Sometimes, the best laid plans can turn awry, and this statement holds true especially in the biotech industry, where projects are abandoned due to a myriad of factors. Genomix Biotech too had plans to utilize a German technology to create point-of-care (POC) diagnostic device for detecting infectious diseases like malaria, which is a major public health problem in India, accounting for sizeable morbidity, mortality and economic loss. However, when the German company in question was overtaken by a multinational company, Genomix' s plans came to a halt.
Unlike others who would have given up, people at Genomix took it up as a challenge and developed a cutting-edge POC diagnostic with the help of DBT's Small Business Innovation Research Initiative (SBIRI) scheme.
Talking about this journey Dr Rathnagiri Polavarapu, president and CEO, Genomix Biotech says, "The DBT financing, a combination of Rs 32 lakh as grant and Rs 29 lakh in the form of loan and Rs 8 lakh as grant-in-aid for academic centers, was sanctioned in 2009 to bring the German technology and later manufacture it in India. We never thought we would have to do the engineering aspect of it ourselves, but due to the change in circumstances we took it up as a challenge and developed a totally indigenous instrument."
For diagnosis of the disease, DNA is first isolated from the blood sample provided by the patient using a simple kit developed by Genomix. Next, the sample is fed into the instrument, which uses the technique of loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) or polymerase chain reaction (PCR), carried out at a single temperature to amplify the sample DNA.
The team has designed the instrument for the LAMP assay such that it can be used as a standalone in resource limited areas. Genomix developed the malarial genus and species specific primers that bind to the malarial DNA in the sample, if present, and emit a fluorescent signal that is detected by the instrument itself.