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Ballymena firm capitalises on the trend of rapid medical diagnostic testing

 

CIGA Healthcare is devoted to selling point-of-care medical diagnostic tests, giving immediate results to the patient.

There are two main facets of its business; consumer products, called Suresign® that test for pregnancy, ovulation, menopause, diabetes and other conditions. There’s also a range of professional diagnostic solutions for doctors and hospitals. It can analyse more than 25 biomarkers of disease, including cardiovascular or endocrine disease, fertility and infectious disease, amongst others. 

“We expedite the patient pathway,” says CEO Robert Grundy, “giving patients an immediate test result in the consulting room where their blood or urine was tested.”

He explains CIGA’s future expansion plans.

“We can target community pharmacies as well. That’s where the industry is going, to take as much pressure off medical professionals – such as the NHS – as possible,” Robert said.

CIGA is already benefiting from a large chunk of the marketshare in this rapid testing market. Robert tells me the consumer side, Suresign, is the larger business, while the professional side has potential for future expansion. The tests are sold in more than 70 countries. Many of the company’s resources are invested back into R&D.

Analyst organisations have valued the global rapid diagnostics testing market at more than $18 billion with a growth rate of at least 7% per year.

“CIGA was first founded in 2005, and we’ve already reached a point of selling more than a million tests annually,” said Robert. He joined the company in January this year, after being involved with the spinout of an early-stage venture, Re-Vana and prior to that, Almac. “My experience lies in developing early-stage technologies and making them commercially viable,” he explained.

CIGA is headquartered in Ballymena, and has offices in Norwalk, Connecticut as well as Dubai. The tests are manufactured in several different countries, including China, the US, France and Italy. CIGA has received funding from Invest NI as well as private equity investors.

 

How is medicine evolving?

Robert said, “In the past ten years, accountability and value for money have changed a lot in medicine. Every medicine now needs to demonstrate its own value, and so the administration of drugs has become more precise. It is required to prove, from a pharmacological point of view, that the treatment prescribed is doing what it is supposed to.”

How does Ciga slot into this equation?

“One example is in the prescription of antimicrobials,” said Robert. “Our biomarker test can pick up the inflammatory factors of infection. When antibiotics are overprescribed it’s a huge problem; people become resistant. Our test gives a data-based rationalisation for whether the drug is needed, because the biomarkers reflect inflammation arising only in bacterial infection, not viral infection.”

How will patients’ expectations of healthcare change by 2030?

Robert said, “Results will need to be immediate – all patients will expect that. Gone are the days of waiting for test results. Critically, healthcare has to become more efficient. Data will be king, in ensuring drugs are more effective and there is a more personalised approach taken to treatments.” 

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