A Kochi-based biotechnology start-up claims to have developed a test kit for genomic analysis that can help predict chances of developing a severe disease if infected. Covigene — developed by Sagenome Private Ltd on its OhMyGene platform — provides a test of genetic variations that can help predict Covid-19 disease severity, and help individuals prepare well for treatments to ensure the correct management of the disease, the company states.

Sagenome is promoted by two veteran health-care professionals, M. Ayyappan, former CMD of HLL Lifecare Limited (HLL), and M. Radhakrishna Pillai, former director of Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB). The company has been incubated at the Integrated Start-up Complex (ISC) of the Kerala Start-up Mission (KSUM).

"Till now, the understanding of Covid-19 severity has been limited to the use of clinical risk models. The addition of a genetic profile to the clinical modelling will be immensely useful”, says Pillai, adding that Covigene provides data on the possible prediction of the disease course based on the profile of four genes.

The company claims that Covigene will be useful for elderly persons and those having comorbidities, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and cancer.

“During the pandemic, our expertise focussed on identifying and validating gene variants associated with Covid-19 severity. We used this research tool to predict if a person has a higher genetic chance of developing a serious disease. It can then be used to discuss options with health-care professionals when diagnosed with a Covid-19 infection”, Pillai explains.

Individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 experience extreme variation in disease course — ranging from a complete lack of symptoms to rapidly worsening end-stage pulmonary disease. According to the published data, the underlying genetic factors are involved in disease severity.

The OhMyGene platform is a molecular diagnostic that allows medical professionals to make personalised health-care decisions tailored to an individual’s unique genetic make-up.

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