‘Our cost-effective test will help detect typhoid in just 7 hours’

The rapid diagnostic method for typhoid detection by two IIT-Delhi alumni is a more viable option for the rural masses

March 15, 2017 01:00 am | Updated 01:00 am IST - New Delhi

Good technology:  Saurabh Singh being awarded by IIT-Delhi Deputy Director M. Balakrishnan and Pfizer managing director S. Sridhar.  Special Arrangement

Good technology: Saurabh Singh being awarded by IIT-Delhi Deputy Director M. Balakrishnan and Pfizer managing director S. Sridhar. Special Arrangement

Saurabh Singh and Vikas Pandey, two former students of the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, have developed a rapid diagnostic method for typhoid with a turnaround diagnosis time of seven hours. Tests available currently take over two days to arrive at a diagnosis. The newest diagnostic tool is simple to manage, portable and most importantly “cost effective”, making it a more viable option for the rural masses. The Pfizer-IIT Delhi Innovation and IP Program (PIDIIP) aligned with the the “Start-up India, Stand up India” national campaign helped the duo develop this test. Mr. Singh, the CEO and co-founder of Valetude Primus Healthcare Pvt. Ltd., spoke to The Hindu about how it all started.

What is the innovation all about?

The iMC2-iAST [the name of the innovation] stands for Immune-Magnetic Cell Capture and Instant Antimicrobial Susceptibility Test. It’s a detection test for typhoid detection and a powerful tool to capture infectious cells in the blood sample. It is an early-stage cost-effective diagnostic test, which will be able to detect and thereby diagnose infectious diseases, especially typhoid, within seven hours. The test works in two phases. In the first five hours, we will be able to confirm the presence of a specific disease. In the next two hours, its antibiotic susceptibility profile is generated.

The technology is able to selectively pick pathogens from the complex blood sample and thereby test for its antibiotic resistance profile. The test provides essential information for targeted antibiotics treatment and will help reduce per-capita treatment duration and cost.

How is it better than the conventional diagnostic tools used currently?

At present, typhoid diagnosis takes anywhere from two to three days. With the current gold standard being the blood/bone marrow culture test, a microbial susceptibility test after this takes an additional 48 hours. On the other hand, our portable and cost-effective iMC2-iAST test will help expedite diagnosis to just seven hours. The easy-to-use point-of-care device is self-sufficient and omits the requirement for high infrastructure laboratories as well as trained microbiologists. This portable device can be installed without the need for a lot of infrastructure and will prove to be extremely beneficial in treating patients in resource poor settings.

Bacterial infections, especially typhoid, continue to be a major cause of death globally and in India. In the absence of rapid and affordable diagnostic solutions, patients are mostly administered a broad spectrum of antibiotics, leading to poor recovery time and possible complications like antibiotic resistance.

How long did it take to develop this innovation?

We [Mr. Pandey and I] were Ph.D students at IIT-Delhi and worked on this concept as part of our research. We’ve been working towards developing this technology for over three years in partnership with our professor. After completing our Ph.D, we formed a healthcare diagnostic solutions start-up called Valetude Primus Healthcare Pvt Ltd. approximately a year-and-a-half ago. The mission was to develop innovative and cost-effective solutions. This is when we saw the calling for innovators in healthcare by PIDIIP.

Once selected, we were thrilled to see that we could actually convert our idea into a prototype with the help of this programme. These are the kind of programmes our country needs to be able to improve public health. So far, it has been a great association and we’re looking forward to developing and completing this project on time.

How do you plan to leverage this innovation? Do you plan any tie-ups with hospitals or clinics?

With Pfizer’s support, we’ve already begun work on development of a market-ready product. We’re in talks with some leading medical colleges, hospitals and research centres in India for clinical validations and future product deployment. Hopefully, we will be able to provide this cost-effective innovative solution to a larger group.

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