A biobank of blood cells and plasma, from both infected and recovering Covid-19 patients, is being created at the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS), Director of NCCS, Dr Manoj Kumar Bhat, said in an official statement released on Thursday.
The NCCS in Pune, an autonomous institution of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), has been actively engaged in various activities to facilitate ongoing efforts against the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. It will also be involved in sequencing the genome of the virus from clinical samples, as a participant of the collective project of several DBT autonomous institutions.
The national cell repository at NCCS has also been facilitating Covid-related research at other organisations by supplying cell cultures, which are necessary for this work. It has supplied 14 cell cultures to 10 organisations across India, including research institutions, a medical college and a private company.
Soon after it was approved as a diagnostics facility by the DBT, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Maharashtra government, NCCS carefully assessed the challenges ahead, and made extensive and speedy preparations. This included reorganisation of some of the research laboratories into a diagnostics centre, procurement of supplies like PPE and kits, formulating and validating a standard operating procedure, getting technical and scientific staff trained at the National Institute of Virology (ICMR-NIV) for Covid-related biosafety measures and sample testing, registering the facility with the appropriate authorities, and conducting mock testing, said Dr Bhat.
NCCS began testing samples for SARS-CoV-2 on April 25, and has tested over 5,000 samples from Maharashtra
The Centre has also provided guidance and assistance to other research organisations, such as IISER-Pune, ARI and CSIR-NCL, to set up Covid testing facilities on their respective campuses, added Dr Bhat.