‘‘Molec­u­lar di­ag­nos­tics will be­come a pro­to­col in next 5 years’’

BioSpectrum (India) - - BIO CONTENT - Arunima Pa­tel, Founder & Man­ag­ing Direc­tor, iGe­netic Di­ag­nos­tics

Arunima Pa­tel, Founder & Man­ag­ing Direc­tor, iGe­netic Di­ag­nos­tics

iGe­net­ics, a Mum­bai based Health-tech startup which was es­tab­lished in De­cem­ber 2013 and was launched com­mer­cially in 2015, has ex­panded into the crit­i­cal care, on­col­ogy and in­fer­til­ity seg­ment with tests for dis­eases like Down’s Syn­drome, tha­las­saemia, sickle-cell anaemia and cer­tain can­cers over the last year. It also has a test that can de­tect dengue in first 24 hours and has also earned the stature of be­ing the only di­ag­nos­tics com­pany in In­dia that can de­liver a sep­ticemia test re­port within 24 hours. Last year, it se­cured $19.5 mil­lion in its lat­est round of fund­ing from CDC Group Plc and the Ma­ni­pal Ed­u­ca­tion and Med­i­cal Group (MEMG). The com­pany has signed over 100 mem­o­randa of un­der­stand­ing with lead­ing hos­pi­tal chains like Apollo, Rain­bow, KIMS, Jupiter & SL Ra­heja. BioSpec­trum spoke to Arunima Pa­tel, Founder & Man­ag­ing Direc­tor, iGe­netic Di­ag­nos­tics, who has been in­stru­men­tal in at­tract­ing in­vest­ment from these mar­quee in­vestors. Edited Ex­cerpts-

What does iGe­netic spe­cial­izes in?

We do tests right from rou­tine bio­chem­istry tests to ad­vanced molec­u­lar di­ag­nos­tics and ge­netic tests. Where we spe­cial­ize is crit­i­cal care in­fec­tion space for e.g. de­tec­tion of sep­ticemia, CNS in­fec­tions, com­mu­nity­ac­quired pneu­mo­nia, trans­plant re­lated in­fec­tions such as neu­trope­nia, we look at those cases. The ad­van­tage that we of­fer is that our di­ag­no­sis is very quick. While mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy takes any­where be­tween 42 hours to a few weeks, we can pro­vide a di­ag­no­sis in 24 hours turn around time. Re­sults are far su­pe­rior com­pared to the tra­di­tional meth­ods as we use ad­vanced molec­u­lar di­ag­nos­tics tech­niques. By us­ing tra­di­tional meth­ods, in ma­jor­ity (upto 80 per cent) of the ICU cases it is dif­fi­cult to di­ag­nose sep­ticemia, a blood stream in­fec­tion. Us­ing ad­vanced molec­u­lar di­ag­nos­tics meth­ods iGe­netic can pro­vide di­ag­no­sis in these cases as well as pro­vide

an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance pat­tern.

In your opin­ion, what are the dif­fer­ences in giv­ing a di­ag­no­sis via a tra­di­tional method or via molec­u­lar di­ag­nos­tic method?

Molec­u­lar meth­ods have a lot of ad­van­tages. In western world, 40 per cent of the tests are molec­u­lar-based while in In­dia, only 10 per cent are molec­u­lar-based. There is a need to in­crease aware­ness about the ad­van­tages of molec­u­lar di­ag­nos­tic meth­ods. We are do­ing that through var­i­ous ini­tia­tives.

How much in­vest­ment have you made in in­stru­ments for the de­tec­tion of cases like these?

In­vest­ment is quite sig­nif­i­cant. In­stru­ment is only one part of it but the in­vest­ment is also sig­nif­i­cant in the R&D part of it. There is also a high amount of in­vest­ment re­quired in man power as these are very spe­cial­ized tests.

In your opin­ion, is rais­ing funds still a big is­sue?

In our cases, fund­ing was not a big is­sue as we were into molec­u­lar di­ag­nos­tics. There were a lot of play­ers who wanted to in­vest in health­care de­liv­ery, spe­cially in spe­cial­ized di­ag­nos­tics field. So, fund­ing was not a chal­lenge. It is now that some re­sis­tance has come in the mar­ket. Peo­ple are now say­ing that let’s drive to­wards prof­itabil­ity, scal­a­bil­ity. Ear­lier, there was tremen­dous amount of in­ter­est for fund­ing in molec­u­lar di­ag­nos­tics.

What spe­cial­ized ser­vices do you pro­vide to the hos­pi­tals that you have signed MoUs?

In the coun­try, there are very few play­ers who are do­ing these kinds of tests. These are our own de­vel­oped tests. All hos­pi­tals deal­ing with crit­i­cal care re­quire the tests that we of­fer. In In­dia, peo­ple first go to a nurs­ing care set up and try to set­tle the ill­ness by tak­ing an­tibi­otics. By the time peo­ple come to ter­tiary hos­pi­tal, they have al­ready un­der­gone var­i­ous treat­ments, so they have to rely on molec­u­lar di­ag­nos­tic meth­ods in or­der to get a proper di­ag­no­sis of crit­i­cal care in­fec­tion as the cul­ture pos­i­tiv­ity ra­tio is very less.

What kind of dis­eases do you pro­vide di­ag­no­sis for?

We pro­vide di­ag­no­sis for sep­ticemia, neu­trope­nia, CNS in­fec­tions like menin­gi­tis, en­cephali­tis etc. We also pro­vide de­tec­tion for an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance. We also pro­vide di­ag­no­sis for res­pi­ra­tory dis­or­ders and

for viruses like H1N1, Ni­pah. We also of­fer di­ag­no­sis for in­fec­tions aris­ing from to­tal knee re­place­ment like os­teomyeli­tis, in­fec­tions aris­ing from heart-re­lated surg­eries.

What is the cur­rent sce­nario of molec­u­lar di­ag­nos­tics in In­dia?

In In­dia, it is still at a very nascent stage. It will be­come a pro­to­col in the next five years but it is not pop­u­lar now. Af­ford­abil­ity is a big is­sue. Our tests are ranged from Rs 8,000 - 15,000 even at Rs 25,000. Even at that price, peo­ple are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to af­ford it.

What steps should be taken to make it more af­ford­able?

If In­dia were to get the so­lu­tions, there are machines which are de­signed in the western mar­ket. If we are able to make it here, the price will be much less com­pared to the rate we are get­ting presently. At iGe­netic we do our own sci­en­tific de­vel­op­ments, we try to make it af­ford­able. We do not of­fer fifty pathogen tests to ev­ery pa­tient. We cus­tom­ize tests for each con­di­tion and re­gion. We re­duce the size of the panel in or­der to make it more af­ford­able. Since launch, we have re­duced our prices. Now, we can of­fer di­ag­no­sis at Rs 6,000 - 8,000 also. If a pa­tient goes for full fifty pathogen tests, it will cost around Rs 25,000.

What are the chal­lenges that you face and how you over­come them?

The big­gest chal­lenge that we face is less aware­ness even at both doctor’s and pa­tient’s level. Sec­ond chal­lenge that we face is that as In­dia does not have any reg­u­la­tion, any­body can de­velop a home grown test and launch with­out val­i­da­tions. There is no recog­ni­tion of the qual­ity that is be­ing of­fered. So, peo­ple look at us with the same spec­tra and ques­tion our qual­ity. If there was any reg­u­la­tion or any check, at least we could ex­plain to our cus­tomers about the qual­ity that we of­fer. To­day, very less ac­cred­i­ta­tion is avail­able. How we over­come is, we go for in­ter­na­tional ac­cred­i­ta­tion like Col­lege of Amer­i­can Pathol­ogy pro­fi­ciency test­ing. How­ever, the process is very time con­sum­ing and ex­pen­sive.

In your opin­ion, what steps should gov­ern­ment take in this sec­tor?

Gov­ern­ment has to have a body which reg­u­lates the in­dus­try. To­day, to open a new lab, one needs a Shops and estab­lish­ment li­cense. Any­body can take that li­cense. There is no check avail­able. Gov­ern­ment has to have an au­thor­ity that puts a check on the launch of lab tests. Reg­u­la­tions are there be­fore the launch of de­vices, di­ag­nos­tic kits and drugs. The scope of the same should be ex­panded to in­clude own de­vel­oped di­ag­nos­tic tests as well.

What are the driv­ing fac­tors of the growth of the com­pany?

In­no­va­tion con­tin­ues to be the driv­ing fac­tor. We will re­main as some­one who is into in­no­vat­ing the prod­uct.

You have pres­ence in Mum­bai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Nag­pur, Ahmed­abad and Ben­galuru. Are there any plans of ex­pan­sion?

Geo­graph­i­cally, we have very less pres­ence. We have plans of ex­pand­ing in In­dia this year. Next year, we plan to cover the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket as well. What­ever prob­lems we are fac­ing, we find sim­i­lar prob­lems in other Asian coun­tries such as Sri Lanka, Malaysia. We find these prob­lems in Mid­dle East as well. So, we will be tar­get­ing those coun­tries.

Are there any plans of merg­ers or ac­qui­si­tion in In­dia?

No not yet. Or­ganic is what we are try­ing to grow.

Are there any new prod­ucts in the pipe­line? How much time does a prod­uct take to come to the mar­ket?

We are de­vel­op­ing non-in­va­sive clin­i­cal screen­ing for Down’s syn­drome. Our first prod­uct took a very long time be­cause of the val­i­da­tions that were to be done etc. If we are en­ter­ing a new seg­ment, it takes al­most a year or more to launch it. Any grad­ual en­hance­ment af­ter that takes al­most 2 months or so.

For what tests have you filed patent for and what dif­fi­cul­ties have you faced?

We have filed patents for al­most all our tests. The process is very lengthy and cum­ber­some. If it could be short­ened, it would be great.

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