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India's Super Religare Laboratories Launches Array-Based Food Intolerance Testing Service

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Super Religare Laboratories, a diagnostics network headquartered in New Delhi, India, last week launched a service for testing food intolerance that is based on an ELISA microarray developed by Cambridge, UK-based Genesis Diagnostics.

The service is SRL's first array-based test and could foreshadow the adoption of more array-based diagnostics by the Indian testing giant, according to a company official.

CEO Sanjeev Chaudhry told BioArray News in an e-mail this week that SRL will offer the service through wellness centers and health clinics in India.

"Food intolerance testing is becoming more significant both in Europe and the US, mainly because of changes in lifestyle and stress, and is more commonly offered in wellness setups," Chaudhry said. "We have our own chain of wellness clinics in India and hence we decided to introduce this test," he said.

According to Chaudhry, India is experiencing "socioeconomic change" that is "more synchronized" with changes in lifestyle in Europe and North America. "With this change, there is an increase in awareness for wellness and we felt this could be good tool for detecting food intolerance, thereby helping people live healthy lives," he said.

SRL, which changed its name from SRL Ranbaxy last year, services nearly 4,000 hospitals and pathology labs in India, as well as a network of over 50,000 doctors, according to the company. Additionally, SRL owns around 50 laboratories, including 15 wellness centers. SRL claims it serves around 6 million patients each year, and offers 3,500 tests based on 95 technologies. Still, the food intolerance service marks the first time that SRL has offered an array-based test.

The service uses a modified version of Genesis Diagnostics' Genarrayt Microarray 200+ Food IgG test. Genesis launched the Genarrayt platform, which is based on an enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay, in April 2008.

The platform can detect in blood samples immunoglobulin G antibodies to 221 varieties of foods, according to Genesis. Samples for 221 food extracts are arrayed onto the company's 16-pad nitrocellulose-coated arrays, which are read using an open-platform colorimetric scanner and analyzed with Genesis' FoodPrint software.

Genesis did not respond to BioArray News enquiries seeking comment by press time.

The food-specific antibodies are linked to food intolerance. According to the Mayo Clinic, food intolerance includes the absence of enzymes needed to fully digest a food, but can also encompass irritable bowel syndrome, sensitivity to certain food additives, and celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Symptoms typically include bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and constipation.

While SRL is currently limiting its involvement in arrays to the food intolerance testing market, Chaudhry said that the company may introduce other array-based tests in the future, specifically for allergy or autoimmunity, based on an ELISA format. He did not elaborate.

Chaudhry said that SRL is developing its own array platform while it continues to buy arrays from Genesis, but did not provide further details.

SRL has not shied away from other molecular diagnostics platforms. Last year, the company inked a deal with Oslo, Norway-based diagnostics firm Diagenic to offer Diagenic's genomic breast cancer test in the Indian market (see BAN 5/27/2008). Diagenic's assay, called the BCTest, uses gene-expression signatures to test for breast cancer recurrence and runs on Applied Biosystems's TaqMan RT-PCR-based platform.

'Doubling Capacity'

Separately, SRL said this week that it will invest more than 1 billion rupees ($25 million) over the next two years to expand its operations within and outside India, as well as on sales and marketing activities, according to a news report.

The Press Trust of India reported that SRL plans to "double its capacity" and the number of labs it operates by 2011. SRL currently owns 50 labs and can run 25,000 tests a day, according to the firm.

Chaudhry was quoted as saying that that in addition to these efforts, SRL may also look to acquire other testing labs in the same time period. The investment estimate does not include the cost of such potential acquisitions, he noted. SRL representatives did not respond to e-mails and phone calls seeking confirmation of the report by press time.

Beyond India, SRL currently offers its tests in the UK, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. According to the firm's website, it currently has plans to expand within India, as well as the Gulf Region.

SRL most recently acquired Dubai-based diagnostic lab Mina Healthcare for $20 million in November 2008.

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