Dixon Tech to help ramp up ‘disruptive’ COVID-19 test production

Dixon Tech’s Tirupati campus

Dixon Technologies, the NOIDA-based contract manufacturer of electronics, said it has entered into a contract with Bangalore-based Molbio Diagnostics to manufacture a disruptive RT-PCR COVID-19 test that can give a major boost to India’s Coronavirus containment efforts.

It has entered into a Rs 30 cr deal to manufacture 1,000 Qattros, a viral testing machine that can bring down COVID-19 testing time to just 1 hour from 24-36 hours at present.

Quattro is part of Molbio’s TrueNat RT-PCR solution that can be used to detect dozens of different diseases, including COVID-19, and has several advantages over conventional RT-PCR models.

The biggest advantage, according to Molbio and Dixon, is that it is compact, portable and cheap enough to be deployed at points of contact such as hospitals and airports, which reduces the need to transport blood samples in ultra safe conditions.

At present, most RT PCR testing involves collecting the sample at the point of testing and transporting it to a lab where the testing equipment is installed.

Moreover, unlike the RT-PCR machines currently in use that take 6-7 hours to provide a result, TrueNat delivers its results in 1 hour. Since most districts in India have only one such lab, while some districts have none, COVID-19 RT-PCR tests currently take 24-36 hours, during which time people have to be kept under observation.

Molbio’s is a “disruptive device in which the test can be conducted within 55 minutes of taking the swab. [In the] first stage, nucleic acid [is extracted] from it. In the second part, within 25 minutes of the swab being shifted on to the chip, it gives a positive or negative result,” according to Dixon Tech CEO Atul Lall.

The Quattro device, from Molbio’s website

The device was approved by ICMR in April, and is already in use at government hospitals in Jammu & Kashmir. “ICMR has stated in its report that the sensitivity is ahead of the conventional testing process of RT-PCR,” he added.

Dixon Tech expects to start trial production of the device next month and commercial production in August.

Lall said his company needs to get required ISO certification prior to commercial production, and staff have to be trained to handle medical products.

The testing device will be manufactured at the company’s Tirupati plant and will require no significant additional capital expenditure, according to the CEO.

The 1000 devices, when ready, will increase COVID-19 testing capacity by 4,000 per hour, or 96,000 samples per day.

Since these devices are on an export-prohibited list, they will help India ramp up testing from the current level of around 2-3 lakh per day.

“This is just the start of the business,” Lall said, pointing out that the device is also used to detect 27 diseases, including tuberculosis. The total number of RT PCR test machines in India is estimated at just 500.

“There is huge huge demand from state governments, central governments, from private labs.”

Besides Tirupati, Dixon Tech has manufacturing plants at NOIDA and Dehradun, and makes washing machines, TVs, lights and mobile phones for brands such as Mi, Voltas and Samsung.