36-year-old Aneesh Karma was beaming with pride as he stood near his medical device innovation- KAFO- a knee ankle foot orthosis, popularly known as callipers that enables people with weak legs to walk. Aneesh’s KAFO was one of the 20 novel medical devices that were on display at the 5th Annual Symposium and Medical Device Expo at IIT Bombay between 12-13 April. The event was organised by BETiC – Biomedical Engineering & Technology (incubation) Centre, as part of IIT Bombay’s Diamond Jubilee celebration.
Coming from a humble background, born to illiterate parents, Aneesh was afflicted by polio in his childhood. “I could not finish my education due to our poor financial condition. But I didn’t want to bow down to fate. Any kind of disability should not become an obstacle to success. It was my dream to invent better callipers for myself and others like me,” shared Aneesh, a native of Bulandshahr in UP.
According to doctors, knee ankle foot orthosis is required by those affected by polio, paralysis and accidents. Some organisations provide callipers free of cost to poor patients, but these are uncomfortable. Imported devices are of better quality but unaffordable to most people.
After knocking on many doors, Aneesh found BETiC, a unique lab nestled in IIT Powai campus. Here innate innovators like him work closely with each other, guided by top doctors and mentors, to bring innovative ideas to life. Many of them start their own company in SINE- Society for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, IIT-B’s technology business incubator to take the products to market.
Other inventions such as the Ayulynk Smart Stethoscope (to record and send heart and lung sounds of rural patients to urban doctors for correct diagnosis), diabetic foot screener (to prevent long-term ulceration and amputation) and hybrid plaster splint (to immobilize fractured bones to prevent further damage during transport) were on display at the Expo. “These three products won the prestigious Biotechnology Ignition Grant award of Rs. 50 lakh from BIRAC, New Delhi, which is being used for pilot production, testing and marketing of the products,” shared Dr. Rupesh Ghyar, Senior Executive Officer, BETiC.
“India is a land of many challenges as well as opportunities, especially in affordable healthcare. A range of medical devices and equipment are required for diagnosis and treatment of various diseases. However, even 72 years after independence, 78 % of these products are imported. At BETiC we are trying to build an ecosystem that brings doctors, researchers, engineers and entrepreneurs together for indigenous medical device innovation to bridge this gap. We have a few success stories, but much remains to be done,” said Prof B Ravi, Founder of BETiC.
Today, BETiC at IIT Bombay and 10 partner institutes across Maharashtra have over 100 researchers who are working closely with doctors to develop novel and affordable medical devices. In the last five years, they filed 50 patents and licensed 12 technologies to start-up companies and industry partners.
Renowned nuclear scientist Padma Vibhushan Dr Anil Kakodkar; Dr Neeraj Saxena, Advisor AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) Delhi; Dr Manish Agarwal, Hinduja Hospital; Rajiv Mehta of Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust; Dr Dasmit Singh, paediatric surgeon, B J Medical College; Dr Hemant Bhansali, Nanavati Hospital, Dr. Alaric Aroojis, B.J. Wadia Hospital; Dr. Nishigandha Naik, Director of Haffkine Institute and Prof. B.B. Ahuja, Director of COE Pune were some of the prominent names from the medical and research fraternity who attended the two-day annual event to discuss the progress and how to sustain the activities.
“One of the best examples of innovation eco-system thriving in Indian conditions can be seen in BETiC network anchored at IIT Bombay. Its unique culture of inter-disciplinary multi-institution collaboration is highly effective in creating medical device success stories. Such eco-systems should be scaled up and replicated all over the country,” shared Dr Anil Kakodkar.