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24th July 2020

Wells Fargo to financially support IIT Delhi’s initiative to develop home-based COVID-19 testing kit

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Amidst the global health emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi has deployed its extensive research expertise in the ongoing battle against the spread of the virus.

Wells Fargo International Solutions Private Limited through their philanthropic partner, United Way of Bengaluru (UWBe), has joined hands with IIT Delhi in this fight against coronavirus.

IIT Delhi and Wells Fargo recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the development of a peptide-based ELISA test for the detection of COVID-19 antibodies. ELISA, short for serological enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, determines whether a person possesses antibodies for COVID-19 in the blood. The test results can help the medical fraternity fight the disease in many ways; a significant way would be the identification of individuals with antibodies who can donate their blood as part of an experimental treatment of infected patients.

The Principal Investigator of the project, Dr. Anurag S. Rathore, Dean, Corporate Relations & Professor, Chemical Engg. Dept., IIT Delhi said, “Testing for COVID-19 continues to be a bottleneck at present. Options that are available in the market offer limited accessibility and affordability. This project- a collaboration between IIT Delhi and National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune - has the potential of making a meaningful difference to this situation by enabling affordable, home-based testing. We are thankful to Wells Fargo, our Corporate CSR Partner, and United Way of Bengaluru, our CSR NGO Partner for their support. This collaboration highlights IIT Delhi's strength in healthcare. We wish this team every success.”

“This research aims at developing a peptide-based, ELISA-based diagnostic, serological assay against COVID-19. We also aim to create an economical, commercial process for manufacturing the antigens used in ELISA and home-based diagnostic kits to offer an effective, quick, robust and affordable diagnostic solution for the COVID-19 outbreak,” Prof. Rathore added.

Wells Fargo will fund the project while UWBe will facilitate its implementation. Commenting on the partnership, Mr. Arindam Banerrji, Managing Director and Head of Wells Fargo (India & Philippines), said, “Continuing with our ongoing commitment to fight COVID-19, we are pleased to associate with United Way of Bengaluru and IIT Delhi in this project. We hope that in such challenging times, this initiative will serve the community by getting timely access to effective testing and the right medical help. At Wells Fargo, we believe that it’s crucial to stand with organisations that are making efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.”

“At United Way, our overarching ethos is ‘Mobilising the Caring Power of Communities’ and it is in these times of crisis that we need to showcase this the most,” said Mr Rajesh Krishnan, UWBe’s Executive Director. “We deeply appreciate our Corporate Partner, Wells Fargo for their foresight in supporting this initiative by IIT Delhi. This initiative will be a game changer in the field of COVID-19 testing by bringing it to every home. As Wells Fargo’s CSR partner and in alignment with our ethos, the UWBe team is helping in anchoring this intervention,” he added.

Prof. V. Ramgopal Rao, Director, IIT Delhi, said, “We are happy to be associated with Wells Fargo and United Way of Bengaluru. This collaboration will have immediate impact, allowing us to accelerate time-critical research to develop solutions. This funding for the project on COVID-19 detection research shall help the nation combat these difficult times.”

He further stated, “IIT Delhi has also developed an extremely low-cost COVID-19, probe free RT-PCR test kit, which has been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), making IIT Delhi the first academic institute to have obtained ICMR approval for a real-time PCR-based diagnostic assay. Non-exclusive license to scale up production and go to market with this indigenously developed kit has already started. This current ELISA based test kit will further add to the capabilities of the nation. IIT Delhi incubated start-ups have also supplied over a million PPEs to the nation in just the last few weeks.”

The IIT Delhi research team will be working on this project (the peptide-based ELISA test) from its idea incubation to implementation stage. The proof of concept is expected by end of 2020, and the kits could be in market by March 2021.

About the research:

This research will utilise the microplate-based enzyme immune-assay technique. The choice of antigen will be a peptide that has been computationally identified. Structural analysis of the available complex will be performed to design a novel peptide that has a complementary property with spike protein of COVID-19. A set of peptides will be designed using a combination approach to test their binding. From the sequences of the variable regions of the Heavy and Light chain including the novel designed peptide, cloning of the mAb fragment (CV-Fab) will be performed. CV-Fab will be produced from which ELISA based testing kits will created.

About Wells Fargo & Company

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.97 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through 7,300 locations, more than 13,000 ATMs, the internet (wellsfargo.com) and mobile banking, and has offices in 31 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 266,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 30 on Fortune’s 2020 rankings of America’s largest corporations. News, insights and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories

Additional information may be found at www.wellsfargo.com | Twitter: @WellsFargo .

About Wells Fargo International Solutions Private Limited (“Wells Fargo India”)

Wells Fargo India is a critical component of Wells Fargo & Company (“Wells Fargo”) strategy to leverage distinct advantages in doing business in a global environment. Wells Fargo India is primarily an extension of the technology, operations, knowledge services, and corporate support teams of Wells Fargo. It engages in application development and support, testing, other technology functions, international operations, knowledge support, and middle and back-end banking process solutions for a wide spectrum of Wells Fargo’s needs. The entity currently has offices in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Chennai.

About UWBe, part of United Way Worldwide

UWBe, part of United Way Worldwide, is an NGO, focuses on social issues that seek immediate attention. The chapter catalyses unified efforts from corporates, civic bodies and citizen associations to bring about visible change. We work in four key areas- Environment, Education, Healthcare and Livelihood. Our three flagship campaigns serve important purposes: ‘Wake the Lake’ works to protect Bengaluru’s lakes, ‘Born Learning’ helps provide nutrition and education to very young children and ‘Rural Rising’ aims to develop and empower the rural communities. Besides, volunteering is yet another key area that inculcates a sense of social responsibility amongst the citizens.