The COVID-19 pandemic is upon us! The nation has been through prolonged lockdowns, yet the rising case numbers have kept up the relentless demand on testing. The scientific community at the BLISC campus rose to the need of the hour, and by early April operationalised an efficient sample testing laboratory. Since then, the testing laboratory has processed more than 15000 samples and is contributing its every might to Karnataka’s effort to fighting the pandemic. The samples come from various districts of Karnataka; Gadag, Haveri, Davanagere, Yadgir, Bijapur, and Chikkaballapur, among others. It was no small feat to establish such a facility, requiring as it did a large number of volunteers - students, postdoctoral fellows and technical staff - efficiently managed by committed faculty members. The commitment remains unabated and the tireless work at the testing centre continues, seven days a week with barely a day off in between!
The testing centre uses the RT-PCR based method to test for genetic signatures of SARS-CoV-2 in samples. This requires state-of-the art laboratory facilities equipped to process potentially infectious material, highly regulated waste disposal, as well as the use of safety gear including PPEs, specific reagents, kits, and other items that are used up rapidly and need to be continuously replenished. The BLiSC institutions, marked by remarkable talent-pool and technical expertise, drew in generous contributions from both public and private sector donors who shared the common goal to fight the pandemic. Generous support from these organisations have enabled the NCBS-TIFR and inStem to work on affordable, field-deployable solutions to combat COVID-19. Both institutes are working on a suite of deliverable technologies which are ready to hit the ground running.
Azim Premji Foundation is renowned for their contributions towards developing the school education system at the grass-roots level and is currently helping the civil society to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The foundation reached out to partner with NCBS and inStem, providing a generous contribution to augment testing capacity as well as supporting research into innovating high-throughput testing methods. Standard Chartered, one of the earliest contributors to the testing effort, is dedicated to the battle against COVID-19 by sending financial aid across the world to help communities debilitated by the pandemic. They have contributed to both testing and development of field deployable solutions at the campus. Most importantly, the Azim Premji Foundation and Standard Chartered donations enable continued testing for the disadvantaged in our communities at the facility on campus.
We are very grateful to CSR contributions from our public sector companies, Punjab National Bank (PNB) Housing and The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), whose donations have enabled both testing and research into the development of rapid disinfection methods, novel detection kits as well as smart-pooling based testing methodology. Research is ongoing on identifying FDA approved drugs which can be potentially repurposed for COVID-19 amelioration. To sum it all, the donor contributions are not only supporting the on-campus testing facility but also boosting our research towards developing affordable, field-deployable immediate actions for COVID-19 disinfection, detection, and disease amelioration. The development of these technologies is going to bring us a step closer towards enabling low-cost, mass testing and preventing viral infection and disease spread; steps that are critical for enabling our community towards emerging unscathed from the reopening of industries and public infrastructure even as the pandemic looms large.
Our capacity to contribute to the national response to COVID-19 has been enormously strengthened by donors who share our vision of scientific endeavor driving innovation and research to improve public health. Our partners, the Punjab National Bank (PNB), the Azim Premji Foundation, Standard Chartered Global Business Service, and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) are among those whose objectives of success include the well-being and health of the greater populace. We salute their contributions and generosity. Together, we are unstoppable in our endeavor to be at the forefront of the national effort against COVID-19, today and in the future.
Image credit: Moumita Mazumdar and Raghul M R