In early March 2020, the financial press reports that Motilal Oswal Private Equity, a subsidiary of Motilal Oswal Financial Services is investing Rs 240 crore (approximately US$ 33 million) in Molbio Diagnostics from its India Business Excellence Fund-III. Managing director and CEO of Motilal Oswal Private Equity’s Vishal Tulsyan says that the investment is to help Molbio scale up its made in India technology and products. “Molbio’s business model of close-ended diagnostic test assays has strong potential across the globe, both in public and private sectors.”
Molbio Diagnostic’s portable Truelab PCR system
Established in the year 2000, Molbio Diagnostics is a Goa-based medical technology company that has been developing techniques and products to make diagnostics increasingly accessible, accurate and affordable. Its Bengaluru-based research and development division called Bigtec Labs started as a product, patent and IP focused innovation company. Bigtec developed a portable and battery-operated micro-PCR system under the aegis of CSIR (NMITLI) that has since been extensively validated (under DBT & ICMR). It also developed various tests and nucleic acid preparation devices to facilitate ‘sample to result’ molecular diagnostics in resource limited settings. After 18 years of research, the micro-PCR system has since been launched in India by Molbio from its manufacturing and marketing plant in Goa.
The Molbio’s portable Truelab Real Time quantitative micro Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) system brings PCR technology right to the point-of-care. The company’s website says that it can be used in laboratory and non-laboratory settings, primary centres, in the field, and wherever it is needed – essentially at all levels of healthcare thereby decentralizing and democratising access to molecular diagnostics. PCR is a precise laboratory technique used to make multiple copies of a segment of DNA, and can be used to amplify, or copy, a specific DNA target from a mixture of DNA molecules.
Molecular diagnostics of infectious diseases works on the principle of DNA amplification, hence enabling early diagnosis of disease and infection but the technique has in the past, been limited to centralized laboratories due to dependency on complex and expensive infrastructure, highly skilled manpower, special storage conditions and need for batch testing. These constraints have also led to long turnaround time and logistics challenges such as sample degradation and contamination.
With a large and growing menu of assays for infectious diseases, Molbio’s rapid, portable technology enables early and accurate diagnosis and initiation of correct treatment right at the first point of contact. Molbio’s Truelab platform is an infrastructure-independent solution for disease diagnosis. With proven ability to work even at Primary Health Centres and with wireless data transfer capability, it is a potential breakthrough for the control and management of devastating infectious diseases.
Molbio offers the Truelab Real Time Quantitative micro PCR System platform. This compact battery-operated system has single testing capability and provides a sample to result within one hour. Hence, it enables same-day reporting and initiation of evidence-based treatment for the patient. It also has real-time data transfer capability (through SMS/E-mail/data push) for immediate reporting of results in emergency cases. The Truenat system works on disease-specific Truenat microchips for conducting a real-time PCR. The sample preparation (extraction and purification) is done on a fully automated, cartridge-based Trueprep AUTO sample prep device.
The Indian Council of Medical Research has found after extensive validation, that the Truenat tests are specific and more sensitive and have recommended these as a replacement to smear microscopy for diagnosis of TB and Rifampicin resistance under the RNTCP algorithm. The Ministry of Health has now initiated the roll-out of the test across India, with Andhra Pradesh being the first state to use Truenat as a frontline tool for TB detection at the primary health center level. Molbio is working closely with central and state governments for the eradication of TB by 2025 and for the efficient diagnosis of infectious diseases such as H1N1, dengue hepatitis B, and C.