IIT Alumni Council will set up one of the world’s largest MegaLabs in Mumbai with a capacity of 10 million tests per month and will start identifying partners for the same through a global competition. While scientists are still at work to develop a vaccine, testing and biotherapeutics capacity have emerged as the biggest challenges.
Announcing this initiative, Ravi Sharma, President, IIT Alumni Council, said: “IIT Alumni Council has decided to set up the largest genetic testing laboratory for C19 and other infectious diseases after consulting global experts in the areas of virology, RTqPCR machine manufacture, test kits, pooling algorithms, AI, machine learning, robotics and microfluidics. A dedicated team has already started work on designing MegaLab Mumbai with a capacity of 10 million RTPCR tests per month.”
MegaLab will be based on the end-to-end Kodoy indigenous technology stack and will have adequate capacity for testing the entire population of Mumbai for infectious diseases, once a month,” he added.
In pursuance of solving the C19 challenge facing the country, the IIT Alumni Council had created a C19 Taskforce with Dr. K. Vijay Raghavan as its Chairman and twenty IIT Directors as Members along with Distinguished Alumni of IITs within 24 hours of the lockdown announcement on March 25th, 2020. The Taskforce then formed various working groups involving 1000+ dedicated alumni spread all over the world for finding / creating appropriate solutions to fight C19.
This initiative aims to design and establish the largest genetic testing laboratory for C19 and other infectious diseases (for example, Tuberculosis) with an end-to-end capacity to carry out over 10 million tests per month. Keeping in mind the opportunity to replicate with smaller capacities at other places in India & in other developing counties, the MegaLab would comprise of three independent lines – 1 million tests per month (tpm), 3 million tpm and 6 million tpm. The MegaLab will be based on the end-to-end Kodoy indigenous technology stack. For the purpose of implementation, the Kodoy stack is divided in 64 steps from (collection of) virus in the throat to the virus being ultimately zapped/disinfected by UV at the completion of testing in a RTPCR. The Kodoy stack is available to government agencies and non-profits in a free license format. The testing infrastructure would comprise of vehicle mounted automated sample collection stations in cars or cabs and C19 test buses. The MegaLab itself would comprise of robotic contactless sample transport from the vehicles to the testing line with robotic pooling followed by high speed RNA extraction using magnetic bead technology. The subsequent protocol would be rapid thermocycling followed by fluorescence detection of waveforms. The sigmoids would be uploaded to the computational horsepower available in cloud supercomputers for identification, big data creation/number crunching and longitudinal patient studies. The Aadhar card or passport would be used as the person identifier. MegaLab is considering various options besides the proven nasal and throat swabs, including, but not limited to saliva, urine and/or stool samples as appropriate. One of the aspects being considered is a nested PCR format which will use exponential amplification techniques for very low viral load samples to test sewage from Mumbai’s buildings to detect the presence of hereto-forth unknown C19 patients in the buildings. This would allow the option of sealing the IIT C19 TASK FORCE MEGA LAB MUMBAI – INDIA’S LARGEST MOLECULAR DIAGNOSTIC & GENETIC TESTING LAB PAGE 3 buildings if the C19 patient has not yet been declared to the health authorities by the Resident Welfare Associations. Similarly, saliva sampling, instead of throat or nasal swabs would significantly reduce the effort and expertise involved in testing at public locations such as airports, bus-terminals, train stations and markets. The MegaLab R&D and Decision Support teams would be connected to supercomputers at four remote IIT campuses which would provide continuous data mining and machine learning based support. The AI competition for x-ray, ultrasound and RTPCR analysis would be launched shortly after the MegaLab Challenge to initialize the supercomputing infrastructure. Trials have already started on two of the supercomputer clusters. However, the final design and set up of the MegaLab will be subject to Govt permissions and approvals.