Nexus-trained company Ramja Genosensor has developed an infection detection device that can give results within two hours, helping to initiate treatment for immuno-compromised and cancer patients much faster.
Pooja Goswami co-founded Ramja Genosensor, whose device can detect infection and antimicrobial resistance in just 90 minutes. (Photograph courtesy Pooja Goswami)
Detecting infections in time can be a matter of life and death for many patients, especially immuno-compromised and cancer patients. That is where New Delhi-based company Ramja Genosensor steps in. It has developed an innovative paper-based sensor for the detection of microbial infection and antibiotic resistance within two hours. It is developing a product that is specific, sensitive, portable and sturdy. This will help physicians immediately start the right antibiotic treatment for patients who need it the most.
In early 2022, the company completed its pilot clinical trial with the All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, and received a patent for its genosensor. In June 2022, Ramja Genosensor was selected as one of the top 75 start-ups in the country at the Biotech Startup Expo 2022, organized by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC).
Excerpts from an interview with co-founder Pooja Goswami, who completed training at the Nexus Incubator start-up hub at the American Center New Delhi, about the company’s technology and future plans.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to start this company?Ramja Genosensor is not just a company; it is something that is very close to my heart. The journey of Ramja started on a very sad note, when I lost my father during his cancer therapy course. He passed away due to infection, not due to cancer, because physicians were used to starting antibiotic treatment without waiting for infection test results, which used to take almost three to five days. So, during that time, I used to wish for faster results for infection detection, which was not possible then.
I have been struggling with this whole concept since October 2014, trying to find out how I can cut down the test time for infection detection for other people diagnosed with cancer. With my research experience, I ended up developing a technology—a paper-based infection detection device, which can give infection results within two hours. To pursue my ambition of further developing this concept, I left my job as a scientist at AIIMS, New Delhi, and started my company, Ramja Genosensor Pvt Ltd in 2018. For this work, we received funding from BIRAC of Rs. 5,000,000 in 2019, and now, we are incubating at IIT [Indian Institute of Technology] Delhi. In 2020, we also received funding from Pfizer for intellectual property.
Tell us about the experience of being a female scientist working in the area of medtech entrepreneurship.Being a women scientist is an easier job compared to being a women medtech entrepreneur. This journey is fun, where I am learning and enjoying a lot. There is too much competition in our field. It’s challenging when you must finish the work within deadlines. It’s not easy to perform, but maintaining a work-life balance is an art, which we need to learn.
How does your paper-based technology help detect microbial infections and antibiotic resistance?We offer a smart, innovative paper-based device for the detection of microbial infections and antibiotic resistance. Using specific probes, we can detect species-specific microbial infection and their resistance detection within two hours.
How will this technology help in initiating treatment for immuno-compromised and cancer patients?
As per the latest guidelines, every one hour delay in antibiotics treatment pushes patients to the risk of death, up to a mortality rate of 20 to 60 percent. Because of the time-taking infection detection test method of up to five days, physicians are bound to start their antibiotics in a set pattern, which causes antibiotic resistance in immuno-compromised and cancer patients, leading to death. So, our technology will be a boon for the medical fraternity, where they will get results within two hours, and physicians can prescribe specific antibiotics to immuno-compromised and cancer patients immediately.
What are some of the key features that set your innovation apart from other sensors in the market?
As of now, there is no other sensor technology-based infection detection device in the Indian market. So, our competition is with the existing, time-taking test methods, that is culture, sequencing and PCR [polymerase chain reaction].
Ramja Genosensor provides an easy and cost-effective solution for all hospitals, laboratories and remote areas, that is a paper-based novel device to detect microbial infections and microbial resistance within two hours.
Our device is almost 99 percent sensitive, specific, portable and user-friendly. It is cost effective in comparison to all existing modalities like culture and PCR, as it reduces the cost of infrastructure up to 95 percent and almost an 80 percent reduction in the staff.
What is the reach of this technology in India? What are your future plans?
This is a very new technology; we will be the first to launch it in India and adapt it for customers. We plan to do clinical trials first with renowned hospitals and then get them to adapt our device. We are also planning to launch disease-specific bacterial panels. We will initially launch a bacterial uropathogens panel for UTI [urinary tract infection] detection in pregnant women as well as for surgery, immuno-compromised and cancer patients.
What are some of the measures you have taken to adapt your technology during the Coronavirus pandemic?
We are modifying our device to carry out tests with minimal sample requirements as well as reducing sample handling and exposure to our staff. We are also implementing self-disinfecting anti-viral and anti-bacterial coating to our device, to reduce the chances of infection transmission. We have also taken appropriate precautions in our office, that is, minimum interaction between the employees. Everyone in the department practices social distancing while wearing gloves and N-95 masks as well as using a sanitizer after touching any object.
How was your experience with the Nexus Incubator start-up hub at the American Center in New Delhi?
It was a great experience working with the Nexus team. I learned a lot from them in terms of business and marketing. There were faculty members from the U.S., who gave us valuable lectures and gave me a new insight in business learning. The faculty taught us marketing concepts in a very innovative style, which was completely out of the box.