With testing for bacterial pathogens going down to the DNA level, European companies are in a race to develop smarter tools to make the process phenomenally faster and accurate. Palm-sized gadgets test in just one hour the blood samples taken from a patient and list the harmful bacteria.
“In molecular diagnostics, we amplify short areas of bacterial DNA to get the results. It’s the fastest growing segment in the medical field, and the results are accurate,” says Tuomas Tenkanen, CEO of Mobidiag, a company based in Espoo, the erstwhile home of Nokia in Finland.
The company has built a DNA database of over 50 kinds of bacteria, larger than what its European competitors have developed.
The technology helps detect antibiotic resistance by listing bacteria that have escaped commonly administered drugs.
The company is planning to add the bacteria causing tuberculosis to the DNA database.
As the simple test lists the bacteria, doctors can desist from prescribing broad-spectrum antibiotics and use targeted drugs for a specific bacterium.
The disruptive technology reduces the role of paramedics to just collecting samples. They just have to pipette the sample on the gadget, place it in a machine and in one hour, the results are ready.
As Mobidiag works to complete clinical trials of the device, Mr. Tenkanen says it will be priced much lower than the products of its competitors, which retail them for €150 (₹10,865) apiece.
The catch is that it is a one-time-use device. To achieve economies of scale, companies will have to foray into countries like India, where the load of bacterial diseases is high.
In Mr. Tenkanan’s lab, scientists in white protective gear handle harmful bacteria as they race against the clock to build the DNA database and put the device into the market.
In another locked room, bacterial DNA is being amplified. A group is training a set of professionals from abroad in the use of another machine, which essentially uses the same technology but can test multiple samples and be used multiple times.
Mr. Tenkanen started the company with funding from Tekes, the Finnish innovation fund, and his own money.
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