Interviews

India’s Competitive Advantage lies in its large Pool of Well-trained Medical Professionals

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Voxtur Bio, set up by young entrepreneur Viral Gandhi, was commercially commissioned in April this year and has already launched nearly 100 products in different categories of the in-vitro kit manufacturing sector dominated by just a handful of players in India. Viral R. Gandhi, Chairman & Managing Director, Voxtur Bio Ltd, in an interaction with Ekta Srivastava, health Technology, talks about the future and current status of diagnostic market and their new product

Please tell something about Voxtur Bio Ltd.

Voxtur Bio Ltd. is a FDA-licensed, GMP, ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 13485:2003-accredited company, possessing state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, producing CE-marked Clinical Laboratory Rapid Diagnostic Testing Kits. Emphasis on in-house R&D has led Voxtur Bio in developing the most advanced and sophisticated technologies, for delivering high-quality diagnostic testing solutions in the space of in-vitro diagnostic.

Voxtur Bio has come up with distinctively enhanced IVD products to serve its end users, distributors and manufacturers (on OEM) around the globe. Ensuring highest levels of sensitivity & specificity, each of its products is put through several stringent quality control protocols, that assists its end-users to deliver desired results. Diagnosis being a pre-requisite for undertaking any medical treatment, Voxtur Bio is committed for saving lives of millions around the globe; by ensuring timely, affordable, innovative and correct diagnosis.

Your views on, Standardising Labs and Organising Diagnostic Sector in a better way.

Till a decade back, IVD sector was not very well organized, with massive spread-outs from ultra-small labs, to medium ones, to large scale laboratories, across pan India, with minimal data on its numbers, its accreditations and its operations. But trend has got gradually changed in recent years, as more and more labs are now getting accreditated, deploying good technical (MSC / DMLT) staff, installing high level of automations, along with a compulsory deputation of a Pathologist to draw conclusions. Emergence of large corporate laboratory chains too have gained mileage, with couple of them having a good spread out with their own facilities and collection centers across pan India. Most of the medium sized and big hospitals are having now their own well established laboratories, to cater their in-house testing, on more effective and timely scales. The process of standardising Labs and making Diagnostic Sector more organized was slow in past, but has already gained respectable momentum during current years.

What are the stringent collection methods and the kind of services being provided to the customers.

Walk-in customers account for most of the blood / urine / sputum samplings, followed by home collection services provided by major laboratories, but that adds to an extra cost for the client. Use of sterile sample containers and blood collection tubes, with additives, is gaining more and more momentum, to ensure proper and safe logistics of the samples collected. Test readings, coupled with the reference ranges are mentioned in the test report for an easy interpretation to not only the doctors, but also to literate patients.

 Venture Capitalists eyeing Diagnostic Sectors

IVD has become one of India’s highest growth sectors – both in terms of revenue and employment and is growing at a tremendous pace owing to its strengthening coverage, services and increasing expenditure by public, as well private players.

India’s competitive advantage lies in its large pool of well-trained medical professionals. India is also cost competitive compared to its peers in Asia and Western countries. The hospital and diagnostic centres attracted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) worth US$ 3.59 billion between April 2000 and March 2016, according to data released by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).

According to a survey conducted across 60 private equity and venture capital firms, the most attractive sector for investment across the healthcare industry was identified as Diagnostic services, followed by medical devices & equipment. India is a land full of opportunities for players in the medical devices industry. The country has also become one of the leading destinations for high-end diagnostic services with tremendous capital investment for advanced diagnostic facilities, thus catering to a greater proportion of population. Besides, Indian medical service consumers have become more conscious towards their healthcare upkeep.

Couple of business deals that attracted in recent past includes, Capital International’s $203 million investments in privately held Mankind Pharma (via a secondary purchase from existing investor Chrys Capital), Carlyle investments of $128 million to acquire about 37% stake owned by co-founder G.S.K. Velu in diagnostic chain Metropolis Healthcare, followed by TA Associates and Westbridge off-loading their partial holdings worth about $62 million in diagnostics services rm Dr. Lal Pathlabs. News has been ongoing for Kedaara Capital may invest in Hyderabd based chain of Vijaya Diagnostics.

The year 2016 so far has registered 88 funding deals amounting to USD 397.41 million. This includes 54 angel/seed deals worth USD 11.19 million, 23 venture capital funding deals worth USD 155.83 million and 11 private equity deals amounting to USD 230.39 million. According to News Corp VCCEdge Healthcare Sector Funding insights, out of the USD 397.41 million deals so far this year, healthcare startups cornered 73 deals amounting to USD 113.45 million.

Biotechnology was the segment which attracted the top Private Equity and Venture Capital deals so far in 2016 with Quadria Capital’s investment of $70.27 million in Concord Biotech Ltd and the $27.4 million venture capital investment made by Tata Capital Innovations Fund, Sands Capital Management LLC, Sequoia Capital India Advisors Pvt. Ltd., Accel India Venture Fund II LP, and RA Capital Management LLC in Mitra Biotech Pvt. Ltd.

IVD has turned out to be a very lucrative arena for the Venture Capitalist, as the growth and returns both seems to be promising for years to come.

The expansion plans of Voxtur Bio Ltd.

We have acquired one more premises for installing our fully automated line for manufacturing of Blood Collection tubes in Kaman and our existing manufacturing premises has one more floor of extra space, that can replicate one more plant of our existing stature, whereby we will be coming up with our Clinical Chemistry, Microbiology and molecular biology range of diagnostic testing kits in our next phase of product launch. Furthermore, deployment of fully automated chemistry and hematology analysers in our product portfolio is in our plans too.

Share something about the new diagnostic in-vitro Kit.

Couple of projects is ongoing on the development of novel IVD testing solutions undertaken at our in-house R&D programmes, as well as public-private partnership programmes, but we will not be able to disclose the same, due to its confidential aspects.

As far as innovations in IVD industry is concerned, there are number of innovative IVD products hitting the market year on year, with PCR based tests gaining wider coverage, popularity and accuracy. Nano technology based products, fusioned with electronic chips will rule the market after a decades time. Non-invasive sampling based testing, through use of saliva as test sample, will be more preferred in near future, as compared to traditional blood / serum samplings. Saliva testing is a diagnostic technique that involves laboratory analysis of saliva to identify markers of endocrine, immunologic, inflammatory, infectious, and other types of conditions. Saliva is a useful biological fluid for assaying steroid hormones such as cortisol, genetic material like RNA, proteins such as enzymes and antibodies, and a variety of other substances, including natural metabolites, including saliva nitrite, a biomarker for nitric oxide status. Saliva testing is used to screen for or diagnose numerous conditions and disease states, including Cushing’s disease, anovulation, HIV, cancer, parasites, hypogonadism, glucose levels, Dengue and allergies.

Insights on the diagnostic sector and problems surrounding it

Diagnostics comes before treatment, because one needs to know what is the disease, before any medication begins, so clinical diagnosis is of immense importance, under the healthcare segment. Almost 80% of the medical treatments worldwide are derived on the basis of pre-clinical laboratory diagnosis.

Gone are the days, when the treatment was given by doctors in India, on the basis of their own pre-judgements. Awareness of cost effective diagnostic testing tools, before imparting any treatment, created a revolutionary impact since last one decade. Medical science has provided revolutionary diagnostic tools and techniques to diagnose the diseases in most affordable way, so that right treatment can be given to a patient at right time.

IVD sector has been observing a good growth in recent years, mainly due rising rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and the diseases of aging, apart from the regular infectious & seasonal based diseases diagnosis. Recently, there is a remarkable growth seen in the healthcare awareness and desire to undergo preventive health check-ups that has boosted the IVD industry growth even further. With a population of more than 1 billion, India is the world’s second largest country and therefore also a significant potential market for healthcare. Indian IVD market stands just next to US, China & Japan and it leads all the emerging nations. The current Indian IVD market is valued at around USD. 500 million, with an annual growth rate ranging around 20% annum.

Dealing with diseases caused due to our lifestyle choices.

The number of Lifestyle related diseases have gone up beyond imagination, with not only rise in infection rates, but also in rise of its different types. Previously it was mainly restricted to alcohol, drugs & smoking, but now the list gets added on, for number of such lifestyle related diseases.

Prima facie, unhealthy eating habits composed of Trans fats & high sugar based food consumption, has led to obesity, heart strokes and couple of organ failures. Disturbed biological clock, with less number of sleeping hours, wrong body postures and high work pressure has led to hypertensions, ultimately causing high blood pressures and heart failures.

Excessive usage of plastic articles (having chemical additives) as a carrier of eatables & drinks, has invited number of diseases, including cancer, birth defects, immune system malfunction and many more. Excessive pollution levels have led to asthma, lung cancer, respiratory diseases and many more.

A report, jointly prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Economic Forum, says India alone had incurred an accumulated loss of $236.6 billion till last year on account of unhealthy lifestyles and faulty diet.

With advancement of our lifestyle we have become dependent on technology and gadgets too, which directly have an impact on our health. Heavy usage of computer and mobile phones have not only led to glaucoma diseases, but its radiations have also led to low fertility, reduction in attention & memory, increase in reaction time, leakage in blood-brain barrier, sleep disturbances, headache, ringing in the ears, hearing disturbances and many more.

Diagnostic Sector is growing at the rate of 17% in India currently. What is the future of Diagnostic Sector in India and Job prospects in this sector.

During the last 10 years, India’s IVD market has grown continuously, while the annual growth rate was around 10% a decade ago, it has increased substantially in current years at approximately 17%, thanks to increasing prosperity and urbanization that are propelling the Indian IVD market. This growth trend in IVD sector is expected to continue for next 10 years down the line, that will provide immense job opportunities to prospective candidates, mainly from Biotech, DMLT and MSC backgrounds, with specialistaion in Chemistry, Immunology, Molecular Biology and Microbiology. With mplementation of MAKE IN INDIA strategy by our current government, with China loosing TRUST on global platform and with developing countries shifting their manufacturing base to India, sky will be the limit for the Indian youth to grab all the opportunities in tapping the IVD segment.

 

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