The Rockefeller Foundation Awards New Grants to Scale up COVID-19 Testing in India

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New York, United States, October 20, 2020: To support the expansion of COVID-19 testing and contact tracing across India, The Rockefeller Foundation announced two new grants to The Center for Cellular and Molecular Platforms and PATH. The grants, totalling $5.5 million, will support domestic manufacturing of critical testing materials and the deployment of scalable testing programs, essential to mitigating the virus’ spread. Additionally, the grants will advance efforts to leverage data and technology to strengthen pandemic surveillance and response. These grants are part of a broader effort to accelerate equitable access to testing technology in India as a key lever to contain the spread of COVID-19 and reduce test positivity rates.

India has recorded significant rises in COVID-19 cases, placing it on track to surpass the U.S. as the country with the highest number of infections. Supply chain shortages for diagnostic tests and insufficient testing capacities in certain parts of the country have negatively impacted its overall pandemic response. By expanding the domestic production and national self-sufficiency of essential diagnostic technology and implementing scalable testing strategies, India will be better equipped to deploy tools to mitigate the virus’ spread, strengthening its COVID-19 response overall.

“Expanding access to COVID-19 testing, especially among high-risk populations, is critical to safeguarding the health of Indians,” said Prof. K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India. “With support from The Rockefeller Foundation, research institutes will be able to support MSMEs to manufacture high quality, yet low-cost molecular diagnostics that meet global standards. These collaborations will not only help to solve a critical domestic challenge, provide for import substitution but will also enable India to better contribute to the global COVID-19 response.”

The Foundation’s new grants include:

The Center for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) is receiving funding to scale up the local manufacturing of reagents and testing solutions in India, providing the country with the elements needed to domestically produce reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing kits. In coordination with the Bangalore Biotechnology Cluster, C-CAMP will leverage public-private partnerships to develop a roadmap for the production of RT-PCR testing kits and provide data-driven projections, informing a national plan for the production of at least 10 million testing kits per month. By increasing the availability of testing equipment, C-CAMP will contribute to scaling up India’s testing capacity as a whole. “RT-PCR tests remain the gold standard for confirming active COVID-19 infections,” said Dr Taslimarif Saiyed, C-CAMP CEO and Director. “By helping scale up domestic test production, this grant will strengthen India’s diagnostic capacities and improve its ability to mitigate the virus.”

PATH has received a grant to expand COVID-19 testing capacity in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Punjab. With this funding, PATH will support State Governments to develop and deploy optimised testing strategies that can be replicated and scaled up rapidly, seek to make COVID-19 screening and diagnostic tools available at an affordable cost, create an ecosystem of faster diagnosis of COVID-19 in key geographies, and establish pandemic surveillance models. “The evolving nature of COVID-19 has highlighted the need for rapidly deployable testing strategies,” said Neeraj Jain, PATH’s India Country Director. “By using this partnership to establish working models, we can help ensure more people have access to testing and provide public health officials with the information they need to keep their communities safe.”

“Scaling up COVID-19 testing provides crucial data insights that can help inform India’s response and direct targeted interventions to those most in need,” said Dr Naveen Rao, The Rockefeller Foundation’s Senior Vice President, Health. “These grants reflect our commitment to supporting India’s equitable recovery from COVID-19, and we look forward to working alongside the Government of India to advance this urgent goal.”

These grants are part of The Rockefeller Foundation’s ongoing COVID-19 response strategy, a global, $100 million commitment to improve public health and expand equitable access to testing and contract tracing. To date, the Foundation has dedicated grants to supporting frontline organisations in Africa and Asia, as well as strengthening the United States’ domestic response.