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”.
Pan Asia Bank posts steady performance during FY 2023 –
Profit before Tax increases by 258% amidst external challenges
Pan Asia Banking Corporation PLC reflected a steady performance amidst multitude of adversities emerging from challenging macro-economic conditions as the Bank reported its financial performance during 2023, which showed judicious portfolio management and prudency exercised in dealing with possible fallout on its asset quality in challenging times.
The Bank reported a Pre-tax Profit of Rs. 2,328 Mn for the year ended 31st December 2023, which is 258% increase compared to corresponding period last year, supported by improved net interest income, increased trading gains from government securities and reduced exchange losses.
The Sri Lankan economy has experienced some positive signs of gradual economic recovery and a measure of stability in macro-economic factors compared to the previous year, with the appreciation of LKR against USD and the IMF bailout followed by the Domestic Debt Optimization (DDO) announcement. The multiple economic scenario models used regarding collective impairment in 2022 were continued in 2023 to ensure that adequate buffers were in place to absorb any potential credit risk that could arise in the future. The allowance for overlays applied in previous year was continued and maintained during 2023 too. Meanwhile, the Bank managed to end the year with healthy credit quality matrices due to improved credit underwriting standards and concerted collection & recovery efforts despite the contraction in the loan book during 2023 which impacted the Bank’s Stage 3 Loan Ratio adversely.
Furthermore, the Bank increased impairment provision buffers held regarding investments in International Sovereign Bonds of Government of Sri Lanka (SLISBs) further during 2023 with the expectation of possible adverse outcomes of the on-going government External Debt Restructuring (EDR) programme. The Bank recognised an impairment charge of nearly Rs. 2 Bn regarding International Sovereign Bonds during 2023.
The interest income for the year 2023 rose by 39% due to the high interest rates that prevailed during the period under review compared to corresponding period of the last year and the re-pricing effect of facilities in response to the market conditions. Further, the growth in interest income was supported by the increased interest income from Rupee denominated securities of the Government of Sri Lanka (T-Bills & Bonds) due to increased investments and high interest rates offered on such new investments compared to the previous year. Consequently, the net interest income increased by 9% in 2023 compared to the last year. (Pan Asia Bank)
SLT-MOBITEL celebrates the season of love with exciting giveaways
SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT Solutions Provider, celebrated Valentine’s Day with a series of heartwarming promotions and networking activities, spreading love and joy for customers across the country.
Connecting hearts from all around the world on social media, SLT-MOBITEL invited participants to share their loving memories for a chance to win movie tickets. Customers were also given the opportunity to dedicate romantic ringing tones to their loved ones by dialling special codes.
As part of the Valentine’s Day celebrations, SLT-MOBITEL also offered a special promotion, providing a special screening for the glamorous movie ‘Sihinayeki Adarey’, powered by SLT-MOBITEL. Furthermore, customers were treated to a surprise bonus of 10GB of free data upon recharging their SLT-MOBITEL mobile numbers with Rs. 500 or more through any banking app.
Taking love to the hill country, in a special engagement event at the Kandy City Centre, fans were able to participate in activities and interact with the ‘Sihinayeki Adarey’ cast including Hemal Ranasinghe, Sheshadri Priyasad, and many others.
Through these exciting promotions, SLT-MOBITEL helped spread love and joy this season while enhancing the customer experience with exclusive activities.
To discover more of SLT-MOBITEL’s Valentine’s Day promotions, visit https://www.facebook.com/SLTMobitel.
Call for Proposals: Saman Kelegama Memorial Research Grant 2024
The Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) is inviting proposals for the Saman Kelegama Memorial Research Grant 2024. The grant is an annual, merit-based grant awarded to an outstanding undergraduate studying in a Sri Lankan university. It aims to promote policy entrepreneurs among undergraduates by encouraging policy-relevant, rigorous and innovative socio-economic research.
The grant was established in 2018 to honour Dr. Saman Kelegama’s legacy of independent research and public policy engagement in socio-economic development in Sri Lanka and the wider South Asian region. Dr. Kelegama was the Executive Director of the IPS from 1995 to 2017.
Fourth-year undergraduates studying economics or a related subject in a University Grants Commission approved university or higher education institution in Sri Lanka are eligible to apply. Proposals must be written according to the guidelines provided and emailed to email@example.com on or before the submission deadline of 30 April 2024.
HOW WILL THE WINNER BE CHOSEN? The quality of the proposals will be judged for its policy relevance, feasibility, originality and creativity. Three finalists will be chosen and invited to present their proposals at the IPS, where the award recipient will be selected.
OUTCOMES OF THE GRANTS – The recipient will be expected to produce a Policy Discussion Brief within six months of receiving the grant. The research report can be written individually or jointly with an IPS senior researcher.
BENEFITS OF THE GRANT – The beneficiary will be awarded a one-time research grant of LKR 200,000 to carry out the proposed research and a three-month internship at the IPS. The recipient will be able to seek guidance from senior researchers and benefit from IPS resources to complete the proposed study during the internship. To enable students from all over Sri Lanka to benefit from this opportunity, the terms of the internship will be flexible. The internship can either be a fully in-house internship at IPS, or it can be an in-house plus online internship. In the case of the second option, the in-house component of the internship should be at least six weeks. To encourage research dissemination, an additional subsidy will be provided for presenting the research findings at local conferences and workshops.
30 April 2024 – Deadline for Submission of Proposals
01 June 2024 – Announcement of Finalists
23 June 2024 – Announcement of the Winner
Further information is available at: https://www.ips.lk/saman-kelegama-memorial-research-grant/
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