POST TIME: 6 April, 2020 11:28:29 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 6 April, 2020 11:28:38 PM
‘Gonoshasthaya ready to make COVID-19 test kits’
Drug administration says preparations inadequate

‘Gonoshasthaya ready to make COVID-19 test kits’

The country’s first health centre, Gonoshasthaya Kendra, has claimed that it has completed all preparations for production of COVID-19 test kits as raw materials have arrived at its factory. The authorities concerned are waiting for approval to begin production of the COVID-19 test kit. If production can start by April 8, it will be able to hand over samples of the kit to relevant agencies on April 11.

However, a team of the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) visited the Gonoshasthaya Kendra’s factory on March 28. It found that the factory was not fully prepared to make COVID-19 test kits. It also found that the factory was not ready to set up the main machine called "Dot Blot".

“We are fully ready now to go for production of the COVID-19 test kits as raw materials have arrived. We can start production when we get approval after a team of the Directorate General of Drug Administration visits our unit. If the team's visit takes place  tomorrow (Tuesday), we can start production from Wednesday (April 8),” Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, founder of the Gonoshasthaya Kendra, told this correspondent yesterday (Monday).

Setting up of machineries and other equipment has been completed as per the DGDA's suggestions, he insisted.

s"Our people have completed preparations by working round the clock. We have decided to hand over samples to the health ministry, DGDA, BSMMU, IEDCR, and WHO at the Gonoshasthaya Kendra Guerrilla Commander Major Haider Auditorium in Dhanmondi at 11am on April 11. We will go for bulk production from April 15 and would be able to supply

100,000 kits per month,” he said. A senior official of the DGDA said they have made certain observations, including setting up of the "‘Dot Blot" machine at the factory, but the authorities of the Gonoshasthaya Kendra are yet to submit their reply.

When his attention was drawn to the matter, Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury said: “We have already given our reply to the DGDA. Besides, the main machine to produce the kit for COVID-19 testing, the 'Dot Blot’, has already been installed at the factory.”

However, the DGDA has claimed that the Gonoshasthaya Kendra authorities have not completed preparations to produce the kit.

“A letter has been sent to the Gonoshasthaya Kendra with some observations. They are yet to import the 'Dot Blot'. Besides, they are yet to submit any protocol to the drug administration regarding production of the COVID-19 test kit,” said DGDA director-general Maj. Gen. Md Mahbubur Rahman.

Protocol means how the kit will be produced and some short briefings which have to be submitted to the DGDA before starting  production, he explained.

Mahbubur Rahman said the Gonoshasthaya Kendra authorities did not give any reply to the DGDA regarding the observations made after visiting the factory.

The drug administration chief said they are ready to visit the factory anytime for further inspection once the observations are addressed.

Earlier, the Gonoshasthaya Kendra declared that they developed a "Rapid Dot Blot"—a cheap testing kit to examine for COVID-19 in 15 minutes.

The Gonoshasthaya Kendra will produce 100,000 kits in the first phase, with each kit costing Tk. 200-250, and will be supplied only to the government.

A technical team of the Gonoshasthaya-RNA Biotech Limited developed the test kits and its cost was estimated to be around Tk. 2 crore.

After two months of research, Dr Bijon Kumar Sil, head of the microbiology department at Gono Bishwabidyalay, and his four associates—Dr Nihad Adnan, Dr Mohd Raed Jamiruddin, Dr Firoze Ahmed, and Dr Muhibullah Khandaker—developed the kits.

According to the organisation, Dr Sil has vast experience in inventing test kits to detect the SARS virus. During the SARS outbreak in 2003, he was in Singapore and fought the disease successfully. Two years earlier, he joined the university and has since been working on preventing dengue.

The death toll from the coronavirus rose to 12 in Bangladesh as the country confirmed three more deaths on Monday, IEDCR director Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora, said during an online briefing.

So far, 123 people have been infected in Bangladesh, with 35 in the last 24 hours alone.