Argentine scientists develop tests to speed up medical tests

Anyone who goes to the doctor knows that, when leaving the office, they will take the order for a long series of laboratory studies, essential to reach a diagnosis or rule out diseases. If the pathology is complex, the options diminish and only a handful of institutions that have the technology emerge and the technicians work to do the tests requested. In addition, these laboratories –like God– regulate ‘attend’ in Buenos Aires and carrying out the study is difficult due to distance or high costs. Seeking to change this situation, a brand new Argentinian Start-Up is developing a new test format, once sophisticated, but which –in its new design– can be done automatically, in any primary care office, and obtain reliable results in hours, saving trips and time for diagnosis and starting treatment.

For years Marcelo Kauffman and Dolores González Morón have been coordinating the Neurogenetics Laboratory of the Ramos Mejía Hospital in CABA. They usually receive patients referred from all over Argentina who come looking for a diagnosis that only the sophisticated equipment and technicians of that laboratory can achieve, after analyzing DNA samples from the patients.

“For a long time we have been doing various complex genomic tests, which were not available in other institutions and which are used to demonstrate patients with rare and little-known diseases. Often these people arrive after making a pilgrimage to numerous doctors, sometimes for five years or more, until their disease can be identified, thanks to performing some complex molecular tests,” Dolores González Morón, a neurologist and expert in neurodiagnostics, told PROFILE. .

But also, the patients we cared for at the Ramos Mejía “were almost an ‘elite’ who found out about our work and could get to the hospital. And this happens because, even today, there are still barriers to making massive genetic diagnoses”, concluded Marcelo Kauffman, Conicet researcher and head of the Neurogenetics Laboratory at the institution. And he recorded: “In those years we began to think about the need to extend the use of these techniques so that many molecular diagnostic tests, which were only done in our laboratory, could be used to solve other issues, anywhere, even in a Primary care room or remote office with a minimally trained staff”.

That idea floated around and, at the beginning of 2020, both professionals teamed up with Federico Scagliotti, a serial entrepreneur, to co-found “Limay Biosciences”, a still brand-new biotechnology startup that aspires to change and make the world of tests molecular technologies become accessible to everyone.

Decentralize. One of the central trends in health policies is decentralization. “After two decades of working on these issues, we thought it was possible to systematize many biochemical reactions in molecular biology and do them in a controlled and automated environment, in a small format and with a simple operation: putting a sample of blood, urine, saliva or other secretions in a kit and get a concrete and reliable result in a few hours,” said Kauffman. And with this idea they also aim to lower the necessary investment in equipment by at least an order of magnitude.

“Today, the handful of sophisticated laboratories that have these options use $50,000 equipment to obtain genetic diagnoses. That requires several complex steps and typically takes weeks or months. We are developing a kit that will cost ten times less to get the same result, that can be used in any institution or office and get reliable results in two hours.”

What could it be applied to? Although they thought of it for various health diagnoses, it is also useful in other areas: the food industry and the countryside, for example. “Our SMART platform can detect, in a short time, if a seed was genetically modified in a laboratory. Thus, a food company could easily control whether its suppliers deliver the requested raw material. Today this analysis is carried out by specialized institutions and costs US$ 200. Our kit, which should be ready by the end of this year, will cost one tenth of the current value and can be used in the same truck, at the factory gate,” he explained. Scagliotti.

Medicine. In the medical world, he plans to debut next year with a device capable of confirming in minutes if a person has dengue. “Today this test is done in centralized laboratories of large hospitals and it takes several days to determine if a person with symptoms has dengue or another infection. We use a blood sample to, through a molecular biology reaction, find the RNA of the virus in minutes,” explained González Morón. “Using a solution that could cost around US$ 5, it will be possible to confirm or rule out whether a patient has dengue, in two hours and in the guard of any room in the country.” It is not something minor since, depending on the diagnosis, a person can isolate themselves at home, be hospitalized or avoid certain medications. This would add benefits for the patient and savings for the health system”, the doctor added.

These kits could also be used to monitor treatment or improve the use of antibiotics, the “abuse” of which has become a global public health problem. A typical case would be urinary tract infections: “Patients are usually asked for an analysis to do cultures and they must return several days later. Using our platform, the professional could find out in that same consultation what germ is causing the infection and what antibiotic to prescribe”, explained the doctor.

Other possibilities of these tests is to detect food contaminated by toxins or fungi. And they also foresee a possible field of use in the identification of infections related to sexual health, where these diagnoses would give speed and also privacy.

Born in the middle of a pandemic

A few months before the start of the pandemic, Kauffman and González Morón launched a company dedicated to developing some automated molecular tests. When the planes were maturing, in March 2020, the pandemic arrived. They did not back down and, even in full isolation – and knowing virtually – they associated with Scagliotti and, with a seed capital of US$ 20,000, they obtained the arduous path of startups. They presented their project in several incubation programs, in Chile and in CABA, and gradually became known. Thus, they began to receive some “seed” capital investments to underpin the first developments and incorporate several specialists from the almost twenty professionals who today make up the company’s staff. As the project has good prospects, a few months ago the investment fund specialized in this area, the SF500, invested half a million dollars in the company. And the round continues: Limay Biosciences is already planning to seek a new round of investors by the end of the year.


◆ The global market for point-of-care (POC) tests is projected to reach US$70.8 billion by 2030.

◆ Test results can be obtained in less than 60 minutes.

◆ The global clinical diagnostics market will grow at an annual rate of 5.8% between 2022 and 2028, driven by the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases,

◆ The Limay Bio tests can be used to diagnose people and animals, in agriculture and in the food industry.

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