C-Lab: Unlocking the benefits of genomics
As we look back, the pandemic has paved the way for a new era in medical diagnostics in Mauritius, where genomic data will increasingly drive the future of health care. As our ability to read genes becomes faster and cheaper, genetic sequencing is leading the way for everything from enhanced disease surveillance to personalised care referred to as precision medicine.
In Mauritius, C-Lab is at the forefront of these developments, having put itself firmly on the map as an innovative lab since its launch in 2019, whilst working towards its vision of being recognised as a reference in diagnostic testing.
As the island moves to strengthen its position as a hi-tech medical hub, not only for the Indian Ocean region but for Africa, C-Lab is already seeking to partner with labs in Seychelles, Madagascar and with hospitals and clinics in Uganda.
To understand more about C-Lab’s activities and plans in this exciting domain, we caught up with Tina Sharma, COO of C-Lab, who explained the strong potential for growth in genetic testing, sequencing and analysis. The key point here, she underlines, is that “the more the demand from people who want to do these tests, the more we will be able to develop this area of expertise.”
C-Lab has been leading the way in the region as the first private lab to perform PCR testing (with a bio-safety Level 2 lab) when COVID first hit, benefitting from the Government’s support. Tina highlights that, “PCR can be used to detect other diseases as well. We have been very keen on genetic testing and PCR gave us that push.” C-Lab also performs newborn screening, Pro-calcitonin test for sepsis, automated urine microscopy and culture, and ThinPrep pap smear tests through liquid biopsy. So, what's new when it comes to genetic testing?
Taking a further step into the future of genomics, C-Lab can now offer predictive genetic analysis through its partner MapMyGenome, a company specialising in advanced genetic testing, based in India. This test provides a risk map which shows a person's ancestry; the types of risks in terms of chronic diseases like diabetes or cardiovascular; the types of drugs that will and not work; inclination of addiction for smokers and alcoholics; kinds of food proteins that work or don't work and many more. She says, “It helps a person prepare and make small changes in their lifestyle to improve their quality of life.”
So, what are the areas where C-Lab is currently testing, across the life cycle?
C-Lab performs the non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), a genetic test where the mother's blood sample is taken to discover whether the baby will have any genetic abnormalities. All of the 23 chromosomes are looked at to know if the baby will have certain abnormalities (e.g.: Down Syndrome). Tina emphasises that, “This gives parents some knowledge to prepare themselves mentally. Until now, more than 200 NIPT have been conducted.”
C-Lab also offers tests for Breast Cancer Antigens (BRCA 1 & 2) to look for specific inherited mutations that cause breast cancer as well as Oncominepanels which help one understand the specific cancer genes and/or mutations that they have and the specific treatments which would work for their cancer. It also conducts immunohistochemistry, to understand what kind of medicines, treatment and follow up on the effectiveness of the treatment.
Lastly, in terms of building awareness among the population, starting in April, Tina's team will be present at the five main malls around the island to talk about the importance of preventive health and explain in detail about the genetic tests offered at C-Lab. As Tina concludes, “we want to help people work on their lifestyles better, stay healthy and be prepared!”