With an aim to reduce the gap between the Indian diagnostic industry and the rest of the world, CORE Diagnostics was founded in 2012 by 23year old Zoya Brar– a first generation entrepreneur. CORE’s service philosophy revolves around providing definitive diagnostics & therapy selection in shortest possible turnaround time with second opinion on every test. In a little over six years CORE has become synonymous with innovation in clinical diagnostics. Over the years, business has grown nearly 5% on a month-on-month basis.
In the following Interview with Insights Success, Zoya, the Founder and CEO speaks about the transition that CORE is bringing about in the diagnostic industry.
- Kindly brief us about the company and its initial journey.
The inception of CORE was based on a simple observation: while the “delivery system” of healthcare services had caught up with the western standards, the lack of talent availability had led to a “white space” in high-end diagnostics. Despite the presence of handful of large players and local labs – we were able to witness the immense potential of advanced diagnostics. There was dire need to supplement routine testing to address the grossly underserved high-end diagnostic market. CORE came to the scene in 2012 to bridge this gap by making the advanced diagnostics procedures available, affordable and accessible in India.
- Brief us about you and your role in the Company?
My interest in precise disease stratification, therapy selection and the zeal to provide definitive diagnosis within shortest turnaround time, led me to found CORE. My bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and upbringing in the cities of Chandigarh, Ludhiana and Delhi made me learn about leadership through osmosis. My skills were further honed to perform in various roles while writing for the Youth Parliament, organizing street plays, helping people with disabilities and several such initiatives while in school.
At CORE, me and my team’s modus operandi as a leader in this space is to bring the most advanced testing diagnostic techniques and expertise to India. As a corollary, we are the destination for all high-end diagnostic testing. This can be made possible only by bringing together world-class people who share the same vision and entrepreneurial spirit. This has been the most challenging and the most exciting part of my journey. For startups, it is critical for employees to be committed to an open, transparent culture. Hence, we put a lot of emphasis right at the start – during our interview process. Today, we proudly stand at an attrition rate of less than 5% – in an industry that suffers from up to 50% employee turnover. We have a team of nearly 300 people now.
- Brief us about the services that the company offers.
CORE has established itself as the largest, and the fastest growing company in the high end diagnostics space with a broader coverage test menu of several thousand plus tests in oncology, nephrology, neurology, infectious disease, reproductive medicine, transplant medicine, etc.
CORE offers a wide range of tests in each of these disease segments. While our initial focus was oncology and that’s what helped us establish our brand, we have expanded our offering to cover all important disease segments in molecular diagnostics/ Our most recent addition was comprehensive test menu in nephrology.
- What are the challenges in this Sector in India?
Diagnosis sector is highly unorganized and served by a very large number of labs focused on routine testing. This, in and off itself is a challenge, in that it sets the quality bar for the consumer very low.
Another big challenge is the lack of highly skilled workforce – both on the technical side as well as the clinical side of pathology. Lack of awareness amongst the clinicians – regarding the importance and role of diagnostic, prognostics, and predictive tests used to be a challenge but I believe CORE successfully addressed that in the first two years of its existence.
Price sensitivity is always a challenge in the Indian market.
- What are the unique propositions that the centre offers giving it an edge over competitors?
We stand out in many ways. First, the panel of experts in the US is world class and includes some of the top names in Academic Medicine. Second, having investors based in the Silicon Valley, Boston, London and Mumbai gives us tremendous access and exposure. Our work culture is transparent with a flat hierarchy.
Most importantly, we stand out on the label of INNOVATION. We are innovative – in everything we do. And we are perceived as such.
- Please share the latest technology that the centre is utilizing to offer better services.
We have brought in innovation in various dimensions. For instance, we have the broadest menu of high-end molecular and genomic diagnostics in Cardiology, Oncology, and Reproductive Medicine. Identifying the need gaps in the sector, we are focused on scientific breakthroughs in three general areas – genomics, informatics, and massive reductions in the cost of testing which is the utmost need in the sector.
Not too long ago, CORE joined hands with Guardant Health to launch the world’s leading comprehensive liquid biopsy test in India for patients in advanced stage of cancer. Last year, CORE added another feather in its cap by achieving the shortest turnaround time from 7 days to 5 hours through the COREprime technology. A similar partnership was set up with Promega biotech to bring in technology that helps in the selection of the most effective clinical intervention.
- How does the firm intend to handle its Societal Responsibility? Please mention any special charity or program as such.
Preventive healthcare still has a long way to go before it becomes mainstream anywhere in the world, even more so in India. Towards this goal, CORE has established a genetic counseling program to spread awareness and provide counseling to patients and guidance to clinicians. We routinely conduct CMEs for clinicians to make them aware of the newest developments.
Finally, as a part of societal responsibility, we also offer our services free of cost for those who most need them.
- What are the company’s views regarding the spurious growth of uncertified and illegal centres that crop up?
Back in 2012, spending nearly six months interviewing clinicians and fellow diagnosticians to understand the pain points of our industry. Even then it was clear to me that the chasm between those that were providing reliable results and everyone else was extremely wide. There are nearly 1,00,000 diagnostic labs in the country, and many of them lack the stringent quality systems that are essential to achieve consistency, accuracy and timeliness of test results. Less than 5 percent laboratories are authorized by the National Accreditation Board for Testing & Calibration Laboratories (NABL).
- Brief us about the company’s future perspectives.
We see our broader agenda as re-shaping the diagnostic industry – in a manner that it turns into the central pillar of healthcare delivery. At present, we are actively working at expanding our reach through various partnerships with Government, Pharma, and Health tech companies Also, we are adding new clinical areas enabled by latest, cutting-edge technologies in whole-genome sequencing, proteomics, and more recently, metabolomics.
We have already become the partner-of-choice for many Pharma company for conducting clinical trials, and we expect our business to grow rapidly in this segment.
Finally, we believe we will soon be viewed as a Clinical Data Science company, in addition to being a best-in-class clinical laboratory.