Tata-Backed MIT Startup Develops 15-Minute Test for COVID-19

Tata-Backed MIT Startup Develops 15-Minute Test for COVID-19

A new rapid antigen test kit could help identify people affected by COVID-19 in as little as 15 minutes. The test has been created by E25Bio, a Massachusetts. US-based startup that has previously made diagnostic tests for dengue and Zika. The company, which started at the MIT Tata Center, was funded in its early days by MIT Energy Initiative’s Tata Center for Technology and Design, which is supported by Tata Trusts. The test can detect if a person has been affected by COVID-19, caused by coronavirus, in a very short amount of time compared to other methods, and could play an important part in helping us return to normal from the current pandemic situation.

Last month, E25Bio raised $2 million (roughly Rs 15.3 crores) from Khosla Ventures in order to create a rapid COVID-19 diagnosis kit. The two-year-old firm quickly started testing on human samples, and in just about a month, has completed work on its kit, according to a report published by MIT.

“The Tata Center and the Tata Trusts believed in us and funded our early research before anyone else. Together with our manufacturing partner, High Media in India, we’re very grateful for all their support,” said Irene Bosch, CTO at E25Bio.

The diagnostic test resembles an over-the-counter pregnancy test, although unfortunately, you still require a nasopharyngeal swab to carry out the test. “Our team is also working to determine if alternate samples, like saliva, can be considered, which would help reduce patient discomfort,” said Bosch.

What’s more, the test is also going to be substantially cheaper than most other alternatives. “Given the exponential rate of spread of the virus, there is a critical need to deploy fast, reliable, affordable, and easy-to-use point-of-care tests in order to flatten the curve by quickly detecting and isolating patients who need immediate care,” the team at MIT noted.

Fast and cheap tests are going to be very important in the fight against the spread of coronavirus. Being able to detect COVID-19 in a timely manner will rely on extensive testing, and rapid testing will be important in opening up businesses such as air travel. Right now, airline passengers travelling by Dubai-based Emirates reportedly have to carry out blood tests for COVID-19 before flying, and this could well be the future of air travel until a vaccine or cure is developed.

According to a statement from the airline, the COVID-19 blood tests were done on passengers before departure. They were conducted at the check-in area and results were available within 10 minutes.

German corporation Bosch has also developed a rapid testing kit for COVID-19, which it claims can detect a SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection in patients in under two and a half hours. With the standard tests currently in use, patients must usually wait one to two days for a result.

E25Bio also has an Indian manufacturing partner as well who has been working with them to develop similar Zika and dengue tests, although right now the team at E25Bio is working with a UK-based manufacturer that has the capacity to produce millions of tests per day.

“The conditions required for manufacturing this test are unique so we’re not limited by geography but by the ability to find a good manufacturing partner with the right facilities,” said Lee Gehrke, one of the founders of E25Bio. “While we’re actively engaged with the FDA, researchers at local hospitals like Mass General, Beth Israel, and Tufts are also studying the product to test the sensitivity of detection.”

At present, three lakh more Rapid Antibody Test kits being used for quick detection of the COVID-19 have been dispatched to India from Chinese city of Guangzhou, the Indian envoy said on Saturday, as per reports. This is in addition to 6.50 lakh Antibody Tests and RNA Extraction Kits sent earlier.

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