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Chandy Nair

Chandrasekhar Nair is the Director and CEO of Bigtec Labs. He is one of our innovators in the Stars in Global Health program. Mr. Nair joined the Global Health Innovation Round Table, organized by Grand Challenges Canada, during the State Visit to India of Governor General David Johnston.

This past Tuesday, I was one of the innovators who attended the roundtable organized by Grand Challenges Canada in the presence of His Excellency David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada.

I am Director and CEO of Bigtec Labs, a product innovation company focused on making gold standard diagnostics affordable and accessible at the point of care in resource-limited healthcare settings. We believe this is key to improving the quality of life, especially in the developing world. Bigtec has developed and commercialized Truelab™, a low-cost, near-patient micro PCR analyzer platform that can be used to detect a host of infectious diseases very early and at the point of care.  The pathogen detection is carried out on the ready-to-use, disease-specific Truenat™ micro PCR chips.

MTB Cartridge

MTB Cartridge

Our association with Grand Challenges Canada was in furtherance of our frugal innovation mission.  It was driven by a common goal of making a difference in global health. During the development, product development and commercialization of the microPCR platform, we identified the challenges associated with sample processing as one of the foremost barriers to implementation of molecular diagnostics at the point of care. Through our Grand Challenges Canada project, “Sample Preparation Platform for Point-of-Care Diagnostic Devices”, we sought to fully automate sample processing and engineer it to run on a battery-operated portable device. This would eliminate human error, minimize staff training needs and ensure that molecular diagnostics could be carried out in even the most minimally equipped health centre.

The round table with the Canadian Governor General, David Johnston, on the theme of innovation in addressing global health challenges allowed us to discuss what international cooperation and a synergistic partnership can accomplish. Our partnership with Grand Challenges Canada has resulted in a product that could aid health outcomes in the developing world and could easily be deployed in remote areas like the north of Canada for addressing the needs of TB diagnostics, as well.

Cartridge placed in the battery-operated, automated sample preparation device that extracts nucleic acids from the specimen

Cartridge placed in the battery-operated, automated sample preparation device that extracts nucleic acids from the specimen

A little more than two years into our Grand Challenges Canada project, we have accomplished our goal of creating an automated sample preparation system. Along with our collaborator from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, we have achieved this through integration of specific technical elements needed to automate the sample preparation process.  The system has been standardized for extraction of nucleic acids from blood and sputum. We are in the process of validating the automated battery-operated device using our network of hospitals and clinicians. We hope to obtain feedback on the use and performance in clinical settings.

Carrying out this project under the aegis of Grand Challenges Canada has been a tremendous learning experience for us. This association with Grand Challenges Canada, which is funded by the Government of Canada, has increased our effectiveness in terms of product development. It has broadened our perspective and sharpened our focus in terms of requirements for rapid uptake of technology in resource-limited settings. We have benefited from peer mentoring by keen scientific minds. We have had the opportunity to network with innovators from other developing countries and share thought processes.  It has increased our chances of making a global impact on healthcare.

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