By Jesse Lehga, Vice President of Operations & Business Development, DRW
2002, Diagnostics for the Real World (DRW) began with a lofty but admirable
goal: to tackle the world’s most serious infectious diseases through
breakthrough point-of-care diagnostics. Led by Dr. Helen Lee of the Diagnostics
Development Unit at the University of Cambridge, our mission from day one has
been to bring these technologies to resource-limited regions that otherwise
lack access to advanced medical care. Throughout the years, we’ve managed to
remain small and nimble, focused first and foremost on maintaining the quality and
accuracy of our SAMBA diagnostic instruments and test cartridges. After all,
when developing critical diagnostic tests for remote areas, the product
performance simply cannot be compromised.
our products have already impacted the lives of thousands across the world, to
reach hundreds of thousands and, one day, millions, we must change the
economics and cost of our tests. Although we’ve taken this challenge head on,
it turns out that meeting this target is easier said than done. By nature, a
nucleic acid test is inherently complex, therefore the best way to lower the cost
is to focus on a higher production volume and realize the benefits of economies
of scale. Furthermore, we knew DRW needed an affordable way to scale up
production quickly and allow for wider distribution of our products to serve
the needs of the market.
Bright Machines. Much like us, Bright Machines is focused on tackling big,
important problems. With intelligent software and adaptive robotics, the
company is transforming the way physical products get made—making it so that
anyone, regardless of size or available resources, can have something made at
scale. Bright Machines Microfactories completely change the
economics of manufacturing by not requiring expensive hardware to achieve
automation, which increases both the agility and flexibility of a manufacturing
operation. For a growing company like ours, Bright Machines offers an ideal
solution to scale up production without
scaling up cost.
thrilled to partner with Bright Machines to automate the assembly of our test
cartridges for our SAMBA II diagnostic platform, our most complex point-of-care
diagnostics product which currently provides HIV tests for early infant and
acute infection diagnosis and therapy monitoring. Menu expansion is also in the
pipeline, with tests for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and Chlamydia/Gonorrhea to
follow soon. With a Bright Machines Microfactory in deployment, DRW will be
well positioned to handle market growth by producing significantly more SAMBA
II test cartridges at a faster rate.
just a glimpse at what we’ll be able to achieve with our microfactory:
our assembly headcount from seven
technicians to one to two technicians per unit, allowing us to redeploy
those individuals to other critical parts of the production flow and save on
up cartridge assembly time from two
minutes to just 20 seconds per unit
importantly, increase our overall production output by a factor of 10x: from 100,000 units per year to one million units
massive increase in production will allow us to not only hit a new important
milestone for our company, but to also dramatically lower the end-user cost of
the cartridges for the clinics around the world who rely on our products to
serve their patients. Simply put, it will put us on a path to provide millions
of patients with affordable access to our tests.
metrics aside, we’re incredibly excited about what this means for the future of
DRW. It means bringing our advanced diagnostics to more under-served areas of
the world and touching even more lives with proper HIV diagnosis and disease
management. It means a small company like ours has the potential to make a
global impact even bigger than we had ever imagined. Democratizing
manufacturing, as it turns out, isn’t just good for the individuals and
companies building products, it’s good for the world.
Read more about our partnership with Bright Machines here.
About the author
Jesse Lehga is the Vice President of Operations & Business Development for Diagnostics for the Real World, where he is closely involved with the production of the SAMBA test cartridges. Prior to joining DRW, Jesse studied Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley. He is passionate about improving lives through the intersection of technology and healthcare.