Diagnostic and genetic testing lab, Genes2Me, has been able to deliver 2.5 lakh COVID-19 IgG/IgM antibody rapid tests kits in a record time of seven days. Neeraj Gupta, founder and CEO of Genes2Me told Free Press Journal’s Jescilia Karayamparambil that with support of its Chinese partner company it is looking at delivering more kits faster.
How did you manage to get around 2.5 lakh kits in such short notice?
We partnered with Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics Inc and a few other Chinese companies that are major providers for COVID-19 technology solutions. We leveraged that connection to prioritise delivering kits to the Indian market.
There is a huge demand for these kits worldwide. Many countries started procuring rapid antibody kits, ahead in time.
How many more rapid antibody kits are expected? How do you see the demand pick up?
As per the government, it is considering using the kits for screening in the hotspots areas. So, that is where an antibody rapid test kit will become the most effective tool. It will enable screening a large set of the population in a very short time.
In terms of the number of kits, we have placed an order for three million pieces which are already on track. We are expecting another shipment by next week. Every week, we will have a shipment of 3-5 lakh pieces. This is as per the commitment given to us by the manufacturer.
We are continuously working towards getting more kits to the Indian market. Not many companies have been able to get the kits to India in this limited span of time. In India, we need a lot of these kits.
Reports have emerged that kits and other medical devices coming from China are of poor quality. How do you see that play up in this context?
This is the exact reason why we were unable to get a large number of kits from the manufacturers in China. Once such reports started surfacing, the Chinese government became active. It permitted only those companies with high credibility and capability of manufacturing; and technological support to export from China.
Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics Inc is one of those credible companies that can produce a large number of high-quality products. These antibody rapid tests kits have separate testing strips for IgG and IgM.
How does having separate testing strips for IgG and IgM help?
IgM test can be done on the patient that is typically infected within the last three-seven days to be precise. This can classify a patient about 85-90 per cent of the time. Whereas, IgG can detect the antibody even if the person is infected and cured or if the antibody has been in the body for longer than seven days — thus, the person would need immediate attention. That is where the differentiation of these two kits help. Our test kit has two test strips. That is why our sensitivity and specificity is far more than any other kits.
What is the percentage of the sensitivity of your kits?
In terms of sensitivity, we claim it to be around 90 per cent range. For specificity, we claim our kits to be 99 per cent. So, that is the difference.
Will these kits be useful to patients that will have a relapse?
This test will not be useful for people who were infected and cured and then had a relapse. This is because IgM antibodies remain in our body for a long time.
Are private hospitals and other institutions calling for the kits?
Yes, but we are not entertaining them. We are either supplying the kits to ICMR or the state-level health department. As per the government guidelines, it is not open to the private sector. So, if the government permits, we will supply the rapid testing kits to private institutions.
What would your suggestion be to the government?
Once the lockdown is lifted a lot of corporates would like to screen their employees, before allowing them into the work premises. So, the government should evaluate this possibility.
What is the cost of the kit?
It should be somewhere between Rs 800 and 1,000. This is a reasonable price point for rapid testing kits.