Companies

Novartis working on two key diagnostic tests

Madhumathi D. S. Bangalore | Updated on March 12, 2018

A technician at Bowring Hospital demonstrating Nucleic Acid Testing procedure at its inauguration in Bangalore on Monday. Karnataka is the first State to adopt NAT. NAT assays can detect HIV-1 within 5.3 days after infection against 15 daysfor the current ELISA testing. — G.R.N. Somashekar   -  BL





In a couple of years from now, testing unborn babies for genetic disorders may leave foetus untouched – and more importantly, unharmed. Novartis's diagnostics and vaccines arm is developing a new test that uses mother's blood instead of drawing the amniotic fluid around the unborn baby.

The amniocentesis replacement test will reduce the risk of harming the unborn child while drawing the fluid as is done now, according to Mr Peter Maag, President and global head of Novartis Diagnostics.

Drawing the amniotic fluid to test foetuses for genetic disorders can potentially harm the child. The new Novartis technology will use the mother's blood which also contains the foetal DNA, he told Business Line. Novartis expected good use of it in the country considering the high birth rates, he said,

Novartis was also developing another key test to detect early ventilator-acquired infections in intensive care units.

For Novartis, while pharmaceuticals remained the core business area, diagnostics, Mr Maag said, “is a growth area for the organisation and we have very strong growth aspirations on diagnostics and vaccines.” Currently, this business forms less than 10 per cent of Novartis' global revenue but future R&D activities focussed on this area. “Vaccines and diagnostics [are] changing healthcare dynamics and we are shifting towards prevention,” he said.

Mr Maag was in Bangalore for the opening of the country's first NAT blood screening facility in a government hospital. Novartis provides the nucleic acid testing (NAT) technology.

By using NAT, the Karnataka Government said it was raising the bar for safe blood across the State. The facility was inaugurated on Monday at the state-run Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, Bangalore.

NAT testing, about three years old in the country and available only in large private hospitals, could check infections such as the dreaded Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV. Mr Ranjit Shahani, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Novartis India, said it would avert recent cases of infections of children in Jodhpur or AIIMS.

Published on March 14, 2011

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