Zoya Brar, Founder and CEO of CORE Diagnostics, in conversation with Healthwire:
Could you please tell us, what CORE Diagnostics is all about? How wide is its spectrum of diagnosis?
When we established CORE Diagnostics in 2012, the vision was straightforward. We wanted to be the destination for high-end clinical testing in India. We also wanted to make sophisticated tests available for the Indian patients right at their doorstep. And more importantly, we wanted to disrupt the diagnostics industry.
As far as the spectrum of testing is concerned, we do everything from figuring out what the disease is to what the most suitable treatment the patient should get. Our test range includes the diagnosis, therapeutic indications, and prognosis of the disease.
What drove you to start high end clinical diagnostics laboratories?
There were a bunch of factors that drove us to start a high-end clinical laboratory. We began by comparing the Indian market with the rest of the world and realized that the demand was highly extensive due to the Indian population. If we consider only the top 30 per cent of the Indian population, there are still more than 300 million people, and that’s nearly the same size as the population of the US!
But when we looked at the supply side, there were only a few labs that were doing this kind of work. Diagnostics constituted only 3 per cent of the total healthcare expenditure in India, but 70 per cent of all outcomes depend on the initial testing. This macro observation allowed CORE to reshape the entire industry by bridging this gap.
How far has CORE Diagnostics come since the day of its inception?
Now, we are the largest and the fastest-growing company in high-end diagnostics with the broadest test menu. For over seven years, we have grown nearly by 70 per cent year-on-year. Today, we are a 350-plus-people company. Our services reach patients in over ten countries. And we are the partner-of-choice for over 5000 clinicians that trust us with their patients.
What kinds of advanced tests does CORE Diagnostics offer? How are they different from other laboratories? How does diagnosis at CORE Diagnostics help in treatment?
As I mentioned earlier, we offer diagnostic, prognostic, and predictive tests. While most laboratories are still focused primarily on blood testing, at CORE, we focus on the genetic and molecular aspects of the disease.
You’ve been very positive when it comes to the role of AI. Do you think it can change diagnosis and treatment?
As I often say, this decade is going to be the decade of data in healthcare. I was happy to hear our Finance Minister echo my thoughts during her budget speech when she said that ‘data is going to be the new oil.’ I think Artificial intelligence by itself is one significant part of the data story. People often talk about AI and Machine Learning (ML) without really understating what these words stand for. Even if a healthcare organization does not have an AI engine or a data algorithm, they certainly do have data. Therefore, there’s dire need to start curating the data and storing it correctly to enable us to gather more insights for improve outcomes. Each organization should put in resources to collect the data accurately and incentivize the people on the ground with access to data to ensure proper curation.
In what ways have CORE Diagnostics introduced revolutionary changes in healthcare sector?
We have disrupted the industry in many ways – some simple, some complex.
At the simplest level, we have shown the industry that there is indeed a better way to run a healthcare organization – that transparency, innovation, and trust aren’t just words. A direct outcome is our low rate of attrition. An example, we do not have offices. Instead, we have glass walls. The glass is not only a physical manifestation of our principle of transparency, but it is also a clear message to everyone – we don’t have anything to hide. And that filters down to our way of doing business. We have significantly disrupted the hierarchical and closed work culture in healthcare.
Secondly, we stand out in the type of tests and technologies we offer. We believe innovation is never static. It’s hard to be launching 5-10 tests a month in our eighth year of existence, yet we do it. We strongly believe in focusing on remaining sustainably innovative with a strong pipeline. That is the difference between companies that grow for a few years and then stabilize and organisations that progress by 70% even in their 8th year of existence.
Most importantly, we have disrupted how patients are diagnosed in the country. It gives us great satisfaction to know that there are over 500,000 patients who would not have had access to diagnostic results had we not existed.
Oncology holds a lot of importance at CORE Diagnostics? What is the hope for cancer patients here?
My fervent hope is that we find a cure for cancer. There are a lot of efforts happening globally, but only time will tell when we get there.
Until then, I hope that cancer patients have the best possible support systems. There are a very few support groups in our country that provide the resilience and support a patient needs. Half the battle is in the patient’s head, and patients with a reliable support system tend to have stronger willpower and do better than the patients without any support.
As a country, I hope we come together to solve this problem, support each other as we move forward in our fight against cancer.