Minal Dakhave Bhonsle, who created India’s first coronavirus testing kit, is a virologist who will now go down in history as the woman who gave India’s its first coronavirus testing kit. She is the research and development chief at Pune-based Mylab Discovery Solutions. Bhonsle has quite a lot experience of working on the swine flu disease at NIV, Pune. This was during the 2009 outbreak that she worked on swine flu. Bhonsle began working on the coronavirus testing kit in February, when she was in the last stage of her pregnancy. She said it was an emergency and she put India before her personal needs.
We need such samaritans to drive change in a country like ours. With billions of people threatened by COVID-19, Bhonsle and her team made a big effort to try and get this testing kit out at the earliest.
Against All Odds.
For Bhonsle, it was not just a race against time but her personal condition too. Bhonsle, 9 month pregnant and ready to deliver any time, had just about sent her test for an approval to the requisite body, when she checked in to a hospital for her baby’s delivery. Mylab had only begun work on the kits in February, and on 18 March, just a day after the ICMR’s announcement allowing private labs to test for COVID-19, Bhonsle managed to submit the kit for evaluation to the NIV and then to the FDA.
“It was an emergency, so I took this on as a challenge. I have to serve my nation,” she said to the BBC.
Her efforts paid off. “If you carry out 10 tests on the same sample, all 10 results should be the same…Our kit was perfect,” she added.
India needs to test more and since mostly the kits were imported, the costs were high and the kits too few. Now we will be able to scale up the number of test kits. The Indian government only recently approved the sale of 18 diagnostic kits by private companies last week.