A Developing Opportunity
How did Martin Hale, CEO of Biopttica Laboratories, end up in Dubai? “There’s a hell of a story.”
Martin spent most of his professional career in real estate and other adjuncts to the industry (restaurants, retirement homes, etc.). One day, one of his employees came to work and told him about a friend who owned a diagnostic lab and was conducting DNA tests in under two hours. The main application of the tests at the time was bedbug detection.
Martin couldn’t get the idea out of his mind. One night after tossing and turning thinking the idea over, he dragged his laptop into bed. “The next thing I knew, it was sunrise.”
Martin’s overnight business research was soon to become Biopttica Laboratories, based on the realization that there were many applications for the technology. And some, he believed, that would soon become vital to the global health community.
Detection and Prevention
Today the company primarily focuses on the enhanced detection and rapid identification of diseases and other packages such as insects like bed bugs. “We currently diagnose animals, agriculture, food, and environments as well as humans where we are allowed by law,” says Martin.
“When an office has bed bugs,” Martin explains “It’s usually a $150,000-175,000 situation.” With Biopttica’s DNA tech they can reduce the cost to about $10,000.
Looking back on spearheading the technology in the U.S., Martin remembers being one signature away from landing a contract with one of the biggest property companies in the world. It was a major disappointment when the contract didn’t come through.
Then, in August of 2014, the Legionella outbreak in the Bronx offered Martin and Biopttica another opportunity to pitch the business. Martin brought his low-cost and non-invasive test to the city of New York but once again got a “no, thank you.” Even when 13 people died the next year from in the same building from the same problem, the reception was mixed.
“In the absence of a crystal ball of what was going on in the world, it was going to be about enhanced detection and rapid identification,” says Martin. Even with the early setbacks, Martin saw what was coming. “The things we’ve used to treat these things in the past (antibiotics) will not work in the future.”
Breaking Out in an Outbreak
In April of 2015, MERS had broken out in Saudi Arabia. “We were very upset and alarmed about things we were reading in the headlines. People were saying it was not airborne,” said Martin. “These bacteria are so strong they can exist outside the human host for minutes or hours. Is it airborne in the sense that you can catch it from breathing? No. But you can contract it within a contaminated area as it does live outside a human host.”
So Martin packed his bags with the hopes to get in Saudi Arabia through the neighboring country of Oman. Coincidently, there was a major emergency summit taking place there at the time.
“We were well received by some,” Martin remembers. One potential customer they really wanted to impress, however, still wasn’t budging. “The gentleman who was heading lab services in Saudi Arabia told my partner you don’t know what you’re talking about,” recalls Martin. “Thirty days later he contaminated himself and died.” Though it was an unfortunate endorsement, the incident proved Martin and his small team had a firm grasp on the issues at hand.
Martin started traveling to the middle east in mid-2015. Now Biopttica is in three GCC countries, multiple states in India, and has a waiting list of developing countries that want their services.
An Evolving Product
Biopttica currently has several products including a 45-minute DNA test, a portable kit that will diagnose a bacterial or viral infection in less than 10 minutes, and a natural supplement that when ingested attaches itself to toxins and impurities in food and helps to flush them out of a host’s system.
“We do a lot of different things but where we are of greatest benefit are in places where medicine is not as readily available, healthcare is not as evolved, there is a lot of poverty, and there is a lot of hunger or famine,” says Martin. “This is our greatest market.”
Biopttica can also diagnose “sick” grass on a golf course, saving tens of thousands of dollars by giving operators an answer in under 24 hours. According to Martin, it used to take 10 to 14 days to get a solution. By that time, the course may be unusable.
Biopttica has also started screening people at international borders. “With our 10 minute technology, we can ascertain whether someone has a disease or bacteria for about $20,” says Martin. And if someone tests positive, Martin explains, it’s a lot easier to figure out what they don’t have rather than the hundreds of things they could have. Biopttica can offer borders protection from hosts carrying in the most watched for diseases like tuberculosis, swine flu, and MRSA.
Up until now, Biopttica has relied on third-party contracting for logistics instead of doing it in house. “We’re looking at opening regional facilities,” Martin says. “As markets open up to us we will make things that are local to that market. If India’s government is buying, we want to give back to India and create jobs.”
Martin’s favorite new client and perhaps the biggest opportunity for the company are India’s cows. “[In India], cows are sacred,” explains Martin. “If a cow is hit by a car, they are taken to the hospital.” Biopttica is now developing tests to look at the quality of milk from those cows.