Nusantics completed a COVID-19 qPCR test kit design prototype
4 April 2020
JAKARTA, 4 April 2020 – Nusantics has finished a design prototype of qPCR diagnostic that can specifically detect SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The design process and laboratory testing of the test kit, named NUSANTARA TFRIC-19, was completed on Friday (3/4). Nusantics develop the test kit as a member of COVID-19 Research and Technology Innovation Task Force (TFRIC19) that formed by Indonesia Technology Assessment and Application Agency (BPPT).
CTO of Nusantics Revata Utama explained that Nusantics designed the NUSANTARA TFRIC-19 using genomic data from the SARS-CoV-2 Asia strains. Nusantics conducted a bioinformatics analysis by aligning the genetic sequences of the SARS-CoV-2 strains to specify target genes.
Based on the result, Nusantics decided to target two SARS-CoV-2 genes called as RdRP gene and N gene. RdRP is the gene that the virus uses to self-replicate after infecting a human cell, while N is the gene that protects its nucleus.
Nusantics then tested the sensitivity and specificity of the prototype using RNA isolates acquired from abroad. The test showed that NUSANTARA TFRIC-19 can specifically detect the SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19. Therefore, the test kit is not sensitive to the genome of SARS-CoV-1 or other Coronaviruses.
“We tested the prototype’s accuracy and validation with Asian strains. The result shows NUSANTARA TFRIC-19 can specifically identify COVID-19 strains, which is based on our research, similar to the Indonesia strains,” Revata said.
Furthermore, Nusantics will validate the NUSANTARA TFRIC-19 using samples from local COVID-19 cases. However, the BPPT Task Force for COVID-19 currently still waiting for samples from Indonesia Agency of Health Research and Development (Litbangkes). After the local sample is available, the validation process will take 2-3 days.
“Validation with Asian virus strains shows that NUSANTARA TFRIC-19 is able to diagnose COVID-19 accurately. However, we will improve it by using local virus genomic information. This is the reason why local strain samples are so important. After getting local samples, we will validate NUSANTARA TFRIC-19 with Indonesian strains. Then, we can continue with the mass production,” said Nusantics CEO Sharlini Eriza Putri.
Meanwhile, Indonesia PASTI BISA, initiated by East Ventures, is raising an IDR 10 billion fund, to support the BPPT COVID-19 Task Force in developing and producing COVID-19 test kits made in Indonesia. The fund will be used to produce 100,000 test kits (IDR 9 billion) and finance a whole genome sequencing project (IDR 1 billion).
Nusantics is committed to produce 100 test kit prototypes. In addition, the company working with BPPT, Bio Farma, and Indonesia International Institute for Life Sciences to mass produce 100,000 test kits for free.