Héctor Barillas
Director General
bioMérieux
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Saving Lives with Faster, Better Diagnostics

By Miriam Bello | Fri, 11/06/2020 - 14:11

Q: bioMérieux had an active response to the COVID-19 pandemic and developed a diagnostic test, how did the company develop the test in such a short timeline?

A: Numerous teams, such as Regulatory Affairs, Quality, Product Labelling and Documentation, Industrialization and Production, Quality Control and Clinical Affairs, were mobilized to support the availability of the new test as quickly as possible. This project succeeded so quickly because everyone was aware of their responsibility and helped on top of their routine activities. It is an example of our spirit of collaboration and exceptional efficiency. In fact, we currently have not only one but five tests available.

Q: How did bioMérieux’s technology and previous expertise helped the company in creating this solution?

A: In less than two months, bioMérieux was able to develop and brought to market its first PCR diagnostic test for the new coronavirus. This challenge was met thanks to the expertise and exemplary mobilization of multidisciplinary teams that were set up to support the availability of the new test as quickly as possible.

A COVID-19 singleplex PCR, our second of five solutions for diagnostic use as part of bioMérieux’s strategic response to the COVID-19 pandemic, was rapidly developed thanks to a combined result of the extensive effort and dedication of our employees, the assistance of our partner Midwest Research Institute Global, and the confidence entrusted to us by the US Department of Defense.  And our third test, an expanded version of the second test, started its development as a new panel that includes SARS-CoV-2 in addition to 21 other common respiratory pathogens that delivers results in approximately 45 minutes.

Finally, based on years of experience in developing immunoassays, bioMérieux worked closely with several hospitals to develop and validate the performances of two tests to identify in less than 30 minutes the presence of antibodies in people who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2. These last tests complemented our three already launched molecular tests for the direct detection of the virus. Offering complementary testing solutions to laboratories is crucial to help overcome this pandemic. True to its commitment to serve public health, bioMérieux is one of the few players to propose a complete diagnostic solution for COVID-19 disease.

Q: What are the unique benefits of the diagnostic test? How does it compare to others in the market in terms of cost, accuracy, time to get results, scalability and ease of use?

A: All of our tests comply many international accreditations thanks to their excellent performance. In particular, our PCR Multiplex solution has great advantages thanks to its capacity to simultaneously detect several pathogens than can cause respiratory infections including SARS-CoV-2, Influenza and other viruses and bacteria in only 45 minutes, which will be highly relevant during winter period. Our solution is highly accurate, cost-efficient, does not requires complex infrastructure or specialized personnel on molecular biology, and it is scalable with the capability of processing up to 264 tests per day.

Q: How is bioMérieux working to distribute the diagnostic test it developed as far as possible?

bioMérieux is present in 44 countries and serves more than 160 countries with the support of a large network of distributors, working closely with private and public institutions to facilitate availability and access to our tests.

Q: What is bioMérieux’s formula to provide high value diagnostics and pioneering diagnostic innovation?

A: We offer complete solutions that focus on patients from the moment they enter the hospital to when they leave. In the field of microbiology, we are leaders not only in the area of bacteria, but also viruses and parasites. Our state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment allows a diagnosis to be done in under an hour, which means a patient can get help faster and more effectively. Our diagnosies solutions reduce the amount of human error that can lead to a misdiagnosis and decreases the application of inappropriate treatments. It also helps hospitals reduce the time allotted to patients. Currently, a diagnosis can take days. This will allow a hospital to help more people and at the same time save money.

Q: How relevant is the health sector for bioMérieux in comparison to other sectors where it has a presence?

A: Our group consists of five companies. Three of these are dedicated to research and development. One focuses on food and pharmaceutical security. The fifth is focused on clinical diagnostics. Here in Mexico, the group’s activities are split about 80 percent in the clinical area, and 20% in the industrial sector. We work in both the public and private sectors. The majority of our clients are clinical laboratories, but the number of hospitals who that have their own laboratories is increasing. In the industrial area, we work mostly with food and pharmaceutical companies. As we are able toWe provide technology that is able tocan detect problems opportunely, giving businesses can ahave a better workflow and the ability to produce better products. If a batch is cleared fasterquickly, then it can also be sold quickermore quickly. In the food sector, we work with food products such as eggs, chicken and beef.

Q: What are the biggest challenges your clients face in your area of services?

A: One of theA principal challenges we see is automatization and an the ability to integrate systems. There are very few suppliers like us, who that can offer complete solutions which to can achieve this. Our antimicrobial stewardship initiativeprogram is To give you an example of a complete solution, we have an antimicrobial stewardship program. This initiative helps program guarantees that antibiotics to be are used adequately. Using the right type of antibiotic, dosage and administration for every each specific patient is very important in creating the desired outcome. But there is more useful information which that can be gathered. For example, hospitals have their own flora of bacteria. This is relevant when giving providing treatment with antibiotics as because they affect the patient.  Knowing what bacteria are present and acting accordingly can save lives. Being able to gather information and manage it in a system is part of what we our offer.

Q: What actions is taking bioMérieux taking to contribute tohelp increase prevention through diagnostics?

A: In several countries, we are working on opportune diagnosis of kidney damage. This that will allows a doctor to intervene earlier and prevent actual harm to the kidney from happening by intervening in time. Similar developments are taking place in other areas in the area of diabetes, meningitis, and sepsis, amongst others. In part, this kind of approach is about breaking the paradigm that there should only be an intervention when people start to showthere are symptoms.

Q: With respect to antibiotic resistance, what else can be done to mitigate this issue in Mexico?

A: We believe in collaborating with other parties. For this reason, we do not demand that our clients only use our products; when they can also use the products or and services of potential our competitors. Institutions are also good partners, that would be good partners would besuch as the Ministry of Health, IMSMS and ISSSTE. But wWe are already working with several institutions, including a number of associations which that are focused on this antibiotic resistance. Here in Mexico, there is a network for epidemiological vigilance, with its main base in Monterrey. They gather data from hospitals to map the development of resistance. This can beis done with a software which that allows data to processed immediately.  Lastly, public awareness is also very important. People need to know that they should not just take a prescription of antibiotics without a proper study of their problem.

Q: What are bioMérieux main goals for 2020 -2021?

A: The most important goal is to consolidate the area of rapid syndromic diagnosise analysis. It is better to approach diseases as syndromes, as because they demand a broader analysis. This, versus a single plex target analysis. The latter is more frequently used by doctors at the moment. They do a fast review of symptoms and decide on a treatment. However, this leads to more human errors and can be ineffective. The line of products for rapid syndromic diagnosise analysis has a market value of US$100 million. We intend to continue developing more types of panelstests and decrease the required time of for a test. Now, we can do make a diagnosis in 45 minutes for respiratory diseases for example, but in the future possibly it will take 20 minutes. With respect to the political situation at the moment in the health sector, we are waiting to see what is going to happen next. However, we are prepared to take advantage of the opportunities which present themselves.

 

bioMérieux has more than 50 years of experience in the development of in vitro diagnostics. It offers clinical diagnosies products for laboratories and hospitals, as well as industrial microbiology solutions for the food, biopharma, veterinary and cosmetics sectors

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst