Villgro welcomes a new healthcare company to its incubation portfolio - OmiX Research and Diagnostics Laboratories Pvt. Ltd aka OmiX Labs.
In this post, co-founders Sudeshna Adak and Abhinanda Sarkar tell us more about the company, its genesis and their further plans:
What does your company do? What is the product/service?
The nearest primary health centre for someone who is sick is likely to be 5 km away, and the medical officer there is unlikely to be familiar with the wide range of infectious diseases that are prevalent in the region and probably will not have access to a microbiology laboratory. (Source:Infectious Diseases in India,Lancet 2011;377: 252–69)
OmiX Labs is developing a novel technology platform that allows for cost-effective DNA testing for pathogens, outside of laboratory settings, to address this stark gap in our healthcare systems. Today, diagnostic tests, especially the more useful DNA-based tests require specialised laboratories with skilled technicians and are relatively higher cost. The product being developed by OmiX Labs is designed for use outside of laboratories, with only minimal skilled health workers. At the same time, by focusing on the DNA of the infecting pathogen as the molecular signature to be detected, the test can be used for early detection, detecting the species of the infecting pathogen and being used for treatment recommendation.
Why did you create it? How did it come about?
Prior to founding OmiX, we had worked in the US and in India and in multinational companies with particular emphasis on healthcare. Living in India, the inequities present in the healthcare system seem overwhelming. The correct diagnosis, done early, at the first doctor you see in your village or town makes a world of difference – to the ultimate outcome, the money spent on treatment and multiple doctor consultations including travel and the loss of wages due to the disease.
We knew the technologies that existed in the laboratories that could provide accurate and early diagnosis. So, we needed to come up with the necessary innovations that could take laboratory testing outside of laboratories – not just making it portable, but removing requirements of cold chain or temperature controlled reactions, removing the need for skilled technicians, removing the need for a lot of costly reagents, and making it easy to use (so easy my 75-year-old mother could do the test herself).
Why are you excited about this space?
Infectious diseases constitute nearly 50% of the disease burden in India and much higher than 50% in people at the base of the pyramid and in children below the age of 5. Delay in diagnosis and late or inappropriate treatment increases the risk of complications, higher morbidity and mortality and increased cost to the patient.
The excitement of taking these laboratory based tests and making them “field-friendly” is in knowing that if successful, these tests could start to make a difference for the millions who suffer from an infection: anything from malaria to diarrhea to tuberculosis to AIDS.
What is innovative about your product?
OmiX Labs is developing a novel technology platform that allows for DNA testing for pathogens, outside of laboratory settings. Analogous to the glucose strips and glucometer devices for glucose testing at home, the OmiX platform detects pathogen DNA present in a few drops of blood on a novel disposable biochip, with a proprietary enrichment and assay on the chip and a reader for DNA analysis.
The platform is designed to bring advances in molecular diagnosis and create access where there is none: mostly in lower income groups who do not have access to laboratories and yet need early and accurate detection to have a better chance for cure.
What is the impact you want to have?
The impact we would like to see is that the platform becomes the preferred diagnostic tool that health workers and primary health centers use at the first sign of infection. The impact we would like to have is that patients no longer have to travel to a referral tertiary care simply to get diagnosed and be treated with proper antibiotics.
What successes and challenges have you seen till now and what is next?
As the company is about 1 year old and we are very early in our development cycle, our successes have been in seeing our first employee demonstrate feasibility of our solution, in getting our first funding (BIG from BIRAC), our first academic collaborator and winning the first Unitus StartHealth Competition among 300 applicants.
Our challenges have been many: from the early struggle of starting the company to getting lab space for experiments, from the uncertainty of future funding to being able to attract and recruit good and capable employees, from experiments that did not work to delays due to early mistakes we made, and from changes in approach and priorities while keeping true to the end objectives. These challenges continue every day…
What keeps you motivated?
As founders, the motivation has always been the belief that we could make a difference and our passion is and has been to make the best of technologies available to the people who most need it.
How will Villgro help you?
The reason we are excited to be incubated by Villgro is that Villgro comes in as a partner to early stage companies like OmiX. The rigor and in-depth evaluation that we have seen with Villgro even during the due diligence process drove us to think more deeply about our strategy and our priorities. The technical mentoring and support from Villgro is helping us augment our own R&D team’s thinking.
We are looking for a partner that helps us bridge the gaps in our own in-house knowledge and expertise. Villgro, through their own mentors and people they affiliate with who work at the base of the pyramid, are starting to help OmiX achieve its objectives of a cost-effective DNA testing platform to be used outside of laboratories.
Also read Villgro incubates Bengaluru-based Omix Labs in the Economic Times