The US-based Thermo Fisher Scientific, one among the leading global healthcare and life sciences companies, has a current capacity of supplying at least 1,00,000 to 1,50,000 COVID-19 real-time PCR (RT-PCR) test kits per day to the Indian requirements, said Amit Chopra, Managing Director, Thermo Fisher Scientific, India & Middle East.
Way back in early March, Thermo Fisher was among the first two companies to receive emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) to start making RT-PCR kits for COVID-19 testing and in the initial lot, the Indian government had ordered about 10 lakh RT-PCR kits from Roche and Thermo Fisher.
"Our global manufacturing site in the US started with one and a half million per week by March, but now our capacity is 10 million tests per week, which is further being ramped up. Our kits, now used in more than 50 countries including India, are considered as the 'Gold Standard', as our testing can identify three unique genes of the coronavirus, which makes the testing very accurate," said Chopra.
He said so far India has done several millions of RT-PCR tests with Thermo Fisher kits, as the country was among the first ones in the world to receive its kits. The $25 billion company is also one of the largest manufacturers of RT-PCR testing instruments in the world and over 1,200 Thermo Fisher made RT-PCR testing instruments are already available in the country at government labs, private hospitals and research and development facilities. This has also helped India quickly ramp up the COVID-19 testing infrastructure. At present, Thermo Fisher makes the kits from its central facility in the US and these are imported into India.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) data, India has 1,284 COVID-19 operational laboratories, including 895 government labs and 389 private laboratories. Of this, RT PCR testing for COVID-19 is available in 650 facilities, including 397 government laboratories and 253 private laboratories. India has done cumulative testing of 1,50,75,369 samples until July 22, including 3,50,823 tested yesterday. Besides multinationals like Roche and Thermo Fisher, over two dozen Indian manufacturers have been validated by the ICMR to make COVID-19 testing kits. It is estimated that domestic manufacturers have a capacity to make 146 million RT-PCR test kits a month, or 4.87 million kits a day, say sources.
Thermo Fisher, which employs over 2,300 people in India, has manufacturing facilities in Nasik, Pune and Ahmadabad. The Pune facility was set up three years ago for air quality monitoring for all industries and process instrumentation for the oil and gas industry. In Nasik, the company makes analytical instruments and have two sites in Ahmadabad for clinical trials, packaging, distribution and storage. Its Bangalore unit has a Research and Development facility employing 90 to 95 scientists. It also makes antibodies for research applications. Thermo Fisher also has centres of excellence for information technology in Bangalore employing over 600 software engineers, and an engineering R&D centre in Hyderabad.
In addition to RT PCR kits, Thermo Fisher is engaged in all aspects of COVID-19 research and development, like extraction instruments, PPE kits, electron microscopy and next-generation sequencing instruments which helps in studying the genome of the virus and products related to vaccine research and manufacturing, said Chopra, noting that its electron microscope was instrumental in determining the structure of coronavirus in the early phase. "We have been able to bring the best of technologies to India to fight the virus and our teams are working round the clock."