“We want to be at the forefront of genetic diagnostic revolution”

Subhamoy Dastidar, Co-Founder and Director, Lilac Insights believes that there has been a growing acceptance of genetic testing in India

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Lilac Insights is one the India’s leading genetic diagnostic testing company presently focused on the field of reproductive and cancer genetics. Established in 2011, it presently has an active specialist and super-specialist doctor base of over 8000, servicing hospitals, patients from more than 250 cities.
In an exclusive interview, Subhamoy Dastidar, Co-Founder and Director, Lilac Insights expressed his views on company’s current activities, market scenario, future outlook and much more. Read the details as shared with Rahul Koul, Chief Editor, BioVoice News.

BV LogoPlease take us through the major milestones achieved by Lilac Insights since its inception in 2011?
We started in 2011 with just 16 people. In the first 6 months, we used to get samples from only Mumbai. Today, we collect samples from more than 250 cities and towns. We have facilities in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, and Bangalore with an additional counselling facility in Pune. From initial employee strength of 16, we now have more than 400 employees. In terms of services, we started with only biochemistry. Now, we have added molecular, cytogenetics and next-generation sequencing.
The most important aspect of our growth is that we are completely bootstrapped. We identified a market need and moved to bridge the gap. Our growth has been completely organic, based on recommendations from clinicians who were impressed with our service. From the beginning, we have provided insights as per international standards, which proved to be one of our biggest strengths, and the reason our services were highly recommended.
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Who are your key clients across various segments? What is the strategy you follow to keep them engaged?
We offer reproductive genetics testing, prenatal screening, cancer genetics program, genetic consultation and counselling, as well as mental health counselling. Among our key clients are leading hospitals, including Indira IVF, Apollo, Hiranandani, Cloud 9, Rainbow Hospital, and Motherhood Hospital.
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What has been the impact of your Sujanan Program? Are Indians receptive to the idea of genetic counseling and why?
The Sujanan Program was started with the intent to increase access to Clinical Geneticists and Genetic Counselors across the country. Under the Sujanan program we provide services like Genetic Consultations, Second opinions, Fetal autopsy and Advanced Metabolic Genetics. Currently, we have 10 centers across India and plan to increase more centers soon across Tier 1 & 2 towns. This will help us improve access to standard Genetic Consultation services in these areas.
We have seen a growth of more than 200% for the services offered under Sujanan Program in the last 3 years. We are observing an increased acceptance of Genetic Counseling across the country where primary clinicians are taking expert opinion on Genetic Diagnosis, which tests to offer and explaining the nuances to the patients. This also helps them understand the chances of recurrence of genetic disorders or conditions in the next generations and possible ways to manage them.
The growth is coming from across the country, but the real need lies in Tier 1 cities and beyond where Geneticists and Genetic Counselors are not available. People generally travel to bigger cities and metros to get more clarity around genetic diseases or conditions but with the advent of tele-medicine this is being addressed properly. Individuals now book consultations online before doing these expensive tests and understand the outcome of the tests over video calls. This helps them save on time, cost and energy without compromising on quality care.
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Tell us more about your Cancer Genetics Program. What are the offerings and how are these unique?
Lilac Insights Oncogenetics program is especially dedicated to providing services against Cancer. We launched the program under the Supervision of Dr Pratibha S. Kadam Amare. We are offering services in Hematological Malignancies and Solid tumors, with various advanced methodologies Conventional Karyotyping, FISH, Molecular, NGS, Flow Cytometry and IHC. Our presence is across pan India covering all metro cities and tier 2 cities.
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What innovative technologies have you adopted to deliver faster reports?
There are three key areas where we will be focusing – oncology, personalized genomics, and mental health counselling. In oncology, we are seeing the discovery of new markers which will have a far-reaching impact on drug discovery and the prognosis of a patient. We believe that this will be a major area of research into genomics that can leave a lasting impact on improving the longevity and quality of life of people with cancer.
Personalized genomics is another area that has gained ground during COVID. We now know that our genetics are closely tied-up with many of our health markers and knowing more about our genetic make-up allows us to improve our wellbeing. As we become more conscious of our health post-COVID, personal genomics as a field is expected to gain more traction.
Finally, our third area of focus will be mental health counselling. While not necessarily connected to genomics, it is a critical part of our overall well-being. Fortunately, it has finally gained recognition during COVID as people went through the fear of contracting the virus or being anxious about losing their job. Since our launch, we have seen a highly encouraging response as people logged in from India and abroad.
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What is your current geographical footprint? Any other territories that you are planning to expand into?
We have pan-India coverage of our services. In the domestic market, we are counted among the top three players with a strong leadership position in prenatal testing and rapidly gaining strength in oncology. We plan to focus on upgrading our services and focusing on emerging fields.
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How has the company performed revenue-wise in FY 21-22 and your expectations from FY 22-23?
Lilac Insights has shown an impressive CAGR of more than 47% in the last five years. We saw a significant acceleration of growth in the last two years. This is despite our decision to avoid entering into the high-demand market of COVID testing even when we had access to entire molecular testing facilities. Instead, we chose to stick to our core areas as a genetic testing lab.
For FY 2022-23, both our financial performance and expectations will drive our growth. We expect our financial growth to keep its upward momentum. We plan to expand our outreach to doctors as we have seen a significant jump when referrals come from them. At the same time, we are also going for geographic expansion with new centres even as we concentrate further on developing our existing labs. As we go ahead, we intend to keep our focus on areas like oncology, infertility, mental health, and personalized genomics
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Your outlook for the company’s future growth and the factors that will drive it?
The genetic diagnostic industry is poised where the internet was 20-30 years ago. We realized its potential, but not how far it would go and how profoundly it would change our life. Genome testing will have the same impact. Clinicians will depend on testing to improve their diagnosis and treatment while the end-consumer will take up testing to understand their own wellbeing.
We want to be at the forefront of this revolution. Lilac Insights has been the pioneer in genome sequencing in India and we intend to stay ahead through our innovative products and services in the pipeline.
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How is the genetic diagnostic testing market shaping up in India? What are the current market trends and future growth drivers?
In the last few years, there has been a growing acceptance of genetic testing in India. Even six years ago, such tests would be recommended only in rare cases, mostly in gynaecology with a small percentage in oncology. Today, we see increasing usage with specialists from fields like infertility testing, oncology and clinical genetics insisting on genetic tests. We are also seeing increasing interest in cardiology, neurology, and well-being testing.
The diagnostic labs market stood at USD 12.31 billion in FY2021 and is expected to grow by an impressive CAGR of 12.25% by 2027. Of this, lab diagnostics account for 40%. The pandemic was a pivotal point in the growth of diagnostic labs, especially in investing in molecular diagnostics. As the demand for COVID testing falls post-COVID, these labs will have to start looking for alternatives to fully utilise their molecular diagnostics setup. This is when genetic diagnostic will pick up further.