Kandifo Institute, on Thursday, March 11, 2020, paid a working visit to Incas Diagnostic Centre in the Kumasi Metropolis, Ghana.
Incas Diagnostics, as a leading African medical diagnostic development and manufacturing company in Ghana, hosted the Kandifo team that was led by its Executive Director, Palgrave Boakye-Danquah.
At the premises of Incas Diagnostics, a presentation was brilliantly executed by its founder and CEO, Dr. Laud Anthony Basing – who happens to be a scientist, engineer, innovator and entrepreneur. The entire process involved in the production of locally manufactured test-kits was brought to light for the entire visiting team.
As a youth-led manufacturing hub and the first diagnostic test manufacturer in West Africa, Incas Diagnostics hatched a new plan to produce reagents and test-kits with its initial aim of being a social enterprise in focus.
The company, within nine years of operation, managed to produce six test-kits at affordable prices for the general populace. Unlike other pregnancy test-kits that give results after two weeks of unprotected sex, the pregnancy test-kit made by Incas Diagnostics gives accurate results after one week of unprotected sex – and the good news is that it comes at a very affordable price.
Incas Diagnostics has been able to invent a COVID-19 antibody test that can easily be tested and produce the best result possible – all with the aim of dealing with restrictions the pandemic has introduced into our societies.
The company is also working with developers in Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa and Senegal, with backing from the World Health Organisation (WHO), on a mobile app that will help trace people potentially at high-risk of getting the virus. An interesting bit of the organisation is the fact they also offer contract manufacturing services to other companies which may be interested in creating customised test-kits.
In 2016, Incas developed its first product – the Vaginal kit (Incas Vagkit) which detects vaginal infections within 10 minutes. This 3-in-1 urine-based test-kit was nominated for the 2018 Innovation Prize for Africa – and as a result put Incas in the international spotlight as the first Ghanaian company to be nominated for the Innovation Prize for Africa. This product was approved for use by the FDA in 2019. Incas Diagnostics manufactures over a million test-kits in a day.
With great core values such as innovation, impact, customer-first ethos, quality and reliability, the company impacts 4 SDG Goals greatly. Under SDG Goal 3, which is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, Incas Diagnostics provides access to simple and easy-to-use diagnostics for people who would ordinarily not have access to these services due to financial constraints.
The company has over time bridged the gender gap by using digital tools to help women access sexual and reproductive health anonymously; as well as ensured that all technical departments of the company are headed by talented females. This impacts SDG Goal 5 – achieve gender equality, and empower all women and girls.
Incas provides decent work to its 37 employees and this helps them live sustainable lives; and with this, the company impacts SDG goal 8, which seeks to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth; full and productive employment; and decent work for all.
Incas furthers its impacts on SDG Goal 9 – build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation – as the company is currently the only one in Ghana, as well as the whole sub-region, that develops and manufactures Point-of-Care tests. This encourages the setting-up of several companies around the value chain, hence providing industrialisation and innovation.
Incas Diagnostics has four products under development. The first is the Point-of-care test for infectious diseases, which is a test to diagnose sexually transmitted infections. Next are the wearable small molecule biosensors which use tiny molecule biosensors to monitor drug intake in real-time on a mobile phone. There is also an AI-enabled pathogen detection device under development that uses AI-enabled microscopes to detect diseases like malaria and cervical cancer; and the last product under development is the smartphone-based pathogen detection device.
Incas Diagnostics is well-known for its custom lateral flow tests developed for individual clients. Any validated test-kit that might be of interest to a manufacturer can be easily developed by Incas Diagnostics. Their development team manages and delivers a completely validated rapid diagnostic test that satisfies the needs of your end-user. They have produced six test-kits within a period of six years, which are detailed below:
- Vagkit: The vagkit is a 3-in-1 test for vaginal infections. They have developed a self-test that uses urine and returns the results in only 10 mins. With a mobile application, consumers can scan their results and receive a prescription on their mobile phones – all in the comfort of their homes without having to go to a pharmacy or hospital.
- Drugs of Abuse: This is a 10-in-1 panel test for drugs of abuse which are Nicotine, Marijuana, Cocaine, Tramadol, Benzodiazepine, Amphetamine, Morphine, Opiates, Tricyclic antidepressants and Barbiturates. It is also a urine-based test that gives you results in 15 minutes.
- HCG Ultra: This is a highly sensitive pregnancy test. A normal pregnancy test has a sensitivity of 25miu/ml and can detect pregnancies within 12-16 days after implantation. The pregnancy test kit made by Incas has a sensitivity of 10miu/ml and can detect pregnancies within 7-9 days after implantation.
- HBsAg: The Incas Hepatitis B test-kit can detect HBsAg 1 to 12 weeks after exposure and 2 to 6 weeks before the onset of clinical symptoms.
- Typhoid IgM/IgG: This is a test-kit for the simultaneous detection and differentiation of IgG and IgM against the organism that causes typhoid fever.
- Test for Yaws: This is a test given to detect yaws in children. The disease is a poverty-related chronic skin disease that affects mainly children below 15 years of age. The customer is going to get results in 30 minutes with this molecular test.
Ghana’s Incas Diagnostics has been able to develop another great product – the new COVID-19 antibody test which is to help test for COVID-19 easily, but has not yet been approved by FDA. Incas Diagnostics expects the country’s regulator to approve its new COVID-19 antibody test by the end of July, saying its kits could help health authorities ease pandemic restrictions.
It is quite remarkable for Ghana to have such a locally produced test-kit, although via expensive machines. The one-day working visit turned out to be educative and entertaining as well. These two are youth-led organisations that bear the enthusiasm to change Ghana and the world at large for the better, and thus be game-changers and trendsetters in the world.
Kandifo Institute commends Incas Diagnostics for its diligenceand is hopeful that the organization will thrive and transform into a top-notch test-kit manufacturer across the globe in some few years to come. Kudos to the entire team for the effort invested in improving health to save lives. Incas Diagnostics is a big deal and requires all the necessary support from Ghanaians to make it to the top. It is important to support our own, and as such we would like to use this medium to entreat all to choose products by Incas Diagnostics as they are affordable and effective.
Suggested national policy
Government should highlight activities of organisations that are manufacturing test-kits which are health-related – especially COVID-19 – in the context local efforts to implement the SGDs by addressing health needs of people in the country.
Government must work toward supporting local companies that deal with production of health products in the country, and see to it that their challenges and problems are identified and solved. Government should invest in upcoming organisations that are focused on manufacturing test-kits to acquire more of the necessary machinery required to run laboratories.
NGOs should have programmes that allow collaboration with local companies to speed up the production of more test-kits in the country for the good of all – young, adults, women, men and even the aged. NGOs must liaise with manufacturing companies to bring out the best products for human consumption.
The government of Ghana should invest more in Biomedical scientists, as more youths build keen interest in Science and technology, in order to help develop tools and equipment which help to make life easier.
Programmes should be organized, especially in the rural areas, to educate people on health conditions and some available test-kits that can be easily acquired and instantly conducted to attain results and commence effective treatment by physicians, with the goal of improving health to save lives. Government, NGOs and manufacturing companies must collaborate to organise training programmes for the youth on health areas.