Very few MedTech startups have scaled their business as quickly and successfully as Mylab Discovery Solutions.
We spoke to Dr. Gautam Wankhede, Director at Mylab Discovery Solutions, to learn from him how MyLab managed to achieve this incredible growth from idea to product.
Here are his insights:
1. Focus on creating a need-based product
Although MyLab is most popular for its revolutionary MedTech solutions for Covid-19 testing, MyLab was actually established in 2015 with the aim to be India’s best molecular diagnostics company and to create high-quality, affordable, and accessible diagnostic kits. The reason for their vision to enter molecular diagnostics was the immediate need – there were extremely few companies delivering products for affordable testing, and that was an extreme necessity, especially in countries like India.
MyLab was the 3rd company globally and the 1st company in India to get approval for NAT – a molecular test for blood screening. During the process of developing a MedTech product for molecular diagnostics, Dr. Gautam Wankhede and the team spoke to labs across the country and educated them about the need for molecular testing, and this partnership and early preparation when working on their earlier products is what accelerated their movement during the Covid crisis.
2. Partnerships are key, both internal and external ones
Dr. Gautam Wankhede recognized early that a great MedTech startup needs more than people with medical knowledge. While he and his team of doctors had the medical expertise, they hired talented people for IT and technology, identified vendors for quality raw materials, partnered with reliable manufacturing companies, hired people for sales and marketing, etc.
Ultimately, this combination of expertise and knowledge in all the spheres of starting and running a company helped them accelerate all processes from ideation to launch.
Dr. Gautam Wankhede adds that collaborations with external entities are equally important. Their partnerships with bodies like ICMR, DRDO, Tata ELXSI, IIT Bombay, etc., played a vital role in helping MyMab in different vital areas like feedback, guidance, approvals, and funding.
3. Be aware of the current healthcare climate and always start early
MyLab was able to turn around MedTech products for Covid-19 testing and diagnostics quickly because they always worked towards being one step ahead. Start early and anticipate the needs of the market and the product even before it starts making sense to everyone else, says Dr. Gautam Wankhede.
MyLab followed the stories of a developing virus in China in early January and recognized the potential need for mass diagnostics, and recognized that this fell in their range of expertise – molecular diagnostics. India had its first Covid case on January 27th; by mid-February, MyLab had developed a fully working diagnostics kit. On March 24th, MyLab became the first Indian manufacturer for Covid-19 PCR tests.
While all of this, of course, took enormous amounts of work from every team member within MyLab, what enabled them to stay relevant and develop products that were well received was anticipating what was needed and acting on it early.
4. Focus on peripheral needs
Recognizing market need at the right time is key to growing a MedTech startup. While they were successful in being the first Indian company to get approval for NAT and the first Indian company to manufacture Covid-19 PCR test machines, they realized that for growth from a business standpoint, they have to make their products accessible.
Dr. Gautam Wankhede and his team recognized the hurdle to the national adoption of their technology – lab owners outside large diagnostic centers and tier 1 cities did not have the infrastructure, workforce, information, or money to adopt molecular diagnostics. This turned their focus to the need of the hour – accessibility.
They first launched a fully automated testing kit that was adopted by large diagnostic centers and tier 1 cities, followed by a partnership program where they helped set up their machines within labs and trained personnel which made Covid-19 testing accessible to tier 2 and tier 3 cities, then launched mobile testing vans where they sent vans carrying two of their machines each to rural areas around the country for mobile testing and finally pioneered and developed CoviSelf – a self-administered home test kit for Covid-19.
Recognizing peripheral needs surrounding the primary need at the right time helped them stay ahead throughout their journey.
5. Embrace technology
Technology is one-half of MedTech, and Dr. Gautam Wankhede stresses the need for healthcare innovation.
One key factor that helped with the success of CoviSelf is the AI-enabled application – the app uses machine vision to read the test card, analyzes the image, delivers the result to the patient, and also updates the ISMR database without exposing this data to anyone in between, not even to MyLab.
Mylab had close to 100 live results on the backend to feed their AI application, which was not enough data points for the machine learning algorithm. The tech team generated thousands of image samples from these live results, and the AI program used these data points to improve the recognition software.
On the front-end, it was the ability to automate testing while keeping results private that let ICMR to approve the product. The integration of the AI-enabled MyLab app and the ICR database, and the in-transit security was again a product of technology.
While these strategies are guidelines for MedTech growth, Dr. Gautam Wankhede also mentions that every startup should be prepared for diversifying. He advises every MedTech startup to work on parallel projects until they find the proper market fit and product success. Failure is a part of the game, and MedTech startups should be prepared to pivot if their primary idea falls short.
About the author
Dr. Gautam Wankhede is Director of Medical Affairs with MyLab Discovery Solutions that offers a cost-effective diagnostic solution against in-house designs or poor quality and cheap commercial kits that have not been validated and approved by the FDA. He has over 15+ years of experience in Transfusion Medicine and has worked with the NHS in UK, Fortis-Escorts Hospital, and has worked as Medical Advisor, Bio-Rad Laboratories, and Healthcare Practice Manager, Gerson Lehmon Group. More details here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-gautam-wankhede-69b38822/
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