We talked to Miron Tokarski, CEO at Genomtec about the right diagnosis, right way, at the right price and he had the following to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Miron Tokarski: The coronavirus pandemic turned economic life upside down. Numerous sectors suffered during the lockdowns. The virus turned not only economic life upside down, but social life as well. We all had to adapt to the new conditions in which we need to function. Probably like for other people, the first lockdown, which was introduced in Poland from March to April was a big challenge. The most important thing is to limit the risk of infection. That is why we try to observe the sanitary regime and safety restrictions, e.g., those concerning social distance or wearing masks.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Genomtec.
Miron Tokarski: I am a laboratory diagnostician by education. After graduation and before starting my doctoral studies, I worked for some time in a clinical hospital, where I pointed out the problem of lengthy waiting for the result of a genetic test. What is more, I was aware that the level of equipment in our laboratory exceeded what is found in the vast majority of hospitals, additionally limiting access to high-quality laboratory diagnostics. Therefore, when in 2016 I accidentally had the opportunity to present ideas for technological solutions before the first investment fund, I presented an idea for the Genomtec ID system. At the end of 2016, together with associates from the Department of Molecular Techniques and Wrocław University of Technology, we founded Genomtec SA.
How does Genomtec innovate?
Miron Tokarski: Our mission is to introduce new standards on the market of molecular diagnostics. We want to enable easy and quick access to molecular analysis in places as close to the patient as possible, such as an outpatient clinic, doctor’s office, pharmacy, small laboratories or health care vehicles. This is what is missing on the market.
The answer to the market demand is our flagship project – Genomtec ID. It is an innovative system for molecular analysis is a mobile solution. It consists of an analyzer and a reaction card. The device will allow instant genetic diagnostics, which will not have to be performed in the laboratory by experienced personnel. We want to do this using microfluidics and our proprietary patented SNAAT® technology. This technology is based on a proven and recognized technique of isothermal amplification (multiplication) of genetic material – LAMP. Proper system design allows the process to be carried out in record time, i.e., up to 15 minutes, with efficiency equal to, and in some cases exceeding the quality of PCR laboratory tests. The system will be widely used in molecular analyses, including the panel for detecting the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus. The system is currently at the stage of industrialization. According to our internal schedule, we assume the commercialization of the device in the first half of 2022.
We are also a manufacturer of ultra-fast mono- and digenic tests in RT-LAMP technology, which will be an important support in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The clinical verification showed that the tests give a result for SARS-CoV-2 in just a few minutes while maintaining very good diagnostic parameters. For the digenic test, a saliva sample or swab taken either by the patient themselves or by the medical staff is sufficient. What is extremely important, thanks to the automatic fluorescence reading, the Genomtec product can be used on the same devices as the RT-PCR tests, so no additional equipment is required. This will allow laboratories to increase diagnostic capabilities for SARS-CoV-2 several times while meeting all legal requirements of local and global markets. Unlike all manufacturers of RT-PCR tests, we use raw materials (e.g., enzyme), which are not currently restricted on the market. According to our calculations, we are able to increase the capacity of each laboratory by almost 50% compared to the fastest RT-PCR tests. Our tests have already been formally approved for sale in Europe.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Miron Tokarski: The coronavirus pandemic certainly has a very large impact on economic and social life. A lot of sectors suffered during the lockdowns. There are also industries that have profited in these difficult times. From our perspective, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has influenced the dynamic growth of the molecular diagnostics market. The current situation has made the public and those in power aware of the importance of a well-functioning health service. We are observing a growing demand for equipment for molecular analyses and tests, also in places where there are many people at the same time, which results in a faster spread of pathogens. We are able to guarantee this with our innovative Genomtec ID solution. The ultra-fast tests we have developed are able to make the molecular analysis system more efficient. The solutions offered by medtech and healthtech have gained in popularity, which we are undoubtedly happy about.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Miron Tokarski: Running a business always involves making decisions, some of which are not easy and obvious. At Genomtec, we have a very strong team, and we consult key decisions with C-level executives and the Supervisory Board. I believe that so far, we are on the right track to ensure the success of the system development with the support of experienced partners in mass production of microfluidic solutions and medical devices. Fortunately, during the pandemic, I did not have to make difficult business choices which were experienced by entrepreneurs in other industries. As I mentioned, Genomtec operates in an industry that has, in a way, won. The pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus revealed inefficiencies in health care and molecular diagnostic services. Genetic analysis for the detection of the virus has been, and as it is the basic and effective tool for monitoring the spread of infections and limiting further infections through identification to isolate people who have a confirmed positive result.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Miron Tokarski: Like everyone else, I have my own ways of dealing with stressful situations. These are probably standard methods that are familiar to everyone, such as relaxing or being with loved ones in whom we have support. The most important thing is to realize that we do not have much influence on certain things. We must focus on what we can change. An active approach to problems can make a positive difference. This allows us to minimize the risk of failure. Besides, dealing with a problem will give us some change from everyday problems and may make the stress less.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Miron Tokarski: Global companies such as Cepheid, Roche Diagnostics or BioMérieux are leaders in the field of molecular diagnostics of infectious diseases. Global manufacturers of molecular diagnostic equipment do not currently offer such systems like Genomtec ID. They focus on expensive, stationary laboratory equipment that requires the involvement of a laboratory specialist. Most of them base their solutions on older PCR technology, which most often requires experienced laboratory staff to carry out the test. In the case of POCT systems, investment in much more expensive equipment, which is not conducive to the distributed diagnostics approach. Abbott also offers an ID Now analyzer based on isothermal technology, but due to the use of a native swab – without subjecting the sample to the process of purification and concentration of genetic material, its sensitivity is much lower. However, the company’s products also do not follow the mobility trend. Therefore, they are currently not in direct competition with Genomtec ID. Our direct competitors are smaller, innovative companies that have taken up the development of the plant towards mobility with INAAT technology. So far, there are no fully mobile diagnostic devices available on the market. This market is not yet developed. We want to be among the first.
Your final thoughts?
Miron Tokarski: Difficult times often contribute to the dynamic development of techniques and technologies that help mankind to rise to the next stages of development. I think that pandemic is just such a time. As Genomtec, we are ready for further dynamic development for the measurable benefit of society.
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