Mexico Health Review talked to José Luis Nuño, CEO of Unima, about how technology can revolutionize the diagnostic practices and medical care in Mexico.
Q: How is Unima revolutionizing diagnostic practices and how can this technology improve care?
A: This test is fast and low-cost and can be used by nonspecialized personnel. Unima’s goal is to allow on-site diagnostics without the need to take a sample and send it to a laboratory. This testing device can be taken to the most remote areas of the world for those who do not have
access to a traditional laboratory or who cannot afford a regular test. This technology allowed us to decentralize diagnosis, which is important since some of the diseases we fight have a global impact, such as tuberculosis, HIV, malaria andinfluenza.
Q: In what other fields can information collected by your device be used?
A: The test requires only one drop of blood. It is placed on a diagnostic paper sheet equipped with biomarkers that generate a visible change on the paper when it comes in contact with blood. To make a diagnosis, the user takes a photo of the paper with an app in their smartphone to get a result in a few seconds. Then the result along with contextual information like geolocation, date and time is uploaded to a cloud server. The collected data is tagged, stored in the cloud and analyzed. We plan to use all this data to perform real-time analysis related to the spread of diseases. This information could be useful for health systems and governments to address infectious diseases.
Q: What is Unima’s ideal client profile and what are the main advantages this test provides in comparison to others?
A: Our market is made up of global health organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross, but also national public health sectors in each country and international pharmaceutical companies. One of the main advantages of this technology is its extremely low cost. The second main advantage is that it removes access barriers since it can be taken to anyone living anywhere in the world.
We do not change the user’s healthcare model; we provide a tool that adapts to their needs. For instance, we developed a quick test for tuberculosis and we are working with NGOs in Africa that have incorporated it into their regular services.
Q: How does your product compete or complement the services of diagnostics clinics?
A: We do not compete with diagnostic laboratories. We focus on large healthcare NGOs and pharmaceutical companies. For this last sector, we are developing rapid diagnostic tests. In underdeveloped markets such as Mexico, we are not a competitor but rather a complement to their services, since we offer them the possibility of reducing their operative costs.
To date, our biggest impact is in Africa but we are also targeting Latin America, China, India and Southeast Asia. The barriers to enter these countries are regulatory since there is no global certification, so it is necessary to submit to the approval process of each country. Around 75 percent of our work is focused outside of Mexico.
Q: How is your technology changing the approach doctors must take when making a diagnosis?
A: We do not change the diagnostic algorithms but we adapt to the existing technology. For example, our TB test has a sensitivity that competes with almost any other test in the market. However, current TB diagnostic algorithms require a final confirmation test. For that reason, our test is a first contact test for triage and screening: if our test is positive, for certain diseases the patient will require a confirmation test. Similarly, our test allows us to rule out those who are not suffering from the disease. For diseases that do not require a lab scale confirmation test, the result will be definitive, so the infection would be confirmed at that moment. The impact of this technology is that it allows doctors to speed up their diagnosis so the patient can begin treatment as fast as possible.
Industry Analyst and Journalist at Mexico Business Publishing