"It was like giving birth to two babies," virologist Minal Dakhave Bhosale told PTI over the phone

Pune-based virologist Minal Dakhave Bhosale is at the forefront of creating India's first coronavirus testing kit, a task she accomplished even when she was in the last stage of her pregnancy. Bhosale's efforts paid the price with her team delivering the testing kit in a record time of six weeks.

Bhosale gave birth to a baby girl just a day before submitting the kit to the authorities for evaluation.

"It was like giving birth to two babies," Bhosale told PTI over the phone.

The virologist said both the journeys — that happened in parallel — were not without challenges.

"There were complications in the pregnancy while work on the test kit was on. The baby was delivered through Caesarean," she said.

Bhosale said she felt that it was the right time to serve the people to help them in combating the coronavirus threat.

"I had been working for five years in this field and if I don't work in emergency situations when my services are needed the most, then what is the use?" she said.

Though Bhosale was not able to visit the office due to the pregnancy, she was guiding a team of 10 persons working on the project at Mylab Discovery in Pune.

The strong bonds forged with the team over the years and their support made it possible, she said.

Company's co-founder Shrikant Patole said just like drug discovery, test kits too go through a lot of quality checks to improve the precision.

He credited Bhosale for the success of the project.

The COVID-19 testing kit delivered by Bhosale's team will reduce the time taken for delivering a result to 2.5 hours from the prevalent practice of eight hours.

A pioneering approach to testing without compromising on the results was adopted, Bhosale said.

The Mylab test kit will cost Rs 1,200, a quarter of Rs 4,500 per kit that the government has been spending on testing so far.

"I'm happy that I could do something for the country," Bhosale said.

According to experts, high scale testing is essential because it alone can ensure an early diagnosis of COVID-19 and lower down the fatalities.

The company is confident of ramping up the capacity at its plant in Lonavala to deliver one lakh kits a week, Patole said.

He said the authorities are helping the company, including giving priority for shipping of the raw materials.

Mylab's Managing Director Hasmukh Rawal said that the kit is the first one to receive commercial approvals from Indian FDA/Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) and called 'Mylab Patho Detect COVID-19 Qualitative PCR Kit'.

"Mylab is the only Indian company to have achieved 100 per cent sensitivity and 100 per cent specificity in the ICMR evaluation. It was developed and evaluated in record time. It has been made as per WHO/CDC guidelines," said Rawal.

"Since this test is based on the sensitive PCR technology, even early-stage infection can be detected, with the highest accuracy as was seen during the ICMR tests, and makes the detection faster," said Mylab Executive Director Shailendra Kawade.

India currently ranks lowest in terms of testing done per million populations — 6.8 — compared to other countries such as South Korea and Singapore which manage more and more testing.

So far, India has been importing millions of testing kits from Germany but supplies have been hit following the grounding of flights amid the national lockdown. The company said it can manufacture upto 100,000 kits per week and scale it up further if required at its Pune facilities, and an average lab with automated PCR can test more than 1000 patients daily.

With the time reduction from seven-plus hours to barely 150 minutes, laboratories would be able to do twice the number of tests at the same time on a single machine.