With one of the highest birth rates in the world, India is one of the most obvious strategic growth markets for the prenatal and neonatal diagnostics business of PerkinElmer. Dr Prahlad Singh, President, Diagnostics, PerkinElmer and Jayashree Thacker, President, PerkinElmer India explain the company’s strategy for the country. By Viveka Roychowdhury
The US-based PerkinElmer recently launched a 13440 sq feet diagnostics facility in Chennai’s TICEL Bio Park. Approximately 10400 sq feet will be devoted to lab operations for prenatal and newborn screening (NBS), and will extend the company’s capabilities in India with a widened set of assays related to cytogenetics and molecular diagnostics. PerkinElmer will also provide customer service and support, along with product training and demonstrations at this facility. (See story: https://www.financialexpress.com/article/healthcare/happening-now/perkinelmer-opens-diagnostics-facility-in-chennai/212687/)
Besides diagnostics, the parent company straddles several markets such as pharmaceuticals, biotech, food, agriculture, chemicals, plastics, automobile, academia and research labs with its portfolio of instrumentation and services. PerkinElmer has had a presence in India since 1981 through distributors. It established direct operations in India in 2004.
Today, the company is reportedly a market leader in the space of diagnostic screening services in India, with the majority of tests being performed in the prenatal and NBS space. This includes PerkinElmer’s recently launched Bacs-on-Beads (BoBs), a high-throughput molecular karyotyping platform, which does not require culturing of samples and delivers result in 24 hours compared to conventional karyotyping techniques which deliver results in about three weeks.
But even as a market leader, PerkinElmer India and other labs in the country currently screen just a tiny fraction of the nearly 29 million pregnancies and 26 million newborns in India. Clearly, the growth potential is huge and this explains the Waltham, Massachusetts-based parent company’s renewed focus on its India operations.
In a chat on the sidelines of the launch, Dr Prahlad Singh, President, Diagnostics, PerkinElmer who formally inaugurated the facility, is very clear that a major focus of their investment will be in emerging markets such as China and India. “These countries are clearly our two strategic markets and resources will be disproportionately allocated here. I expect market growth in India to be in the high double digits and we are actively looking for inorganic growth opportunities and partnerships to achieve this growth.”
After India and China, other Emerging Markets, including Brazil, Mexico, ASEAN countries as well as the Middle East would be the next areas of focus.
Giving an overview of the company’s headcount in India, Jayashree Thacker, President, PerkinElmer India says that of the approximately 350 staff in India, around one-fifth would be in the Diagnostics division. Globally, the parent company reported revenue of approximately $2.3 billion in 2015, has approximately 8,000 employees serving customers in more than 150 countries, and is a component of the S&P 500 Index.
In its home market of the US, where NBS is part of the public healthcare system, PerkinElmer provides NBS services to almost all of the states, a majority of which have their own public health laboratories, according to Dr Singh.
But emerging markets have been slow to make NBS part of the public, for a variety of reasons; primarily lack of financing, infrastructure and awareness. Singh says it takes several years of partnering with the government to make NBS a part of the public healthcare system, for example in China where newborns are now tested for atleast a couple of disorders.
NBS first made its appearance in 1963. The Health Ministry’s plans for universal NBS in India were made public in 2012. And momentum seems to be picking up, with the National Neonatology Forum hosting a day-long Newborn Screening Policy and Consultative Meeting in September last year. Numerous research papers have shown that in India congenital hypothyroidism, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and glucose 6-phosphate-dehydrogenase deficiency are the most prevalent inborn metabolic disorders present in significant numbers to be designated as public health problems.
The goal of any NBS programme is to catch the disorder early enough to treat the condition before it can escalate. In order to screen a majority of newborns it requires setting up the appropriate infrastructure which involves the logistics of transporting and storing the sample kits at public hospitals, training the staff to administer them, consenting and counseling parents and family members, and then transporting the samples themselves to the test centres. The follow up with positive and borderline positive samples is also fraught with challenges.
But there is no doubt that treatment and disorder management costs at the early stages would be a fraction of what it would cost were these disorders detected at later stages. In a country where most of healthcare spend is out of pocket, it is no wonder that an increasing number of would-be parents are opting for these tests.
Thacker confirms that “the company has seen a steady rise in demand for maternal foetal health and NBS solutions in India as hospitals, clinicians and expectant parents strive to ensure healthier outcomes through early detection, diagnosis and proper management of prenatal and neonatal conditions. This state-of-the art laboratory underscores our commitment to our continued expansion plans in India. By increasing our capacity to accommodate higher testing volumes, offer a comprehensive and growing menu of diagnostic assays, and provide a hands-on experience with our innovative technologies, we are further supporting India’s healthcare requirements.”