Strand Life Sciences, India, has recently joined the Global Diagnostics Network (GDN). Harish Natarajan, Chief Operating Officer and President, Clinical Diagnostics, Strand Life Sciences in an interaction with Raelene Kambli talks about the opportunities that the company and the Indian diagnostics industry hold with this partnership. He also also speaks about the future of genetics, bioinformatics and oncology in India
What is the rationale behind joining the Global Diagnostics Network (GDN)?
Global Diagnostics Network (GDN) is a strategic working group of major diagnostic laboratories collaborating to generate enhanced diagnostics insights to improve the delivery of global healthcare. Collectively, this worldwide community of 10 leading healthcare companies has a presence in countries with two-thirds of the world’s population and over 90 per cent of the global pharmaceutical market. Strand Life Sciences is a leader in precision diagnostics in India and will represent the GDN in this country.
What opportunities do you see for your company in the global diagnostics industry?
Strand has recognised expertise in genetics, bioinformatics, molecular biology and oncology and is present across the country with 20 networked, high quality laboratories. Strand will continue to focus on oncology, mother and child, and technology enabled wellness segments – where its inherent strengths will help pave the way for the development of new diagnostic methods and better healthcare decision frameworks.
How would joining the GDN add value to Strand Lifesciences’ overall business?
The GDN programme was launched in October 2018, with the intent of increasing access to diagnostic technology innovation and building the largest global launch platform for rapid deployment of companion diagnostics. The coming together of these two aspects will help Strand enhance its customer offerings in India and create market facing opportunities, specifically in Global Health and companion diagnostics.
The GDN gives Strand a platform to showcase its strengths across the world – and to learn from the other globally renowned members, thereby staying at the forefront of precision medicine science and diagnostics solutions. Through our participation in the GDN, we will have the opportunity to collaborate to develop and bring new to the world solutions into India at a much faster pace and a more affordable fashion.
Any specific diagnostics areas that Strand will like to focus on and why?
In India, Strand Life Sciences will focus on oncology, mother and child, and technology enabled wellness segments. The number of people who would benefit from recent technological advances in these segments has sharply increased over the last decade – and we believe that our clinical strengths coupled with our genetics and bioinformatics expertise will help us address the needs of these segments best.
What are the new innovations that Strand will now come up with in the genetics, bioinformatics and oncology space?
Strand Life Sciences through the HCG network has one of the most exhaustive repositories for oncology samples and is well poised to test and interpret complex clinical cases. As part of the precision pathology continuum of services, Strand offers the entire plethora of services from basic pathology, routine and the most sophisticated sequencing-based tests interpreted through cutting edge bioinformatics and artificial intelligence.
Strand Lab in Bangalore is the first one in the country to provide Breast panel – ER, PR, Her-2/neu and Ki-67 markers on a computational pathology-based software. This software is IVDCE approved and eliminates the subjectivity.
A key area of New Innovation for Strand in the next few years will be non-invasive detection of disease. Detecting disease deep inside the body is challenging, often needing invasive biopsies that are difficult. Non-invasive detection of DNA from body fluids is a powerful non-invasive alternative. Our first publication last year showed that potentially >40 per cent of all early stage cancers are detectable from blood draws. Our ongoing projects have pushed that limit further to >70 per cent detection for early stage oral cancer from just a saliva draw. This technology will eventually be brought to the clinical use where it can hopefully help control morbidity and mortality due to cancer.
While genetics and bioinformatics is still evolving in India, what prospects do you see in the future: both for your company as well as the industry?
Pathology is the keystone of cancer care. Today pathologists impact a huge range of clinical pathways and treatment decisions in cancer care. As treatments continue to grow in complexity and volume, pathology and laboratory services must deliver timely diagnoses for effective, individualised cancer treatments. Increasingly detailed diagnoses will become more dependent on pathologist’s skills and knowledge.
Combining technological innovation with expertise can help pathologists have a positive impact on healthcare systems and patient outcomes. More than ever, pathologists need a committed diagnostic technology collaborator who understands their needs, demonstrates know-how and offers a proven track record of implementing scaled digital workflows and innovative diagnostic technologies.
The Indian landscape is maturing and there has been tremendous progress in the last few years. Adoption of genomics has grown several-fold in the last few years. As awareness levels increase, the adoption of genomics will rise dramatically, as it did in the US starting five years ago. For instance, Strand offers industry leading BRCA testing and has pioneering publications on Indian patients that show that 30 per cent of referrals to its centre carry mutations that confer risk, compared to the analogous figure of 10 per cent in the west. The volume of BRCA testing in the US has risen 100 per cent YoY in the US and similar phenomena are likely in India soon, given possibly even greater relevance in India.
While you enter a new business domain, what will be your focus and vision for the company?
Strand’s vision is to be a leader in the precision medicine space – and to develop solutions that will improve the quality of healthcare decisions. We are committed to helping physicians make better clinical decisions – this theme will run through all our business explorations, product offerings and programmes in the future.