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LOLC Advanced Technologies launches RT-LAMP Test Kit for COVID-19 Detection for the first time in Sri Lanka

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COVID-19, the novel coronavirus infection, which began in Hubei Province, China in December 2019 transformed to an unprecedented worldwide crisis in great speed. The pandemic caused snap lockdowns, social distancing and an alarming number of loss of human lives across the world – all this, resulted in grave humanitarian and economic loss, globally. In Sri Lanka, the pandemic has claimed over 14,000 lives already. Ever since the first case was detected in early 2020, Sri Lanka experienced several lockdowns and travel restrictions which caused most economic activities in the country to come to a standstill.

Across the world, the outbreak of COVID-19 also spurred widespread scientific research from prevention, cure to detection. LOLC Advanced Technologies collaborated with the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC) through Ceylon Nano Diagnostics Pvt Ltd. (CNDL) to introduce the loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) method for the first time in Sri Lanka to curb the limitations of the standard coronavirus detection method approved by the World Health Organization which is RT-qPCR method. This novel process is similar to the conventional PCR tests, with the exception that the nucleic acid amplification occurs at one temperature. As a result, certain mandatory equipment for PCR such as a thermal cycler is not required. This method of detection being quicker, easier to use, and more cost effective than RT-qPCR tests in terms of diagnosis, has many advantages such as wide pH and temperature ranges that are acceptable, the ability of the assay to accept non-processed samples, and the flexibility of the readout methods, all the while maintaining specificity and sensitivity that is about equal to that of the PCR tests.

Ceylon Nano Diagnostics Pvt Ltd. is a Joint Venture (JV) company established to produce RT-LAMP kits and other research and development initiatives related to the molecular diagnostics field. LOLC Advanced Technologies is the management entity for CNDL on behalf of Browns Pharma Limited’s shareholding of 50% while SLINTEC bears the balance 50% shareholding.

SLINTEC has successfully demonstrated the use of RT-LAMP as a robust method for SARS-CoV-2 detection in clinical specimens in Sri Lanka. Even though, several detection methods are available in the LAMP assay, SLINTEC has developed the RT-LAMP kit with the fluorescence detection which is the most sensitive method that can be performed using RT-PCR machine which is currently used for detection of COVID-19. After demonstrating the proof of concept, the SLINTEC RT-LAMP assay was validated against the existing RT-qPCR test at Sri Jayewardenepura University (SJP), by analyzing RNA extracted from more than 200 patient specimens supplied by SJP. This was followed by analyzing virus samples isolated from positive patients supplied by National Institute of Infectious Diseases (IDH) using RT-qPCR available at SJP. Subsequently, the SLINTEC RT-LAMP kit was validated independently by the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) at three different laboratories (Infectious Diseases Hospital, Karapitiya Teaching Hospital and Medical Research Institute) for its performance. Having carried out a GMP compliance audit, the NMRA has also given the green light to manufacture the product at the CNDL production facility. In addition, the Ministry of Health has given their consent to use the LAMP technique in Sri Lanka. After a stringent compliance audit, the manufacturing facility was awarded the GMP Certificate to commence manufacturing and finally the product obtained the NMRA approval for commercial use in the Sri Lankan molecular diagnostics market. Although RT-LAMP is new to Sri Lanka, it is currently being used in several other countries including USA and UK.

Commenting about the collaboration, LOLC Group, Deputy Chairman Ishara Nanayakkara said, “At LOLC, our increasing investments in science, research and technology derives from our passion and thirst for knowledge and scientific innovation which is centered on local value addition. I am pleased to note that this collaboration has done just that and especially at a crucial stage of an evolving pandemic. As a Group, we are committed to continue to work and invest in such value additions whilst providing local scientists and researchers the opportunity and platform to explore and make use of their skills and knowledge”.

LOLC Advanced Technologies (Pvt) Ltd. is the research arm of the LOLC Group. The company provides advanced technological consultation support to companies under the LOLC umbrella in the fields of precision agriculture, process improvements for cinnamon agronomy and value addition, new product development in plant nutrition and agro-chemistry. LOLC Advanced Technologies was set up to explore sustainable business opportunities in the market with augmentation of Science and Technology. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of LOLC Holdings PLC.

To capitalize on the marketing, distribution, technical and application services in the market, CNDL entered into an agreement with Avon Pharmo Chem (Pvt) Ltd., a long-standing leader in the molecular diagnostics market in Sri Lanka.

Dilip K. Fernando, CEO of Avon Pharmo Chem Pvt Ltd said, “Avon possesses the country’s best application, technical team and marketing processes in serving the biotechnology and molecular diagnostics laboratories. We are confident that the COVID 19 test kit produced in Sri Lanka can be instrumental in resolving the challenges faced by the country right now. As we have already received a better response from the private sector COVID-19 testing laboratories, we are fully engaged in training laboratory staff for adopting the technology faster so that all the laboratories can use the kit soon.”

Commenting, Dr. Naresh Handagama, CEO of SLINTEC said, “The COVID 19 test kit developed by the scientists at SLINTEC according to industry best practices, compliance and protocols, has been commercially launched for the Sri Lankan molecular diagnostics market. This is the first of its kind in our history that a test kit of this kind has been able to successfully pass the hurdles of very stringent GMP and NMRA standards certificates together with a series of other validations and trials in many laboratories.  When COVID hit our country, many industry leaders engaged in various activities to support the government’s battle in combating the COVID 19 challenge. But, LOLC looked for sustainable ways of facing this issue by investing in science and technology expertise and infrastructure. When SLINTEC announced their engagement in test kit development, LOLC leveraged the idea that could support for future developments as well. This initiative is of great national importance as we are now able to produce this test kit locally and save the outflow of foreign currency from our country whilst better serving the nation with improved performance”.



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Teejay achieves milestone US$ 250 million in sales in 2021-22

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Teejay Lanka PLC has reported a revenue milestone of Rs 50 billion at Group level for FY 2021-22, achieving its first annual sales of a quarter of a billion in US Dollar terms at the rates of exchange that prevailed during the year.A strong fourth quarter during which revenue grew 38% to Rs 13.5 billion, the highest quarter revenue since the Company’s inception, enabled Sri Lanka’s largest textile manufacturer to achieve 12-month sales growth of Rs 17.8 billion or 56% to end what was a challenging year for businesses in general, on a high note.

The Group posted profit before tax of Rs 2.887 billion and net profit of Rs 2.517 billion for the year ending 31st March 2022, recording healthy growth of 11% and 18% respectively. Net profit for the fourth quarter was Rs 826.2 million, reflecting an improvement of 9%.At company level, Teejay Lanka increased revenue by 40% to Rs 29.4 billion for the year, and reported pre-tax profit of Rs 2.6 billion and net profit of Rs 2.4 billion, achieving growth of 23% and 24% respectively.

Elaborating on the Group’s performance, Teejay Lanka Chairman Mr Ajit Gunewardene said the revenue increase was the result of increased demand from the region. The enhanced volumes were delivered with the increased capacity within the Group and the support of outsourced partners, he said.Gunewardene said, however, that margins had been impacted during the year because of the upsurges in the prices of cotton, oil, freight, dyes, chemicals, and auxiliaries. “The increase in the costs of inputs has been the biggest challenge during the year,” he said, disclosing that enhancing efficiency within the Group and increasing prices to customers were the key strategies to counter the challenge.

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Nippon Paint Lanka accredited by Great Place to Work®

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Nemantha Abeysinghe, General Manager – Nippon Paints Lanka (Pvt) Ltd receiving the accreditation from Ms. Hasini Abeywardena, Project Manager – Great Place to Work Sri Lanka

Nippon Paint Lanka (Pvt) Limited has been certified as one of the best workplaces in the country. The Japanese coatings company in Sri Lanka has received this recognition in the manufacturing and production industry category by the globally famed Great Place to Work®.

“We embarked on this to understand employee perceptions of the company. We are proud to have received this honor in our journey towards building and sustaining a high-work ethic, and performance culture,” said General Manager of Nippon Paint Lanka, Nemantha Abeysinghe. “Being recognized as a ‘Great Place to Work-Certified’ organization is an honor and a tribute to the hard work, pride, and dedication put in by every member of Nippon Paint Lanka. We went the extra mile during the COVID period to extend to our employees, special working hours, perks and annual bonuses despite a countrywide lockdown. As a result, the company saw everyone dedicating their efforts more than two hundred percent to uplifting the business.”

“Being certified as a Great workplace indicates that we have differentiated ourselves by creating a great place to work for employees and established Nippon Paint Lanka as an employer of choice. It has passed the rigorous measurement through analysis of results of the Great Place to Work® Trust Index© survey,” Abeysinghe added. Great Place to Work® research is backed by data compiled by assessing over 100 million employees around the globe. Every year, they conduct the world’s largest study of workplace culture and hold the gold standard benchmarks for each country, industry, location and more. Companies that want to be on a Best Workplace list start by getting Great Place to Work-Certified™. Through the Certification process, they capture employee feedback and details about the programs and practices that make a workplace unique.

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Clarification on default status helps boost share market

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

Business confidence will likely build up in the wake of Central Bank Governor Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe telling the media yesterday that Sri Lanka was not facing a hard default but a pre-emptive default, which entailed informing about the payment of funds beforehand until the IMF debt restructure plan comes into play.Further, JP Morgan, a leading investment bank in the United States is on record that with the recent political changes, the current political crisis in Sri Lanka will stand defused and the value of bonds will rise. This would also create some impetus for the stock market, analysts said.

They point out that political stability will lead to a rise in the value of bonds above current lows. The Bank predicts that this will facilitate discussions with the International Monetary Fund as well as the process of appointing legal and financial advisors.

“We think this stability should result in both IMF discussions and the process of appointing legal and financial advisors moving forward,” Reuters said quoting JPMorgan analysts.

“Political stability should pave the way for bonds to move higher from near all-time lows,” JPMorgan analysts added.

Amid those developments stock market trading activities started on a positive note and later moved downwards. The All- Share Price Index went down by 243 points down and S and P SL20 declined by 94.9 points. Turnover stood at Rs 1.5 billion minus a crossing.In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; Expolanka Holdings Rs 777 million (3.7 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 204 million (24.8 million shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 130 million (13.9 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings Rs 70.7 million (127,000 shares traded), Softlogic Life Insurance Rs 56.8 million (914,000 shares traded), Royal Ceramic Rs 33 million (one million shares traded) and Lanka IOC Rs 30.3 million (752,000 shares traded). During the day 69 million share volumes changed hands in 17000 transactions.

It is said that following four sessions of sharp gains recorded in the CSE soon after the appointing of Ranil Wickramasinghe Prime Minister, indices edged down due to profit-taking in heavyweight stocks across sectors due to faulty speculation on the market. However, activity picked up to stronger levels with turnover surpassing Rs. 3 billion for the first time in nine weeks, largely boosting blue- chips, market analysts said.Yesterday, the Central Bank announced the US dollar buying rate as Rs 354.56 and the selling rate as Rs 364.53. The rupee rate has appreciated as against the dollar as certain policy measures have been adopted to bridge the gap between the Central Bank rate and the kerb market rate.

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