Akili Labs has formed a partnership with TTP and New England Biolabs (NEB) to further develop our technology and adapt it to test for SARS-CoV-2. The detection system is low cost, and will be easy to use. The detection chemistry has already been developed (NEB) and the sensor technology has been prototyped (Akili Labs). Further development will take place with Akili Labs, TTP and NEB working together! The teams are spread over South Africa, the USA and the UK.
Akili Labs is working with Newsight Imaging, Hamamatsu, TTP (Desktop Biology), Netcare and Founders Factory Africa to develop LAMP powered molecular diagnostics systems and we have secured access to low-cost spectrophotometers on a chip, biological samples and reagents required for this project.
South Africa is currently dependent on private laboratories for COVID-19 testing. The current daily testing capacity is 5,000 per day with turnaround time for a COVID-19 RT PCR test between 1-8 Days. South African Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has highlighted that South Africa needs a test capacity of at least 36,000 samples per day.
At current (lower end) pricing in the South African Market, the 36,000 samples equates to $1.5million in revenue per day.
Akili Labs has also parrtnered with Netcare PTY LTD (hospital group) in South Africa to validate, collect samples and roll-out testing through their networks.
Problem or Opportunity
South Africans are generally in poorer health than Europeans countries such as Italy (mortality rate of 11%) and Spain (mortality rate of 8.6%) which have been hardest hit by COVID-19 globally. It is suspected that prevalence of comorbidities in South Africa, such as HIV, TB, diabetes, and hypertension, as well as poorer nutritional status, will materially and adversely impact the mortality rate.
If testing capacity remains the same, turnaround times will increase as the amount of people with SARS-CoV-2 increases faster than the recovery rate. This creates a risk that infected patients will go undiagnosed and continue to infect others contributing to the infection and mortality rate.
Solution (product or service)
The solution consists of a small point of care diagnostic device used to detect SARS-CoV-2. The device makes use of sensor technology and novel chemistry to aid in the detection of the viral RNA in a sample.
Competitors in South Africa include Lancet and Ampath which are private entities that do pathology testing in South Africa. Other competitors would the the GeneXpert from Cepheid which has recently been approved as a POC device to do SARS-CoV-2 testing.
Advantages or differentiators
The proposed test at $12 is much more affordable at the $40 to $70 prices for current tests with huge backlogs currently in South Africa. This device can also be used as a POC device but also offers increased throughput (one sample per cartridge per test run in the Genexpert).
The approach to testing by tapping into the hospital networks as partners also differentiates us from any non-local competitor.
We expect to sell for $12 per test with an unknown device cost. We expect steady sales and increased testing for Netcare, as well as corporate and industrial groups (that have expressed interest in screening workers) and expansion to other territories for the next 24 to 36 months. During this time we expect to release the other assays we have in the pipeline which will show further increased sales.
The business model is based mainly around the sale of kits for the testing of SARS-CoV-2 and other targets. Revenue from device sales will be favourable in the short term, but device cost may be subsidized in the future with increased reagent/kit sales.
The business will also expand the range of tests offered (Akili Labs has identified HIV and Influenza A/B testing as a great target for the African Market)
Money will be spent on
Money will be spent on the further rapid development and creation of the technology with TTP (www.ttp.com). This includes the spending on - Software - Electronic design - Injection molding - Small scale production
Offer for investor
We are willing to offer an equity stake in the company, which is US based (financially and legally) with a subsidiary company in South Africa. This is a discussion we will need to have with any interested parties (behind closed doors) as it is a lot of extremely sensitive IP with 3 years of work put into it. We are currently signed with Founders Factory Africa who are heading up our talks with interested parties.
Risks include the time to market, as it is needed sooner rather than later. This includes risks associated with regulatory approval for the test (hence why we are running this pilot in South Africa) as well as the relevance of how much increased testing capacity is needed (also why the device would be useful for SARS-CoV-2 but expanded testing to HIV etc is being developed)
Incubation/Acceleration programs accomplishment
Savant Technology Incubator (incubation and grant funds) GAP Biosciences Competition winner 2017 (incubation and grant funds) Founders Factory Africa accelerator 2020 cohort
Won the competition and other awards
GAP Biosciences winner 2018 (Gauteng accelerator program) Innovation Bridge 2017 best prototype (South African event)
Patents have been earmarked, but will only be filed when product is almost ready to go to market (biotechnology standard strategy)