Blaine Doyle, pictured centre with his team
Kilkenny Bio-Entrepreneur Blaine Doyle, Founder and CEO of GlowDx, finds himself on the front line of medical diagnostics.
He is playing a leading role in the fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic in Latin America, as the World Health Organisation stressed the importance of ‘Test, Test, Test’.
The 28 year old Graignamanagh man, a UCC graduate in molecular biology and bio-innovation, founded his company in the IndieBio Accelerator, Séan O’Sullivan’s Biotech Company Builder, funded by SOSV.
“GlowDx was founded by Dr Yensi Flores, who is originally from Honduras, Rodrigo Cervantes, a Mexican Bio-Medical Engineer, and myself,” said Blaine. “We just wondered how we could bring diagnostics into the emerging markets and into molecular diagnostics to decentralised healthcare settings.”
“That’s basically why the company started,” he continued. “It was to democratise access to diagnostics in Latin America. So whether you are in a metropolis like Mexico City or a clinic in rural Colombia, you can get the healthcare answers you need.”
Contracting the Dengue virus in Honduras proved to be his defining moment as he developed a test for the disease which affects 350 million annually.
“It’s not always the case,” he added. “I had the experience of catching Dengue Fever in Honduras. It’s dangerous; self-limiting if you keep on top of your symptoms, but the after-effects like fatigue, can take their toll. It infects 350 million people every year - and the cost is approximately €30 billion to the global economy,” he added.
Having graduated from DCU with a B.Sc. in Biotechnology at 21, he had a little bit of experience working with Industry and the national blood bank, but doing a M.Sc. at UCC was his way of going deeper into the healthcare industry - a decision he never regretted.
While on clinical research in Honduras, he discovered the need to make early, reliable and quick diagnosis available to those who contract infectious diseases, was absolutely vital.
GlowDx grew from Blaine’s brush with Dengue Fever. Now, the company develops diagnostic tests and platforms, while also operating a brand ChektAhora (www.ChektAhora.com) in Mexico City. ChektAhora focuses on women’s health and sexual health, covering testing for HPV, plus other bacterial and viral infections. With a high percentage of
“Mexico City’s 22 million inhabitants within the Millennial and Generation-Z demographics, Sexual Health needs are experiencing dramatic rise in demand,” he said. “Our team of scientists in Mexico are working to offer quick turnarounds in results using a fully automated molecular set-up.
“In Mexico City, 99% of the HPV cases are a high risk strain, and at risk to cervical cancer developing. Our test kit, collects a vaginal swab in your own home. Results are back in 24 hours, with a team of gynaecologists on hand via telemedicine to assist with any aftercare. We are focused on building a millennial brand; nobody is speaking up for the young people who may be struggling with intimate healthcare issues or STDs.
“We’re aiming to take the taboo out of sexual health, for the younger Latin American population, beginning with Mexico and Brazil.
“It’s a big problem, not just in Mexico, but globally,” he added. “This test helps people know their status and do something about it!
“Mexico made the most sense,” he said by way of explaining their base. “Rodrigo was GM of a German Medical Company, managing distributors from the north of Mexico to the south of Argentina. He was a target man in Latin America, and we convinced him to leave corporate role and join us. That’s been important from the start.”
For now though, all global resources are focussed on Covid-19. While it’s still building in Latin America to the vengeance it hit Europe with, there is nothing to suggest that it won’t. And GlowDx Mexico is ready to be on that front line.
“We have been stockpiling our laboratory for two months now, ensuring we will be ready for what is to come,” said Blaine. “We have some developments we are working on right now to tackle this pandemic and prepare for the future, but I can’t say what at this moment!”
The spread of the virus has been an interesting study for the Kilkenny molecular biologist.
“Respiratory diseases are interesting,” he said. “Initially, I thought we would have contained it in Asia, but that’s clearly not been the case, scientists are still finding out things about the virus, how it mutates, how it’s moving. I recommend looking at the Johns Hopkins University, Coronavirus Resource Centre Dashboard, as that has excellent data sets and great visualisations, or TWIV: This Week in Virology Podcast if you want to hear from frontline clinicians.
“My advice is keep washing your hands with soap and hot water, be conscientious of those around you (especially the vulnerable), continue self-isolation and follow the HSE’s advice as this situation progresses,” he said. “Our country is on top of things and to give credit the government has led the way in Europe. ”
At present Doyle is spending time in Ireland, grounded and supporting his team in Mexico City, his home from home, virtually. Blaine is an active board member of the Mexican Irish Chamber of Commerce and, like many Irish people living abroad, he has maintained his grá for home with the wonder of working in a new environment, pace of life and community.
“No matter how much I travel, I don’t forget how much contrast can be seen in small towns all over the world, when compared to growing up in a small town in Ireland,” he said.
“It’s so impactful when you see life there, and think of the difference in opportunity. For me it’s a testament to the responsibility we have to our country and world to make it a better for everyone. I still love molecular biology - I am a scientist at heart. It is really interesting to see the science applied and having an impact on people. Putting something into people’s hands to get the answers they need is so rewarding.”
In a fast evolving business, now more than ever before, Blaine takes it in his stride.
“There is nothing business has thrown at us that I can’t be grateful for,” he said. “Each challenge brings a lesson.”