InterviewIssueSep 21

MolBio aims to be the solution in global covid testing

Sriram Natarajan, CEO, Founder & Director, Molbio Diagnostics explains how the company’s innovative technology could offer POC COVID testing

The Truelab Real Time quantitative micro PCR system from Molbio Diagnostics brings PCR technology right to the point-of-care, at all laboratory and nonlaboratory settings, primary centres, in the field, near patients, essentially at all levels of healthcare. Sriram Natarajan, CEO, Founder & Director reveals more in interaction with IMT about the journey of the company and the way forward

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How has the molecular diagnostic testing market evolved during COVID-19 pandemic?

The outbreak of COVID-19 dramatically increased the need for RTPCR tests that has resulted in the market size suddenly growing many folds. This has not only increased the uptake of Truenat but has also significantly increased the number of labs doing molecular testing. This has also resulted in enhanced manufacturing apacity for Covid RTPCR tests in the country and the number of players in the conventional laboratory segment.

Molbio has been working at the front line from the very first day of the pandemic and Truenat has played a significant role in India’s fight against COVID-19 by expanding access to RTPCR testing in rural, resource-limited geographies across the country.

With the growing awareness, the demand for early diagnosis of infectious diseases is high, and various public and private organisations are investing funds to accelerate R&D in the field of molecular diagnostics. Recently, the infectious disease application segment accounted for the largest market share and will grow in the coming years. The increasing prevalence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, coupled with tests for sexually transmitted diseases/ infections like HIV and HPV will propel the segment’s growth and molecular testing is expected to become more of a routine clinical diagnostics tool not only for covid but for a wide range of infectious diseases soon. Further, point of care molecular tools such as Truenat will help in providing equal access to high-quality diagnostics across all segments of society, to minimise the devastating impact of delayed diagnosis.

How is the new manufacturing facility going to have an impact in your business?
Looking at the growing global demand for point of care molecular testing, Molbio Diagnostics launched a new manufacturing facility in Goa in June 2021. This facility will be used to increase manufacturing capacity of existing and upcoming Truenat kits and reagents in addition to the Truemix range. The manufacturing capacity has been increased five-fold, from the existing 80,000 tests per day to 3.5 lakh tests per day that will ensure the uninterrupted availability of Truenat test kits in the domestic market and help cater to global requirements of COVID-19, TB and other infectious diseases.

How affordable are the tests introduced by Molbio Diagnostics?
Truenat tests are priced affordably and effectively cost lower than conventional reagents considering wastage during batch testing and high dependency on complex infrastructure in the case of the latter. However, the overall cost the benefit of the early point of care diagnosis and the resulting impact on reduced morbidity and mortality, improved disease management and consequently reduced burden on the healthcare system far outweighs the cost of testing.

Which new technologies have been implemented while conducting tests?
Understanding the limitations of conventional molecular platforms, Molbio and its R&D subsidiary Bigtec labs had to completely re-engineer the conventional Real Time PCR technology into a point of care solution by leveraging on technologies such as Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS), micro and meso fluidic cartridges, nanotechnology, low power thermal cycling using disposable intelligent ceramic chips, lyophilization and other drying techniques and special sealing techniques. The platform was made rugged by minimising moving parts, miniaturised to occupy little floor space, enabled for portability and battery operation, with onboard memory, touchscreen interface and wireless data transfer capability and the reagents were designed for single testing capability, ready to use and stable at room temperature (up to 30 degree C) for two years. The intelligent chip carries a lot of information and standard curve values for generating quantitative results. The intelligent chip also ensures that wrong chips, previously run chips and expired chips are not run.

The system requires no special environmental conditions, no specific maintenance or calibration requirements has inbuilt diagnostic features and error reporting features.

What are your plans for the next five years?
Truenat is already being viewed as a multi-disease platform and in addition to the TB programme, we expect other programmes such as the Viral Hepatitis programme, NACO and vector borne diseases programme to add to the wider deployment and usage of the technology at the grass-root level. The Indian private sector is also able to use the Truenat platform for delivering high quality diagnostics for the full range of ests available.

Over 28 infectious diseases can already be tested on the Truenat platform while tests for another 30 new diseases are in development which is expected to be launched over the next two years. A range of open format reagents by the name Truemix are also planned again in ready to use, room temperature stable format.

There is also a much larger and growing global demand for high quality molecular diagnostic tools that can be especially deployed at the point of care. We expect to establish ourselves as a major player in the global molecular diagnostics market in the coming years. At the same time, we are also working on other points of care technologies for providing better solutions for AMR and non-infectious disease testing applications.

How did the company perform in the previous quarter?
The company’s performance in Q1 FY21/22 was strong and consistent with last year’s average quarterly sales.

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