Shared ventilators in times of coronavirus: Start-ups can help govt breathe easier

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Published: April 1, 2020 6:00:38 AM

The company has also tied up with Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone, an enterprise under the Andhra Pradesh government to create capacity for 5,000 more units.

Even with that, the requirement could surpass availability if the pandemic ends up affecting lakhs, as projected by some mathematical models. Even with that, the requirement could surpass availability if the pandemic ends up affecting lakhs, as projected by some mathematical models.

Given that the estimated 40,000-50,000 ventilators in India would not be enough in case the COVID-19 numbers reach levels that the worst-affected countries have witnessed, the government is working on all possible solutions, including enlisting automakers, PSUs and the Defence Research Organisation (DRDO), to ramp up their manufacturing.

Even with that, the requirement could surpass availability if the pandemic ends up affecting lakhs, as projected by some mathematical models. So, DRDO will be working with multiple private sector firms to create a splitter for ventilators so as to allow many patients to simultaneously use a single ventilator.

Many start-ups, however, have been fielding such innovations for quite some time. AgVa Healthcare, founded by Dr Deepak Aggarwal of AIIMS, and Diwakar Vaish, a robotics specialist, had in 2018 announced a low-cost ventilator that could be cheaper than a flagship premium smartphone. The company used technology to compress a ventilator to small form-factor and bring down the cost to a tenth of an existing, traditional ventilator, it can also convert an Android tablet to work as a ventilator.

Maruti Suzuki India has tied up with AgVa and would be creating ventilators based on the latter’s technology. MSI said it would achieve a production volume of 10,000 units per month. “We are targeting 20,000 units in production. Since our first iteration, we have added new features. The new ventilators are very rugged and have features which can match a `15-lakh ventilator,” Aggarwal, co-founder, AgVa Healthcare, said. The company claims to have customised it to deal with viral shedding by COVID-19 patients. “We have also installed a medical-grade negative ion generator (not there in any ventilator). Negative ions inactivate the virus in respiratory tubing and airways, and a positively charged collection mechanism collects them,” Aggarwal said.

The company has also tied up with Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone, an enterprise under the Andhra Pradesh government to create capacity for 5,000 more units.

Indian start-ups are delivering innovations that can aid India’s Covid-19 response. Pankaj Gupta, managing partner of Singapore-based EthAum Venture Partners, threw a challenge on Twitter, asking people to create a four-way splitter for ventilators, which could be used on ventilators as these machines operate only at 25-30% of their capacity. Gupta initially had thought of a ventilator ‘hackathon’, but soon pivoted the challenge towards creating a splitter, after coming across a 2006 report of doctors in Michigan using this technology. He took open-source designs and tested them in Jaipur.

“We are working including a flow controller. So, we will be creating both a simple splitter and a complex mechanism. We want to bring all 3D printers on board,” Gupta said.

Another healthcare start-up Dozee has a contactless health monitor, which can be used to track heartbeat, respiration rate and stress. Pritish Gupta, COO and CBO, Dozee, said the company has a cost-effective solution to health tracking and creating makeshift ICUs. “The monitor uses AI to track vibrations and does it with 98% accuracy. As respiration is affected in COVID-19, we can keep regular track of respiration, sending automatic alerts when respiration tends towards dangerous levels. Besides, the app controlling the device can generate a dashboard, so nurses can spend more time taking care of the observations rather than recording patients’ vitals,” he said.

Another start-up Niramai, engaged in breast cancer screening, uses thermalytix to screen women for breast cancer. It said it is developing a technology where a device can monitor the temperature of groups of people. Geetha Manjunath, CEO & CTO, Niramai, said: “Thus, we can do remote fever screening from 10-12 feet. While we cannot monitor crowds at present, groups of people can easily be screened.”

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