How One Woman’s Resilience Strengthened India’s Fight Against CoronaVirus

 “Difficulties do come in your path but with right attitude, you can overcome it. Focus on your goal and not on the path. Then only you can succeed.”

These are the lines mentioned on the LinkedIn profile of Minal Dakhave, who is the Head of R&D (Research and Development) Lab at Pune-based biotechnology startup MyLab Discovery Solutions.  

Minal Dakhave

In the last few weeks, when India – along with the rest of the world- struggled to fight the deadly Coronavirus, Minal put her words into actions. She was focused on finding a solution for the lack of testing facilities in India, as the number of Coronavirus-cases was rising and adequate, affordable testing facilities were the need of the hour. (Reportedly, till a few days ago, India’s capability for Coronavirus testing was as low as 6.8 per 1 million people.)

Minal’s brainchild, the Coronavirus test kit named PathoDetect, was born in just six weeks, and Minal submitted her product at the National Institute of Virology for evaluation on March 18th.  The next day – and here is the catch – Minal delivered her baby.

For all the employers reluctant to hire female professionals due to concerns about them possibly leaving the job for motherhood, Minal is the perfect answer.

Not only did she deliver India’s first domestically manufactured COVID_19 test kit during a complicated pregnancy, but managed to go on maternity leave after submitting what could be her most important work so far – just in time for her c-section delivery.  

In an interview to the BBC, she has said, “It was an emergency, so I took this on as a challenge. I have to serve my nation.”

And Minal’s efforts did succeed. The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, the national regulatory agency for medical devices, gave its approval to PathoDetect, thereby strengthening India’s potential in diagnosing and in turn fighting the pandemic disease.

Minal, a molecular biologist in her early 30s, has a post-graduate degree in Virology from National Institute of Virology, Pune University. She has been working in molecular diagnostics of infectious diseases and diagnostic product development for around nine years. She has been with MyLab for more than three years now, working on multiple projects including kits for HIV and Hepatitis B and C.  

Minal’s latest invention has been lauded for its affordability and accuracy – it gives the result in under three hours, unlike its foreign counterparts which take up to seven hours. Also, one PathoDetect kit costs Rs.1200, and can conduct 100 sample-tests, while the imported ones cost around Rs.4500. The company has stated that it is currently producing 20,000 kits per day, and can make up to 50,000 in a day, at their production unit in Pune. MyLab has also attracted investment from various quarters post this development.

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