Amidst the contagious COVID-19 pandemic, several tech startups from around the world have stepped up to contribute their efforts to battle the novel coronavirus outbreak. One such deep tech startup is Indonesia-based Nusantics, which specializes in the field of genomics. The innovative startup, which is backed by East Ventures, a Jakarta-based early-stage venture capital firm, recently announced the completion of the design and lab accuracy testing of Nusantara TFRIC-19, a locally made prototype qPCR COVID-19 test kit. The design and production of the test kits are developed by the Indonesian deep tech startup under the Task Force for Research and Technology Innovation for Handling COVID-19 (TRFIC19) initiative, which is established by Indonesia’s Badan Pengkajian dan Penerapan Teknologi (BPPT), a government agency under the management of the Ministry for Research and Technology, to directly address the challenges of the novel coronavirus.
In order to select target genes, the deep tech genomic startup aligned the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ genetic sequences that are widespread in the Asian region through conducting a scientific analysis during the initial phase of developing the Nusantara TFRIC-19 test kit. After identifying the targeted genes, Nusantics made the decision to develop the prototype qPCR COVID-19 test kit around the selected virus genes, which are the Gen N gene, which acts as protection for the virus’ core, and the RdRP gene, which makes enzymes that are responsible for replicating the novel coronavirus when infecting host cells. To further enhance the accuracy of the prototype test kit, non-domestic RNA isolates are utilized to speed up its development since local varieties are currently hard to come by. Stringent lab tests have proven that the prototype Nusantara TRFIC-19 test kit can successfully identify the presence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 that is the main cause of the COVID-19 pandemic, without reacting to other coronaviruses or viruses. Further lab tests will be carried out utilizing specimens of the novel coronavirus that is currently spreading in the country in order to fine-tune the Nusantara TRFIC-19 test kit.
According to Revata Utama, chief technology officer at the genomic startup Nusantics, the prototype Nusantara TRFIC-19 test kit was developed utilizing SARS-CoV-2 virus genomic data that is specifically found to be spreading in the Asian region. Elaborating further, Mr. Revata Utama said that the deep tech startup stringently tested the test kit’s capabilities of accurately detecting and validating the regional strains of the novel coronavirus. Consequently, the prototype test kit is capable of detecting COVID-19 strains with a high degree of confidence based on data that already resembles the prediction of local strain mutations.
Sharlini Eriza Putri, chief executive officer of Nusantics, added that even though the prototype test kit has demonstrated effective accuracy in detecting COVID-19 strains through validation with regional strains of the virus, the genomic startup will strive to further enhance the performance of the Nusantara TRFIC-19 test kit by utilizing Asian virus genomic data. The next stage, after validating the prototype test kit’s accuracy with local strains of the virus, will be to mass-produce the Nusantara TRFIC-19 test kits for use.
Nusantics, the Indonesian genomic deep tech startup, has said that the Nusantara TRFIC-19 test kits will be mass-produced by the Indonesia International Institute for Life Science, BPPT and Bio Farma, after getting Indonesian virus samples to finalize the prototype test kit.