- The company is initially focusing on hospitals and pharmacies in the Brazilian states of São Paulo and Paraná;
- In another front, the American FDA is putting on hold at-home tests.
Hi Technologies, a Brazilian healthtech startup which specializes in laboratory exam equipments, is producing a batch of tests to diagnose Covid-19, whose rapid spread has drastically increased the demand for prevention and detection kits.
According to the company’s co-founder and CEO, Marcus Figueredo, the test was validated this month and the first batch will reach clients in the second half of April, when some pharmacies and hospitals will start receiving it. “We are focusing on São Paulo, since it is the place in Brazil registering most cases, and also the state of Paraná and its capital, Curitiba, where our headquarters are located”, explained Figueiredo to LABS.
“We are receiving demands from all over Brazil and trying to concentrate our efforts where we can deliver the biggest impact.Marcus Figueredo, Hi Technologies’s co-founder and CEO.
The procedure offered by Hi is done remotely, with the blood sample collected in a capsule and mixed to reagents in a portable device. The gathered data is transmitted instantly to a physical laboratory, where it is then processed using the firm’s algorithms before a report is issued. According to Hi, results may be returned in up to 15 minutes, at a cost of BRL 130 reais ($25).
According to Figueiredo, the procedure is similar to rapid tests announced in China last month. The estimated level of the test accuracy is between 93% and 98%.
“The test results are available in 15 minutes and they can be done in any place with an internet connection, so it has very important scalability and agility properties”, says Figueredo. “[These properties] should help in virus detection, since rapid diagnosis is essential for the patient and his or her family members; they can be informed about the disease and go into isolation as soon as possible, preventing the virus contagion to other people.”
Unlike some systems used so far in Brazil, which detect the virus even before symptoms appear, Hi’s technology is aimed at cases in which the individual has already had symptoms of the new coronavirus for at least three days.
Detection is possible by detecting an antibody produced by the person, and not by detecting Covid-19 itself.
In addition to Hi, hospitals and other medical diagnostics companies are developing their own testing kits for the coronavirus, trying to supply a huge demand amidst increasing worldwide test shortages. In Brazil, according to Reuters, medical diagnostics companies Fleury, Dasa and Hermes Pardini have been testing since February.
Created in 2017, Hi is already working with its portable lab system in partnership with Brazilian drugstore chains including RD, Pague Menos and Panvel to detect diseases such as AIDS, Zika, Chikungunya, dengue fever, hepatitis and diabetes.
The startup has a team of 125 people, including pharmacists and medical engineers, with part of the team constantly following global epidemic news to eventually develop tests to detect them.
The company has among its partners Brazilian company Positivo Tecnologia and venture capital firms Monashees and Qualcomm Ventures.
In the U.S., diagnostics startup Scanwell, which produces smartphone-based tests, is working on getting testing for the novel coronavirus that could be done at home, instead of pharmacies and hospitals, like Brazilian Hi’s kits. The technology, which was developed by a Chinese diagnostics company, asks for the assistance of a medical professional via telehealth, and produces results in hours, according to TechCrunch.
A big setback for in-house testing came last week, though, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the authority overseeing medicines and medical equipment in the U.S., released a statement that it was monitoring the market for COVID-19 tests, according to CrunchBase News. “At this time, the FDA has not authorized any test that is available to purchase for testing yourself at home for COVID-19,” the FDA said. Nurx, Carbon Health and EverlyWell were among the other startups that announced they were rolling out at-home testing for COVID-19.