Affordable test methods to drones: Institutions take the innovation route to aid COVID-19 fight

From affordable COVID-19 testing methods to robots delivering food and medicines in isolation wards, drones for sanitising large areas to UV-fitted containers for sanitising grocery items, various institutions in the country are following the innovation mantra to aid the fight against coronavirus.

While over 20 technical and scientific institutions are working on developing a vaccine for coronavirus, IITs have already set up “COVID-19 specific research centres”, encouraging developments in the innovation ecosystem.

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi has become the first institute in the country to develop an alternative clinical testing method for the virus, which has been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

The current testing methods available are “probe-based”, while the one developed by the IIT team is a “probe-free” method, which reduces the testing cost without compromising on accuracy.

“The method can be easily scaled up as it does not require fluorescent probes. The team is targeting large-scale deployment of the kits at affordable prices with suitable industrial partners as soon as possible,” IIT, Delhi Director V Ramgopal Rao said.

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore are working on a tool for diagnosis of COVID-19, based on respiratory, cough and speech sounds.

The tool, once validated, will offer a test that will pose minimum risk of exposure to healthcare professionals and give results faster than the current testing method.

Meanwhile, a university in Rome is conducting a pilot run for a patented artificial intelligence-based tool, developed by three biotechnology students and a professor from Mumbai, which they claim can test COVID-19 through voice-based diagnosis using a smartphone.

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