Indian researchers develop low-cost, portable ventilator
When medical researchers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, announced last year that they had developed a portable ventilator that was cheaper than a premium mobile phone—the ventilator costs a tenth of conventional ones—not many would have thought that a ventilator could be made as small for portability and as cheap. AgVa, the portable ventilator developed by Professor Deepak Aggarwal of AIIMS and Diwakar Vaish, a robotics specialist, uses an Android device for controls, thereby greatly reducing space requirement. This has helped free up space in hospitals—patients who can afford the low-cost ventilator can be taken home—and can also mean drastically reduced costs for both patients and hospitals. The Indian Express reported that a patient, hospitalised at AIIMS with ventilator support for the past four years, could finally be sent home. AgVa is still in the process of getting US FDA approval, but there can be no doubt that it will prove game-changing for home-based care and hospital infrastructure. Indian startups have been at the forefront of innovations that can transform medical care delivery. Earlier this year, Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council, a government body that provides fund for research, in association with InAccel Technologies, a startup, launched the FDA-approved VAPcare—an automated secretion clearance system that could help contain pneumonia-related ICU diseases. Given hospital-borne infections are a major route of anti-microbial resistance, VAPcare, too, can prove transformative. The company is also working on Saans, a battery-powered Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) system that could increase the survival rate of premature babies who require artificial respiration. Saans could help reduce the over 40% mortality among the 4,07,000 babies born with Respiratory Distress Syndrome each year. While India has no dearth of initiatives like AgVA and VAPCare, these need substantially more promotion and support from governments.
Karnataka has taken some initiatives, so has Rajasthan. For instance, Janitri, started in 2017, has monitored over 27,000 pregnancies, across 100 hospitals and health care centres, primarily in Karnataka and Rajasthan. The world over, contractions and fetal health are monitored using cardiotocography, which involves a bulky machine; Janitri has simplified the process, using a patch and a mobile app and knocking 60% off the price of conventional cardiotocography. 5C Network, another start-up, has been working in the field of teleradiology—using the company’s app, a patient can consult radiologists at a remote location or from the company’s own panel. If a radiologist isn’t available at a district hospital, 5C can send patient data to its panel of radiologists, assisted by AI in analysing the reports to ensure accuracy. India has only one radiologist for 1,00,000 population (the US has 1 for 10,000); so, teleradiology’s potential is immense. While a Bengaluru may be a hot innovation destination, medical tech research needs a booster dose of support; the government can start with supporting an AgVa or a Janitri take off.