Genome, the data house of a living being, has always been studied by biologists. Sequencing genome opens a treasure trove of knowledge regarding any diseases. Globally, there are around 100 genomics companies with many of them situated in the US. India on the other hand only has 13 to 15 companies that have erupted in the last decade that provide a genomics-based diagnosis. The Indian market for genomics stands at Rs 500 crore.
Gaurav Srivastava is an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur with expertise in navigation tech startups from India and Singapore. He is a serial entrepreneur who has founded and headed multiple startups. Along with Dr. Anirvan Chatterjee and Prof Kiran Kondabagil, he has launched a Bioinformatics company named HaystackAnalytics.
Srivastava begins, “Genomics is a technology which has the ability to unlock huge amounts of information. It is a science that had moved from the research labs and has been commercialised in a big way. Globally, the US and many European countries have taken a huge leap in human genomics. What HaystackAnalytics is trying to do is create a paradigm where not only a specialised company but any hospital or diagnostics with a reach to the patients can use genomics. To enable them to take this technology to the users which would allow the power of genomics and that personalised care reaches closer to the patients.”
“The solution we are creating is all software-based. Our software marries with different sequencing platforms which are the intermittent steps of genomics. So you need to first digitise the biological samples. The sequences are used for that purpose. After the sequencer, there is a process of analysing the digital DNA. This is where the speciality of the company lies.”
“HaystackAnalytics have created the software which takes samples of various sources, then work with several sequencing platforms, then builds the entire digital DNA and then creates a recruiting framework for several disease conditions. We have focused on infectious diseases in the last year of our journey. We have also been only one and a half years old.”
“I am also very proud to say that the first few products that we have created have been the gold standard in the application of the problem we are trying to solve. This is now the biggest tuberculosis genome in the context of India. Our product, Universal Infectious Disease (ID), is a single test developed for every infectious disease and is practically the second such solution in the world.”
Srivastava says, “I think HaystackAnalytics has several differentiators. While the core technology is the same, the application of genomics is not only for human health conditions. The application of genomics can be used for any living being, as the base biology starts from the DNA. What HaystackAnalytics has done is worked on infections disease for the last one and a half year, this is the segment which was deeply overlooked in terms of innovation."
"This has been very natural for us a company because both Kiran Kondabagil and Anirvan Chatterjee have spent more than 15 years of their research career in this domain. Anirvan was initially part of the NHS UK team that launched the first whole-genome sequencing-based clinical solution. Both of them have also been accredited with discovering 20+ viruses and naming them here in India."
Srivastava mentions, “As a company, we are integrating on our board both sides of the value chain. We see ourselves as an R&D-focused company and creating IP. The platforms on which we are operating is where we enable Diagnostics Lab's operations."
"On the research side, we have partnered with Harvard and Oxford because of the significant linkages of my co-founders. On the execution side, we have partnered with many diagnostic companies. Of the top 10 diagnostic companies, 8 are HaystackAnalytics’ partners and are taking forward our solutions. 3 of the AIIMS, Apollo and others have partnered with us."
"I believe this is possible as we are solving the biggest problem they are facing. Which is to bring the latest technology to the patients. Why genomics is the key technology of the future is difficult to answer on the development side. We have been able to unlock that development lifecycle and have created it as a one-click solution that works from their tabletops."
HaystackAnalytics’ Expansions Plan
Srivastava states, “We have recently brought to the market our product called Universal ID. This is a genomics-based single test that can identify any infectious pathogens like fungal pathogens and protozoal and amoebal pathogens from one sample. This would mean that it will eliminate a battery of tests done for any infectious disease."
"The biggest problem in infections patients is the width of pathogens that can actually infect the person. In the Indian context, there are 1200 identified pathogens that can infect the patient. After infection, the patient would experience fever and if not treated can result in the patient getting admitted. This problem is globally present. In an extreme case, it can lead to a condition called sepsis."
"The data present points that 40% of the deaths that happen in the ICU are because of infections. This is the problem that HaystackAnalytics has been able to solve by creating Universal ID. A test which can identify any infectious pathogens and in case of bacterial infection would also be able to give the entire AMR profile. Here the doctor will understand in one go, in a 10 hour turnaround time, what is the patient's infection and what is the right medication or antibiotic. This could save the lives of several patients."
"Our own plans with this product is to roll it out to the entire width of the country through the partnership we are making for this purpose. Since this product is solving a very global problem we are roadmapping to take this product into new geographies. We are in talks with key people from the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Hopefully, by 2023, we would also be able to set our foot in American geography."
Srivastava expresses, “At a research level, we are moving from infection to chronic conditions. It is a slightly populated market and outside India, several players are approaching human genomics from a slightly different perspective. We have chosen our own trajectory of bringing lifetime value to the user. We are building on this and would bring it to the market by the end of the year."
"In the infectious disease part the kind of innovation that has been created, we now want to give out the right execution trajectory, to take this technology to as many geographies as possible. This is what we are internally targeting. To take this to the next level in 10 months."
Genomics and Affordability
Srivastava elaborates, “There are 2 aspects to it. One is the cost of the transaction and the value of the transaction. I might get 5 tests done but if I don't find the problem then the net value of these tests is zero. The opportunity we are trying to create in the healthcare ecosystem is the absoluteness of information. The opportunity we are opening up is the entire biology using genomics. And then tell the clinician, the user and the patients everything they need to know. Right from what is the problem to what are the right medicines to what are the right interventions that will create the most impact."
"We have progressed to a point in time where genomics as technology had done very well on the research side but remained very costly. Previously, a typical genomic sampling would go up to $10,000+. Today we have reached a place where the technology for sequencing has scaled in a big way and is ready for commercialisation. The cost now is between $40 to 60. This will open up the research done in the background for the last 20 years to come forward and benefit the lives of the population."
Edited By: Priyal Shah
Contributed By: Gaurav Srivastava, Co-Founder, HaystackAnalytics