THE renowned Pune-based next-generation diagnostics company, GenePath Diagnostics (GPDX), has won the prestigious United States–India Science & Technology Endowment Fund (USISTEF) grant of Rs 2.5 Crores to develop a cost-effective and highly sensitive mass-scale processing platform for the detection of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), the virus that results in cervical cancer more than 90 per cent of the time. It is the second-largest killer of women from cancer, impacting 570,000 women globally every year with India having the most cases of any country in the world (97,000 cases and 63,000 deaths in 2019).
GenePath will develop the product over the next 24 months. It will help detect pathogenic HPV strains from self-collected samples in low resource, rural and poorer settings resulting in lower mortality rates along with a much-reduced burden on the nation’s healthcare infrastructure. The key differentiator here is the ability to do this at the point-of-care, thereby reducing the traditional loss to follow-up that occurs when HPV testing is done by a central lab.
GenePath’s state of the art clinical laboratory in Pune will oversee the overall platform design, project management, system integration and clinical validation of each component of the platform. Members of the GenePath leadership team were previously part of the team that architected and developed the revolutionary HandyLab microfluidics-based lab-on-chip molecular diagnostics platform that is currently in use globally (including for Covid) as Becton Dickinson’s BD Max platform. GenePath was founded to bring the same level of quality and sophistication to the developing markets, with a focus on affordability and developing tests that are relevant to those markets. This point of care platform is another important step towards the Make in India focus, especially for the diagnosis of high causes of mortality, such as cervical cancer.
Speaking on the subject, Dr Nikhil Phadke, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of GenePath Diagnostics said, “Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer among Indian women, and one of the most common causes of cancer-related deaths in developing countries. The detection of HPV is widely accepted as a cervical cancer screening tool but strategies to implement it as a large-scale screening platform are limited by cost, social and healthcare barriers. To enable the widespread detection of HPV and typing for cervical cancer screening, it is necessary to have a point-of-care approach that can enhance the applicability, acceptance, and convenience of cervical cancer screening amongst the masses. Over the last year, GenePath has hosted HPV summits, engaged global thought leaders, NGOs, government hospitals and academics to conceptualise and eventually commercialise this platform.”
The governments of the United States of America (through the Department of State) and India (through the Department of Science & Technology) established the United States–India Science & Technology Endowment Fund (USISTEF) for the promotion of joint activities that lead to innovation and entrepreneurship through the application of science and technology. The Fund aims to support and foster joint applied R&D to generate public good through the commercialisation of technology developed through sustained partnerships between U.S. and Indian researchers and entrepreneurs. The U.S.-India Science and Technology Endowment Fund activities are implemented and administered through the bi-national Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF).