Covid-19 antigen testing: India next stop for Siemens Healthineers

Siemens sells two types of antibody tests in India. One tests antibodies (both IgG and IgM) and another the level of IgG antibodies in a person’s blood
Siemens Healthineers, a Frankfurt-based medical-technology firm, will soon bring to India its Covid-19 antigen test, which it launched in Europe last week.

The firm is expanding its facility in Vadodara to make molecular assays there. It will manufacture RT-PCR, antibody and antigen test kits at the facility. Siemens imports these tests from plants in the US and Europe.

Given the growing demand for Covid-19 diagnostic tests, the firm has decided to manufacture here. “It makes entry-level blood analysers and reagents and is expanding the facility to make molecular assay tests,” said Vivek Kanade, executive vice-president (Zone India), Siemens Healthineers.

This could play a crucial role even when India’s vaccination drive starts because the government is planning to do point-of-care antibody tests on people to determine if they have antibodies and thus screen prospects for vaccination.

Siemens sells two types of antibody tests in India. One tests antibodies (both IgG and IgM) and another the level of IgG antibodies in a person’s blood. IgM helps to detect recent virus infections while IgG develops after around 10 days of having the infection and can last months. It would show that someone has been exposed to the Sars-CoV-2 virus.

Siemens has supplied around 500,000 antibody tests to the Indian market, Kanade said. Since March Siemens supplied 6.3 million RT-PCR test kits here, he added.

Now the company is planning to bring its point-of-care antigen test, which would detect the presence of the Sars-CoV-2 virus in nasal swabs within 15 minutes. This was launched in Europe last week and Siemens needs permission from the Indian Council of Medical Research to bring it here. Kanade said since the outbreak of the pandemic, the demand for X-rays and CT scan machines had shot up.

“Demand for X-rays and chest CT scans has gone up. Lung scanning is now being used either as a first line of confirmation for Covid-19 or as a confirmatory tool. RT-PCR takes some time before we get results. A CT scan of the chest is very useful for faster diagnosis,” he said.

The company also quickly developed a plug-in that would help detect Covid-19 pneumonia from the chest CT scan, said Gerd Hoefner, senior vice-president, Development Center, and managing director, Siemens Healthcare.

Meanwhile, the company has announced its largest ever investment in India in an innovation hub in Bengaluru. It will come up in five years with an investment of Rs 1,300 crore. This will be one of the four innovation hubs of the company, with one each in the United States, Germany, and China. It will include centres of competence in digital technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, immersive technologies like augmented and virtual reality, user experience, and cybersecurity. 

“This investment is the largest we have ever made in India. It will play a key role in taking our business to the next level by driving digitalisation and expanding our portfolio for emerging markets,” said Elisabeth Staudinger, president Asia Pacific, Siemens Healthineers.

The investment is part of Siemens Healthineers’ strategy 2025, in which India plays an important role as a growth market for the firm.

At present around 2,400 people work in Siemens R&D and it plans to add another 1,800 over the next 10 years. 

So far, Siemens Healthineers has invested about Rs 2,500 crore in R&D in the country.

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