Santo Purnama is the founder of Sensing Self, Pte. Ltd., which makes Corona rapid test kits.


Perhaps few are aware that a member of the Indonesian diaspora living in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, California, United States, has succeeded in producing the test kits to detec coronavirus. Sensing Self, Pte. Ltd., a Singapore-based company co-founded by Santo Purnama with three pals, is currently actively expanding production to meet the demands of countries such as India, the United States, China, and Indonesia.

Santo Purnama, born in Medan 47 years ago, was a graduate of Purdue University's Computer and Electrical Engineering Department in the United States. Santo, armed with computer science knowledge, has created a business that focuses on medical devices, Specifically, how to produce medical equipment that are generally only found in laboratories or huge hospitals, but can now be based on smartphones and reach a wider audience. This means that mobile phones can replace labs, allowing all processes and analyses of urine, saliva, blood, and perspiration to be performed on the go.

Photo Courtesy of Republika

“I'm from Indonesia. Many people in distant parts of Indonesia currently have to drive 3-4 hours or more to the nearest lab only to give urine for analysis. What if they could accomplish it from home using only a smartphone? That is our company's mission," Santo explained. 

Many Chinese and Hong Kong scientists have claimed fresh breakthroughs concerning the virus. This motivated him to work with others to perform additional study. 

"As soon as it became a pandemic, we decided to conduct a test," Santo said. According to him, the samples and data provided by the scientists are more than enough to provide findings with high precision.

The organization manages tens of millions of data points collected to help numerous research projects seeking medical breakthroughs and produces two kinds of Covid-19 test kits. First, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based test kit that employs respiratory fluid samples. Second, Pre Screening Test Kid is a blood test technique that checks human antibodies against the coronavirus. 

"The greatest demand is for this second type. Serology-based test kits are utilized to determine if someone is positive or negative for the coronavirus," stated Santo.

Sensing Self has currently distributed over 5 million test kits, with an additional 9 million on the way. Santo said that the demand for these test kits keeps on growing. 

Santo earnestly believes that his innovation would be useful by the Indonesian people. The Sensing Self test kit is easy to use and may be done at home. The same gadget has also been approved for sale in Europe and the United States. He expects that the Indonesian government would respond soon to his initiative.

Santo believes that with a selling price of Rp 160 thousand per unit, the test kits would be affordable for the larger population.

"We are purposely not aiming for profit, especially with this tool product.  We took into account the social impact that we proposed," he stated. 

He intends to obtain approval from Indonesian authorities so that his instruments can be validated promptly through test tests.

"Before entering the local country, the goods must be evaluated for suitability and accuracy by the local government," the Stanford University Computer Science graduate explained.  "Of the 1,300 patients we evaluated with the Sensing Self test kit, the accuracy reached 92 percent.”

The high level of accuracy of the test kit, according to Santo, was obtained because scientists at his business worked closely with scientists from China and Hong Kong, the first countries infected with Covid-19, and there were many people exposed to the coronavirus. The company has succeeded in boosting the sensitivity of the enzymes it manufactures by using a large number of samples and collaboration.

According to Santo, the Covid-19 Sensing Self test kit has been employed at a number of research institutions in the United States, as well as in India and European countries, which are the key markets. 

"Right now, there is a demand for more than 1.25 million units, and it is growing every day.  We are unable to fulfill because there are still a large number of requests that have already begun. I'm working on it," he explained. "Right now, our production rate is 500 thousand per day."

The demand for his items continues to grow, but Santo is cautious about increasing production because his party is more concerned with quality. In terms of capital, he concedes that it is tough to calculate because it is a combination of finances and talent.

Future plans

"Right now, we're assisting in the fight against this pandemic. However, after the pandemic is finished, we will begin marketing medical equipment, particularly for the treatment of diabetes," he stated. 

He cites statistics indicating that over the next 15 years, more than 2 billion people will develop diabetes or prediabetes. Half of them are under the age of 25. His party admitted that they would learn a lot more about Covid-19, diabetes, and other ailments that will be treated in the future thanks to the data he gathered. 

"With all of that, we can employ artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to aid in the development of disease therapies," he explained.

Santo confessed that every piece of data obtained by his company is extremely valuable. 

"Suppose we find out that the population in region A eats a lot of B, eats around C, works in field D, and has a diabetes rate of 95%. This will be a significant breakthrough. This information is extremely beneficial to universities, research institutes, pharmaceutical businesses, and governments," he stated.

As a result, once the Covid-19 pandemic has passed, the corporation will begin development to enable lab tests to be done without labs, allowing the general public to use them. 

"It fits our aim, which is to transform lab testing into self tests," he stated.





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