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DRDO starts testing for COVID-19 in Karnataka

The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) announced that it was joining efforts to combat COVID-19 by conducting detection and testing for the coronavirus. The announcement, which was made on Sunday night, comes at a time when the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases in the country is multiplying exponentially, prompting the central government to sanction the involvement of various national laboratories to participate in urgent testing for COVID-19.

In a circular made public on Sunday the Empowered Committee for COVID-19 Response, which is co-chaired by Dr Vinod Paul, a member of Niti Aayog, and Dr K VijayRaghavan, the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, specifically identified “all national research labs,” such as those of the DRDO and the Department of Atomic (DAE), the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CISR), the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Department of Science Technology (DST).

The decision, which is the first made by the Committee, was prompted by what Dr VijayRaghavan described as an effort to “take speedy decisions on research and development to implementation related to SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease.”


In a statement, DRDO said that its Defence Research Development Establishment (DRDE), located in Gwalior, is carrying out measures to detect and test COVID-19 cases. “These are done with the protocols duly standardized in accordance with the National Centre of Disease Control (NCDC),” the organisation said.

While all DRDO labs are currently on skeletal staff until March 31 to mitigate the spread of the disease, a DRDO spokesperson said that the labs are scheduled to reopen thereafter the COVID-19 screening and detection efforts will start in Bengaluru and Karnataka.

The organisation revealed that it has also formulated a new sanitiser for deployment. “At least 14,389 bottles, each filled with 500 ml has been made available to DRDO headquarters. This formulation is prepared in the lab itself as per World Health Organization guidelines,” it said.


The mandate

Under the new mandate, the national labs are authorised to carry out clinical testing for COVID-19 based on self-assessment and a willingness to follow established protocols and all applicable reporting regulations as defined by the Department of Health Research (DHR) and the Indian Centre for Medical Research (ICMR).

The labs are permitted to access samples for COVID-19-related research from any government-approved clinical testing facility. “Results from such research are required to be expeditiously shared in open formats to maximize the impact of research,” the circular said.

Labs with BSL-3 or BSL-3+ facilities are permitted to culture the virus and serve as additional testing and validation sites for research. “They may further share reagents and facilities with other national labs to ensure maximum effort for rapid solutions,” the circular added.

Hospitals (centre, state and private) have been asked to cooperate with national labs for clinical sample collection where there is ethical approval in place.

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