For Indian biotech firm, space no constraint to innovate

Thursday, 17 April 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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BANGALORE: Space is not a constraint to innovate. And India's first lab-to-marketplace company has done just that, even winning an award for its indigenous HIV and Hepatitis C virus kit.

The Bangalore-based Xcyton Diagnostics received the Rabo Finance award at Bangalore Bio 2003 for developing a product that can tell a patient if he or she has tested positive or negative to the two viruses in just 75 minutes.

Conventional kits require two separate tests of 75 minutes each.

"We sold 1.4 million kits last year particularly after we tied up for marketing with a division of GlaxoSmithKline. We plan to double our current capacity to eight million kits this year," B.V. Ravi Kumar, the company's managing director, told IANS.

"All that we need to expand is another 400 square feet for the clear air facility in our premises which is all of 4,800 square feet.

"This is that part of biotechnology that does not need much space," says the former member of the faculty of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

Xcyton collaborated with the IISc and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) to develop the HIV kit and with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology for the Hepatitis C virus kit.

"We are now focusing on the Elisa rapid test and the PCR kits (nucleic acid test for meningitis), developed in collaboration with Astra Zeneca," said Kumar.

"These are one and a half minute to two minute tests that can be done without any lab facilities like in the villages. There is a sudden increase of 40 percent in this market because of certain initiatives taken by the union government. This is one reason for us to double our capacity," says Ravi Kumar.

The sales of its product, which has been developed since its establishment in 1994, were initially confined to southern India and parts of Maharashtra. But, the marketing tie-up with GlaxoSmithKline has made the difference in sales since the last five months.

"We will also be developing rapid kits for neurocysticercosis which is at present available in the form of Elisa," added Kumar.

Xcyton is in talks with a research institution to collaborate for production of a kit for TB. It currently has two projects, one with Nimhans for a kit to test Japanese encephalitis or brain fever in common parlance. The other is a project for a kit to diagnose bacterial disease that occurs after floods or leptospirosis.

"Last fiscal, our turnover went up from 10 million to 23 million. This year, it should double to 40 million to 50 million," said Kumar, who heads a 20-member team, which includes a five-member team of research and development.

Source: IANS
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