Molecular Diagnostics Poised To Redefine Healthcare In India

Molecular Diagnostics Poised To Redefine Healthcare In India

Amit Chopra, Managing Director - India & South Asia, Thermo Fisher Scientific, 0

Amit has been associated with Thermo Fisher for over 14 years, prior to which he held the role Vice President ­ India at ICI.

Over the years, the field of molecular diagnostics has extended from a niche set of techniques limited to diagnosing rare diseases to a set of globally implemented diagnostics. It involves a set of techniques that analyze the genome and the proteome of an individual to accurately track and pinpoint a medical condition. As per reports published by MarketsandMarkets, with an increasing need for faster and more reliable diagnostic techniques, the global molecular diagnostics market is projected to reach $31.8 billion by 2026 from $17.8 billion in 2021, growing at a CAGR of 12.3 percent.

Further, the pandemic has given the adoption of technology a significant boost. As the government sets ambitious goals to take molecular diagnostics to a block level in every district in the country, from <200 functional RT-PCR labs, India now has more than 1500 RT-PCR labs, enabling early and fast diagnostic capabilities. The approach is to ensure infrastructure preparedness to cater to the rising disease burden, as well as manage future outbreaks in the country. The recognition that we require is a better understanding of genomes to accurately diagnose the progression and management of different diseases has accelerated the growth of molecular diagnostics globally.

RT-PCR based testing is the most common testing technology used to detect a pathogen's genetic material. It is simple and easy to use, with minimal invasion. In recent years, molecular testing has become more widely prevalent, mainly led by development of automated systems that provide accurate and rapid results. Molecular tests, with the advanced automation and high throughput platforms such as Thermo Fisher's Amplitude system can analyse up to 8000 RT-PCR tests per day, are high-yielding, and an automated solution that can help laboratories quickly scale COVID-19 testing to volumes needed to help reduce the spread of disease and restore economies and communities.

RT-PCR has been at the forefront as the gold standard diagnostic tool for COVID testing, whereas Next Generation Sequencing(NGS) has been instru mental in identifying new coronavirus strains as the pandemic
continues to evolve. With more strains of SARS-CoV-2 appearing in communities across the globe, there is a growing call for national and international collaboration to understand these variants, including whether any are more infectious and how they are spreading. Thus, NGS supports COVID-19 global surveillance efforts to track and understand emerging variants. In addition,other applications of the NGS technology have been to understand disease progression and treatment options. Today, NGS is most pervasive in oncology research, and one of the newest applications in this industry is in liquid biopsy. Pathologists use NGS assays to extract and sequence the DNA of a tumor from a simple blood sample of a cancer patient. Another emerging area for NGS in oncology is in monitoring if a therapy is working or not ­ and if it is not working, knowing sooner.

These and other molecular diagnostic technologies such as Isothermal Nucleic Acid Amplification Technology (INAAT), RNA in situ hybridization and DNA micro arrays have numerous diagnostic appli cations in managing various infectious and non-communicable diseases. The emergence of molecular `Point of care' (POC) tests have been hailed as an efficient and innovative way to manage infectious diseases, mainly to shorten diagnostic delay and treatment. As the name suggests, these tests offer advanced diagnostics capabilities at the point of care settings such as hospital emergency units, outpatient clinics, and in community healthcare centres.

POC tests provide rapid results, enabling medical decision making, early initiation of treatment and improved health outcomes without needing the presence of sophisticated laboratory setup. These tests have significant impact in helping healthcare reach the last mile.

A combination of pivotal factors such as increasing testing infrastructure, heightened awareness among the medical fraternity and patients, growing public & private insurance coverage, and the intent communicated by policy makers has redefined the adoption of molecular diagnostics in improving overall healthcare situation. The outbreak has consistently emphasised the importance of novel diagnostic technologies and the necessity of a sound policy support to ensure agility in providing healthcare. An active and collaborative approach amongst government, healthcare bodies and industry to drive innovative diagnostic approaches can strengthen the healthcare ecosystem in the fight against such emerging threats.