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Much more than healthcare diagnostics


Test and measurement fieldwork

There’s a natural inertia that anchors lateral flow testing to the core markets of medical, healthcare and wellness. The first widespread product that utilised the technology was the pregnancy test and whilst the tech’ advanced, subsequent applications went largely under the radar until when it was rolled out globally for the Covid-19 crisis.

 

The language surrounding lateral flow technology underlines its affinity to healthcare. We (at RAPIvD) are not alone in referring to it as 'in vitro diagnostics' which, by definition, is diagnostics performed outside of a living organism. This doesn’t always mean that it’s health related, but it points in that direction. Additionally, IVD products are often considered to be ‘medical devices’, even if their intended use is unrelated to the medical sector, or an indicator, rather than a definitive diagnostic tool.

 

I was asked if I thought that the growth of lateral flow industry is being hampered by the magnetic pull of healthcare. Not that we shouldn’t serve the health sector, but that human health should be one of many industries where lateral flow technologies are commonplace as test and measurement tools.

 

Assay targets don’t have to be viruses, hormones, proteins or bacteria, they don’t even have to be organisms. As our CEO Rob Porter tells us, “Irrespective of what you’re looking for, if we can attach an antibody to it and run it up a strip, there’s a good chance that we can find it”. With various binding chemistries, conjugates, membranes, buffers, antibodies, filters, amplifiers and readers, there are options and solutions for detecting more targets than ever before.

 

That’s great news for health and wellness, but it’s also great for several other industries such as, manufacturing, environmental monitoring, military, agriculture, law enforcement, food, mining, travel and security. We get contracts and enquiries from outside of the health sector, but rarely promote our services directly to others outside of the IVD and medical industries. We are convinced that the industry is barely scratching the surface in terms of business potential in core markets, but if those markets only represent a fraction of opportunities in other sectors, the true business potential for lateral flow technology could be enormous.  

 

If we successfully appeal to people in non-medical markets who need low-cost, fast, portable and effective test, measurement and detection solutions, we can get more products to market with rigorous testing, but without the need for clinical trials and regulatory procedures. Short-circuiting the product development process will doubtless help suppliers at all stages, but especially those at the manufacturing end of the lateral flow industry.

 

To answer the question about whether the industry is being hampered by its alignment with the healthcare sector, you would have to say no, because there’s still so much potential in this market. However, we might miss opportunities if we don't broaden the language associated with lateral flow technology and seek to develop test, measurement and detection tools for other industries.


As for practical ways to reach those industries, I don't advocate spray and pray promotion, but my targeted solutions are still 'work in progress'. There is a possibility that growth through non-core markets will happen organically. We have projects and enquiries from several other sectors and if those products are successful, the technology could promote itself. On the other hand, we might need to do a bit more to attract new customers than present our services to one (albeit huge) industry and hope that others find us too.

 

As ever, thoughts and comments welcome.

 

Richard

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