COVID-19 kit manufacturing facility ready for verification, validation
The Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Mr. Fawad Chaudhry, applauded the University of Lahore for setting up state-of-the-art testing and manufacturing laboratories and research centers aimed to curb the spread of infectious and noninfectious diseases in Pakistan. “As a country, we need to invest enthusiastically in science and technology. We need more innovations and applied researches that are speared headed by universities”, the minister said while inaugurating the Cannabis Center for Research in Cancer and Neurological Disease (CCR-CND) on October 24, 2020. He also visited the CleoCap Manufacturing Laboratory where he was briefed on the newly developed 3rd Generation COVID-19 Testing Kit.
The Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and Centre for Research in Molecular Medicine (IMBB/ CRiMM), UOL at present, house the two facilities for medical, applied and basic research.
Mr. Fawad was warmly received by Mr. Awais Raoof (Chairman BoG), Prof. Dr. Arif Malik (Director IMBB/CRiMM) along with IMBB faculty and administrative staff. After his visit to the CleoCap laboratory, the minister assured his assistance to the UOL for CleoCap COVID-19 kit for verification and validation at the Ministry of Science and Technology.
“Developing diagnostic kits like these is a commendable effort. Having our locally produced medical equipment and kits will save us many ways. Prepare all the necessary documents to be submitted to the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and we shall give the necessary support as the line ministry”, Mr. Fawad pledged.
Prior to his inauguration of the CCR-CND and visit to COVID-19 testing and manufacturing facilities, the minster addressed a press conference in the presence of The Pakistan Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (PCSIR) Director General, Mr. Awais Raoof, Prof. Dr. Mujahid Kamran (Rector) and other UOL senior executives.
During the press conference, Mr. Fawad emphasized the importance of innovation in the field of science, stating that Pakistan is on the move of setting up its own medical equipment industries. “Pakistan is setting up its industries to start producing medical equipment”, he said.
COVID-19 3rd Generation Testing Kit ready for verification, validation
In an effort to supplement the Government of Pakistan to fight COVID-19, the University of Lahore set up COVID-19 testing and detection laboratory (Biosafety Level II Plus Lab) in April 2020. This modern laboratory was inaugurated by Mr. Awais Raoof (Chairman BoG) along with Prof. Dr. Javaid Akram (Vice Chancellor, UHS/Punjab Health Commission), Prof. Dr. Arif Malik (Director, IMBB/CRiMM), Prof. Dr. Shahid Malik (Pro-Rector Health Sciences), and Dr. Sikandar Afzal (Associate Dean/Clinical Director, ULTH). The laboratory performs tests on daily basis with a reporting time of 24 hours. The facility is managed by the University of Lahore Teaching Hospital (ULTH).
The UOL’s efforts to fight COVID-19 were further strengthened by launching Biosafety Level II Plus (BSL II Plus) CleoCap Laboratory in June 2020. Mr. Awais along with Prof. Mujahid Kamran (Rector), Mr. Farhan Ahmad (CEO Pakistan Children Heart Foundation), Prof. Arif Malik, IMBB Heads of Department and faculty inaugurated this well-equipped laboratory. “The establishment of this laboratory, is in line with the vision of making the University a centre of excellence in research and development. Our worth is measured on how innovative we can be and how we provide solutions to the contemporary challenges”, Mr. Awais said during the inauguration.
While explaining the operations of the state-of-the-art CleoCap facility to The Spectacle on October 31, 2020, Dr. Ahsan Sattar Sheikh and Dr. Saba Shamim told that the newly developed COVID-19 kit is designed to capture three gene targets (3rd Generation). The reagents used in the detection of Corona virus 2 are very much stable at room temperature that make the interpretation easy, sensitive and specific. They also added that the lab’s internal environment is fully controlled with HEPA filters and it is also classified as BSL II Plus with the framework laid by Punjab Health Commission.
The IMBB experts also said that the CleoCap laboratory has produced COVID-19 Combo kit (Virus collection-Viral Transport medium, COVID-19 RNA Isolation Kit and COVID-19 3rd Generation detection kit) which is for the first time done anywhere around the world. They added that all three kits are now ready for verification and validation by DRAP. “All documents are ready for submission and the Minister of Science and Technology has showed willingness to support the efforts”, Dr. Sheikh said. “Once the kit gets verified and validated, then it will be put to the world market for commercialization”, he added.
The Director IMBB, Prof. Malik appreciates the commitment of Mr. Awais Raoof in supporting the innovations at IMBB/CRiMM. “I am grateful to the Chairman BoG and Patron-in-Chief for their immense support toward the two research laboratories. Their financial support and good will have made us to reach this level of producing our indigenous testing product on COVID-19”, Prof. Malik remarked. He added that the UOL took up a decision to establish COVID-19 testing facilities early enough in order to make a contribution to the welfare of the community and to strengthen the research arm of the University.
Other IMBB’s efforts on COVID-19
On top of research and lab-based activities, IMBB has been actively engaged in several activities geared towards curbing the spread of the pandemic. The maiden seminar to scale up public awareness about the latest global pandemic was organized by the Institute in February, 2020. Renowned scholars such as Dr. Saira Afzal (Dean Public Health at King Edward Medical University) and Prof. Dr. Hafiz M. Kashif Saleem (Indus Hospital) highlighted the common myths surrounding the virus and practically demonstrated the proper use of PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment), types of masks and proper hand washing techniques.
IMBB has also been holding public lectures on the pandemic, participating in online skills’ development activities and engaging in research and publication. “Many of our faculty members in collaboration with other departments have been active in research on COVID-19 and a substantial volume of research has been realized”, Prof. Malik observed.