CSIR-IIP creates COVID-19 testing facility in 7 weeks’ time!

When you plan work meticulously and put the slate on a strict timeline, you are bound to succeed. CSIR-IIP operates on this mantra, and thus emerged the success story of the creation of the COVID-19 sample testing facility at the CSIR-IIP premises in a rapid seven weeks’ time.

On 8 April 2020, we committed to serve the state of Uttarakhand, which had very limited testing capacity at the time, by expanding our microbiology capability and RT-PCR machine to meet the ICMR Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) standards. The team of biologists and biotechnologists from one of our research divisions, Material Resource Efficiency (MRED), prepared the proposal in just three days and reached out to the CSIR Headquarters.

On receiving a green signal from CSIR HQ, the COVID-19 Team at CSIR-IIP initiated the facility creation from ground zero. We placed the plan on the table with Dr Thallada Bhaskar to lead the team, Dr Debashish Ghosh as project leader, Dr Sunil K. Suman as operational lead, Dr Deepti Agrawal and Dr Diptarka Dasgupta as procurement lead and operational support. We received guidance from experts like Dr Sanjeev Khosla, Director, CSIR-IMTech, Chandigarh; Dr Rakesh Mishra, Director, CSIR-CCMB, Hyderabad; Teams from AIIMS-Rishikesh and Govt. Doon Medical College, Dehradun. Dr. Sanjeev Khosla personally visited CSIR-IIP with his team to provide detailed guidance about facility creation, testing techniques, and precautionary measures to be taken with due diligence.

Not being a traditional medical institute or college, we decided we would build a model standalone facility that could be replicated anywhere in India. For this, we contacted three engineering firms for fabricating, installing and commissioning a portacabin-based Biosafety Level 2-plus (BSL-2+) facility. The job was awarded to M/s Deep Airconditioning, Gurugram on 15 April 2020. Orders were released after confirming the supply chain of all required equipment within Govt. of India as well as CSIR rules. As the entire country was going through a strict lockdown, with no interstate movement other than essential services, it was a challenge to coordinate and complete the installations on time.

There were four parallel activities to complete the task and initiate patient sample analysis as early as possible. First, the site had to be prepared with foundation and RCC base along with a tin shed for ducting support. Handover of this task to the vendor was completed on 3 May 2020 despite unseasonal rains.

Second, we had to ensure seamless coordination with the vendor for material supply as well as human resource, since many parts and spare items were to be procured from marketplaces in and around Delhi and Gurugram. Individual day-wise movement orders were arranged through intra and interstate government machinery and relevant ministries to mobilize the entire supply chain.

Third, all allied equipments had to be procured and brought on to the site so that they could be placed efficiently after the erection of the porta cabin structure.

Fourth, the team had to undergo full training from CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology (CSIR-IMTECH) for sample testing, data analyses, and reporting in the portal and to set up a biomedical waste (BMW) disposal system. We contacted Uttarakhand Environmental Protection and Pollution Control Board (UEPPCB) through MPCC, an NGO that looks after the entire BMW disposal in Uttarakhand and signed an agreement.

Meanwhile, two Memoranda of Understanding were signed with AIIMS-Rishikesh and Government Doon Medical College, Dehradun, to share mutually the knowledge base developed during the testing.

Finally, Dr. Sanjeev Khosla, Director CSIR-IMTECH, once again visited CSIR-IIP to assess our readiness, and was impressed with the structure and with our shaping up the facility in such a short time.

With the stage all set, we applied for ICMR registration for analysis at CSIR-IIP, as a designated VRDL, through Director General CSIR. We were granted recognition within 24 hours. With all formalities completed, the facility was inaugurated on 3 June 2020 by Mr. Yugal Kishore Pant, Additional Secretary Health and Medical Education, Uttarakhand in the presence of Dr Arjun Senegar and Dr Pankaj from the National Health Mission & IDSP in the presence of digital and print media.

From the very next day, we started receiving COVID-19 samples (an average of 50 samples per day) from the Uttarakhand State Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) and results started being released as per protocol.

CSIR-IIP, Dehradun, being an Energy & Hydrocarbon lab, which mainly works on alternative fuels and downstream petroleum refining, has previously been in the limelight for flying aeroplanes with bio-jet fuel, converting waste plastics into BS-VI diesel, and building India’s export-enabling paraffin wax plant in Assam. Besides, in this period of pandemic crisis before the country, CSIR-IIP extended full support on various fronts, be it preparing and distributing hand sanitizers, enriching medical grade oxygen from air, or distributing masks and providing cooked food to the needy.

With the creation of a standalone portacabin based state-of-the-art BSL-2+ facility, in a record time, CSIR-IIP has added another jewel to its crown.


Team COVID Warriors @ CSIR-IIP