Rapid tests for COVID-19 produced by Hi Technologies, a Brazilian healthtech startup specialized in laboratory equipments, are beginning to be made available to the public. The company informed LABS that drugstores in the city of Curitiba, where the startup is headquartered, already acquired the kit, and Vale Verde, a chain of pharmacies from the city of Londrina, began to offer them last Friday.
As part of a pilot phase of distribution, other chains in the Brazilian states of Paraná and São Paulo also bought the equipment, however retailers still prefer not to advertise the product to avoid an overload in demand. Without giving specifics, Hi informs that some exams have already been sent to companies and local public health departments, and all tests are being pre-scheduled. The company does not disclose the number of kits already distributed, only that they are being done “on a large scale”, and it says that they will become more openly available by the end of April.
Hi charges BRL 130 ($ 25) for each kit, but outside the public system the cost to customers in pharmacies may vary. According to Hi, the final price is not exceeding BRL 200 ($ 38).
Results in 15 minutes
The blood sample is collected in a capsule and mixed to reagents in a portable device. The gathered data is transmitted instantly to a physical laboratory, where it is then processed using Hi’s algorithms before a report is issued. According to the firm, results may be returned in up to 15 minutes, The procedure is similar to other rapid tests and the estimated level of test accuracy is between 93% and 98%.
There are systems that detect the virus before symptoms even appear, but Hi’s technology is aimed at cases where the individual has already had symptoms of the new coronavirus for at least three days. Detection is possible by detecting an antibody produced by the person, and not by detecting Covid-19 itself.
Created in 2017, Hi already offers a portable laboratory system to Brazilian drugstore chains, including RD, Pague Menos and Panvel, to detect diseases such as AIDS, Zika, Chikungunya, dengue, hepatitis and diabetes.
The startup has a team of 125 people, including pharmacists and medical engineers, with part of the team constantly monitoring global epidemic news to eventually develop tests to detect it.
The company has among its partners Positivo Tecnologia and venture capital firms Monashees and Qualcomm Ventures.