MUMBAI: The race to supply antibody test kits to the Indian government has picked up, as the country puts out the first order to procure 5 lakh of these in an attempt to expand its testing capacity. Last week, at least seven Chinese companies received import licences from the Drug Controller General of India and are looking to supply 20 lakh to 1 crore of these kits to India.
Rapid antibody test kits have been recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to carry out screening in areas where the spread of Covid-19 is high. Antibody or serological tests are done to determine whether an individual has developed resistance to a virus. In the Indian context, this has been done to determine whether a person was Covid-19 positive but remained asymptomatic.
The strategy announced by the ICMR calls for these tests to be used in areas reporting cluster of cases (containment zone), large migration gatherings/evacuees centres and in patients who have influenza-like illness. These tests are useful for their speed, as they are supposed to suggest whether an individual is Covid-19 positive or negative in 15 minutes. The Indian government has not recommended this test for home use as it has been done in other countries.
Companies said they were building up capacity to deal with the demand for the India market. In the next few weeks the Indian government is expected to spend Rs 100 crore in buying these kits.
“We have kept aside a total of 10-15 lakh kits for the Indian market; this is despite the fact that other countries are stocking up nearly 1 crore of these kits,” said Deviji, who works with Edvincible Technologies, a firm that has a licence to import kits of Chinese manufacturer Wondfo Biotech. Deviji prefers to use only one name.
Kit distributors are hoping that this number would go up in the coming months as India aggressively expands testing. Livzon Diagnostics, another Chinese kit maker, said it was preparing to ship 5 lakh kits to state governments in India. Livzon is hoping to bid for orders from states which want to build their own testing capacity.
The final orders from India, however, will depend on how the companies price their products. Companies ET spoke to said the slow bureaucracy in India might lead to a delay in supplies.