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Coronavirus Pandemic: US institution, IIT Madras receive ‘Ignition Grants’ Award for COVID-19 diagnostic device



Sept. 16, 2020, 3:31 p.m.

Chennai: Even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage several countries, efforts are on all over the world to come up with an effective treatment for the COVID-19 virus.

Some good news has emerged in this fight against the coronavirus pandemic with India playing a leading role.

RICOVR Healthcare Inc., a US-based rapid diagnostics platform company, and IIT Madras have developed a revolutionary point-of-care COVID-19 antigen test that can provide results in five minutes using saliva. 

This project won the prestigious ‘Ignition Grants’ Award from the U.S. India Science and Technology Endowment Fund (USISTEF).

USISTEF, a joint fund established by the U.S. and India to promote innovation through science and technology, announced the results recently after a rigorous binational review process of over 400 proposals, The Ricovr-IIT Madras team was selected for its out-of-the-box, innovative idea to address the COVID-19 challenge.

RICOVR Healthcare’s patented biosensor platform uses a small drop of saliva to provide high-quality, cost-effective results in approximately five minutes. 

IIT Madras is collaborating with RICOVR to bring this novel COVID-19 antigen test to the market. The innovative approach of detection and simple use of saliva will help bring a cost-effective, accurate, and user-friendly device to global markets in need of more immediate diagnostic tools.

Highlighting the unique aspects of this collaboration, Dr. Himanshu Bhatia, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, RICOVR Healthcare Inc., said, “RICOVR is proud to receive this distinguished award that highlights the strong collaboration with its R&D partner, the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. Given the scientific vetting process’s rigor, this achievement adds credibility to our already-proven technology.” 

“Our scientific approach and methodical steps continue to propel RICOVR in the right direction. With this recognition and partnership, we are confident we can achieve better outcomes and a robust testing platform for COVID-19 detection,” he added

The RICOVR and IIT Madras collaboration is intended to support a successful joint U.S.-India entrepreneurial initiative devoted to battle COVID-19. It focuses on developing and implementing new technologies and systems to satisfy unmet rapid and reliable testing needs. RICOVR Healthcare is one step closer to bringing the Point-of-care Fiber-optic Biosensor (P-FAB) Device from the lab to the market.

Elaborating the technology behind this COVID-19 Diagnostic Device, Dr. V. V. Raghavendra Sai, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Applied Mechanics, IIT Madras, said, “This technology is differentiated from the other molecular and antibody-based test in that it can detect the presence of active viral particles on the spot without needing a specialized apparatus. Our lab has already demonstrated and shown the capability of our technology in other diagnostics fields.”  

“This award will help us rapidly progress our work for this much-needed diagnostics test. This can be a game-changer in the management and control of COVID-19,” he added.

The USISTEF had called for proposals under the category of ‘COVID-19 Ignition Grants’ in April 2020. The intent was to support promising joint U.S.-India entrepreneurial initiatives that address the development and implementation of new technologies, tools, and systems to address COVID-19 related challenges, including monitoring, diagnosis, health and safety, public outreach, information, and communications.

“The U.S. Government is pleased to partner with the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology to provide initial financing to almost a dozen promising technologies, chosen from over 400 proposals, which seek to help the world in its global fight against COVID-19. This is just one area where American and Indian ingenuity is working together to serve our peoples and the broader international community,” U.S. Ambassador to India Mr. Kenneth I. Juster emphasized while stressing on the relevance of mutual cooperation. 

Point-of-care diagnostics, or near-patient testing, is a type of medical diagnostic test that enables accurate, real-time, laboratory-quality diagnostic test results within minutes. Testing at the point of care in this way increases the efficiency of diagnostic and testing process, and helps to ensure that patients are receiving the highest-quality care by freeing up invaluable time normally occupied by waiting for test results. Point-of-care diagnostics market that the company operates in is expected to generate US$50.51 billion in revenues by 2026 in the United States alone.



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