Coronavirus: This Hyderabad-based startup has received ICMR approval for testing kits for 1.3 billion Indians
As we grapple with the realities of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the major challenges India is facing is around testing. Low number of tests, availability and pricing of kits, and turnaround time for results are issues that need immediate solving.
And as homegrown startups and corporates are getting together to solve these issues, Hyderabad-based Huwel Lifesciences received approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for its coronavirus testing kits.
In a conversation with Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO of YourStory Media, Shesheer Kumar, Director - Operations of Huwel Lifesciences, reveals more.
Watch the full interview here.
The healthtech startup has received support and funding from the Government of Telangana and Reliance Life Sciences for this project.
“Since we already manufacture all the enzymes in house, we needed to work on primers and probes for the kit,” Shesheer says.
He adds that Huwel has been working on the kit since the third week of January and only recently received the necessary approvals.
Founded in 2015 by Shesheer and his wife Rachna Tripathi, the startup’s R&D is led by Rachana and the team consists of 21 people. The co-founders had earlier founded RAS LifeSciences, which was acquired by Biomerio in 2012.
According to Shesheer, testing itself is not the challenge. “The issue is getting the testing done early. We should have started testing in February,” he adds. Huwel’s aim is to ensure the scaling of testing across India, especially now that the pandemic has reached the rural areas of the country.
Shesheer says that the current challenge is the approach of real-time PCRs in towns with testing abilities. What would helps is testing at multiple centres at district levels instead.
“Doing over 300-400 tests a day is a challenge for a technician; you get lots of false positives, and cross contaminations is bound to happen. So, it’s important to have multiple centres. We have ready test components like enzymes,” he adds.
While the startup has received initial funding and support, it now needs additional capex to enhance the production.
Huwel is ready to deploy its kits, and is also working with the DBT for primers and probes.