour coding from the test results and tells you whether the sample is COVID-19 positive or not," he added.
Since the researchers did not have access to patient samples they used synthetic viral RNA of various concentrations to do the tests and the results have been promisingly close to the PCR machines. "We are targeting the RNA that has the least chance of mutation. This gives us the advantage of getting a positive result even if the virus mutates to a different strain," said Dr Arindam Mondal, Assistant Professor, School of BioSciences. "We are yet to start tests with samples from patients. We have approached the ICMR and the government for further assistance on this matter," said Dr Mondal.
IIT Kharagpur is in talks with the government of West Bengal and the Centre for the next steps towards the production of the machine on a massive scale. "We would also welcome investors who would be able to provide financial support and help in mass production of the machine," said Director Dr Virendra Kumar Tewari.