A box with swabs for taking nose and throat samples, an insulated container to store them in, and instructions for you to carry out your own Covid-19 test in the comfort of your home arrives at your door.
This is how Mexican company Lab-U gets its coronavirus detection kits across the whole country, thereby avoiding further infections and exposing people to places considered to be highly contagious, such as labs and hospitals. What began in 2019 as a business testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) has now expanded its service to include Covid-19 detection in just 48 hours.
“We are the only solution that completely eliminates the risk of contagion. When you go to do the tests, the people who take the samples have already done so with other people. Hence there is a risk of contagion,” says Eduardo Lozano, founder of the Lab-U telehealth laboratory and graduate of Tec de Monterrey’s Querétaro campus.
Once users have requested their kits and performed the test at home, they ask for the sample to be collected and receive the results within 48 hours (on business days) from a laboratory specializing in this type of test and endorsed by the Institute of Epidemiological Diagnosis and Reference (Indre). Through this service, Lab-U has carried out more than 220 tests across the country, 80% of which have given positive results for Covid-19.
The total cost for testing, shipping, and analysis is less than 3,000 pesos. “We are quite competitive: we are offering the whole service for 2,800 whereas hospitals sell the tests for 5,000 pesos. The big advantage is that we eliminate the chain of infections,” says Lozano.
The origin of the initiative
Lab-U started as a academic project in Veracruz. Thanks to the support he received at an ideas lab, Lozano began to devise a solution to the problem of sexual health care. According to the UNAM, there are eight STDs that are common among Mexicans, and STDs feature in the top 10 causes of death in the country.
“The current problem is the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases because people are not screened. More than 80% of STDs and their complications have no symptoms, so contagion is very easy,” adds Lozano.
The entrepreneur saw the opportunity to offer a confidential service so that people can keep healthy and monitor their STDs without having to go to a laboratory. “This is how Lab-U came into being, as a service that provides privacy for the testing of sexually transmitted diseases and which then evolved into all kinds of studies,” says the founder.
Now with a team of seven people, 13 different tests available and more than 1,000 customers in just one year, Lozano is looking for investment to continue strengthening operations of the company, which is now based in Mexico City.
“Our goal is to continue reaching places where there are no convenient and competitive health services. Our dream is to make the business (Lab-U) more comprehensive, to get to a point where we can give video consultations, create a digital hospital, and provide all the services to your door,” he says.
Although other laboratories, such as Chopo, have home tests, only nine types of test are available. The growth opportunity is a result of the massive amount of STD infections: more than one million people contract a disease from sexual contact every day, according to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).
“We’ve had a great result because men have decided to do checkups for the first time. 90% of our clients are men. For some reason, they’re more embarrassed to go for a checkup than women,” says Lozano.