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Biotech funding round pushes the envelope of tech-based innovation

Anil Budur Lulla
10th May 2017
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Karnataka’s Idea2POC scheme unearths 26 startups and individuals that are deemed to be capable of creating a deep impact in the lives of the people through tech-based innovation. 

Twenty six companies and individuals on Tuesday received grants totalling Rs 10.70 crore from the Karnataka government as parts of its efforts to bolster innovation in the biotech sector.

The 26 winners of Idea2POC biotech grants pose with Karnataka's ITBT Minister Priyank Kharge in Bengaluru on Tuesday.

The selected startups, some of which received up to Rs 49 lakh, were handed the first tranche of the grants by Karnataka's IT and BT Minister Priyank Kharge. The funds are meant to help the winners in their growth journey.

The winners were chosen for their tech-based ideas, which were seen as unique and capable of having a social impact. The funds were disbursed to these startups from the government’s Idea2POC or idea-to-proof-of-concept fund for biotech startups.

A personal journey

For Rajlakshmi Borthakur, the woman behind TJay, an innovative solution for the prediction and management of epilepsy, it has been a personal journey.

This arts graduate’s tiny son suffered from epilepsy, and as she found that no technology could predict and reduce risk, she founded Terra Blue Exploration Technologies. Her company has received Rs 49 lakh, and she says it is a reaffirmation of people’s faith in bringing out an innovative solution for the one crore epilepsy patients in the country.

She told YourStory that TJay is an app-based product where the epilepsy patient wears a glove and doctors can download all the data generated. This data, gathered even when the patient is asleep, can help doctors predict or reduce the risk of the next attack.

Developing viable alternatives

Next Big Innovation Labs, which also received Rs 49 lakh, is a 3D bio-printing company with a long-term focus on solving the organ shortage for patients on long transplant waiting lists.

Its co-founder, Alok Medikepura Anil, said the lab was working at the intersection of engineering and biotechnology. He said,

The company has already started offering 3D bio-printing services to leading R&D labs. The company’s immediate focus is on solving problems arising from long pharma R&D development cycles, high drug development costs, and providing a viable alternative to cosmetic animal testing, which is facing bans in many countries.

The interdisciplinary co-founding team comprising of Alok, Piyush Padmanabhan, Ratandeep Singh and Pooja Venkatesh believes in the goal of developing cutting-edge healthcare technology right here in India, for the global market.

The winners included individuals like Dr. Nagashetappa Biradar, whose software for automatic assessment of valvular regurgitation got him a grant of Rs 46.5 lakh, and Shanthanu Chakravarthy, who created a virtual reality-based endoscopy simulator and received Rs 49 lakh.

A first for biotech

Kharge said this was the first time the government was funding biotech startups. “The fund offers entrepreneurs a holistic support system to explore, develop, and launch their best ideas. This Idea2POC scheme is designed to identify, mentor, and fund enterprising biotech startups in Karnataka that can create a deep social impact on the lives of the people of the state.”

He said the ITBT department not only supports startups with funding, but also becomes a partner in their journey. However, the state does not ask for any equity.

These 26 startups are the first to qualify under the Idea2POC biotech grants. Earlier, Rs 1.90 crore was awarded to eight winners of a tourism hackathon, and just last weekend, a Rs 10 crore agri-startup fund was announced for agritech startups at the Millets and Organics National Trade Fair by Kharge and Agriculture Minister Krishna Byregowda.

These funds are part of India’s first multi-sector startup policy launched by the Karnataka government in November 2015. The policy looks to nurture technology-based startups and product-based firms with the support of industry and investors.

Gaurav Gupta, the IT, BT and S&T secretary, informed that a sum of Rs 10.70 crore will be disbursed as grants to these innovative biotech startups to promote and nurture ideas that can bring about change in society. Gupta said,

"Our focus is on creating a strong startup ecosystem, with ideation at the bottom of the pyramid. These are not relationships based on a single conference or meeting, but those that are forged through meaningful experiences."

In the biotech sector, the Idea2POC funding has been implemented by the Bangalore Bioinnovation Centre, a company set up by KBITS (Karnataka Biotechnology and Information Technology Services) to exclusively nurture and promote biotech startups. “The aim is to discover and encourage innovators who need early-stage funding to reach commercial capabilities of their research efforts. Apart from validating proof of concept and providing certification, the government will help them pilot their project and scale up,” Kharge added.

Here is the list of the 26 winners along with a brief description of what they do and the quantum of the grants they have been awarded;

  1. Bendflex Research & Development (Rs 49 lakh): The company aims to develop mechanical biomarkers using compliant micro grippers for application in in-vitro fertilisation.
  2. Omix Research and Diagnostics Laboratories (Rs 49 lakh): Novel tool for detection and surveillance of antimicrobial resistance among urinary tract infections.
  3. Aprus Biomedical Innovations (Rs 49 lakh): Advanced wound care device combining novel thin film hydro-colloidal gel technology with novel macromolecule delivery using detonation nano diamonds for treating recalcitrant diabetic ulcers.
  4. Nesa Medtech (Rs 49 lakh): An affordable and minimally invasive therapeutic procedure to treat symptomatic uterine fibroids in reproductive women.
  5. Janitri Innovations (Rs 25 lakh): Low-cost, portable uterine contraction monitoring device.
  6. Mallipathra Nutraceuticals (Rs 20 lakh): A novel and cost-effective amino acid chelate-based foliar spray for plants comprising the effluent from the silk reeling industry.
  7. E2e Biotech (Rs 30 lakh): Intensive production and purification of high-value pigments through novel photo-bioreactors and design engineering.
  8. Biomoneta Research (Rs 30 lakh): Electro-dynamic removal of pathogenic bacteria from healthcare environments.
  9. Pentavalent Bio Sciences (Rs 49 lakh): Precise, rapid, and ultrasensitive DNA cassette-based tool for antibiotic profiling of mycobacterium tuberculosis and treatment decision for tuberculosis patients.
  10. Genespy Research Services (Rs 30 lakh): Development of vaccine strategy against the leukotoxin of staphylococcus aureus and design of farmer-friendly device for monitoring mastitis.
  11. Bioinovatix Health Care India (Rs 35 lakh): Development of yeast particles.
  12. Lumisoft Technologies (Rs 49 lakh): Potable digital slit lamp. It helps in diagnosing 70 percent of conditions causing blindness.
  13. DF3D Creations (Rs 49 lakh): Has built Osteo3D, cloud-based pre-surgical planning platform that leverages 3D printing technology for the creation of patient-specific models and surgical guides.
  14. Dr. Nagashetappa Biradar (Rs 46.5 lakh): Software for automatic assessment of valvular regurgitation.
  15. Hanugen Therapeutics (Rs 49 lakh): Design, synthesis, purification and validation of anti-sense oligonucleotides for therapeutic applications.
  16. Qtlomics Technologies (Rs 47.9 lakh): Development of easy-to-use DNA barcoding detection kit using High Resolution Melting curve analysis (Bar-HRM) to identify adulterants in common spices.
  17. Terra Blue Exploration Technologies (Rs 49 lakh): Created TJay, an innovative solution for the prediction and management of epilepsy.
  18. Aspartika Biotech (Rs 43.10 lakh): Effective conversion of flower waste in synergy with silkworm pupa waste into high-value nutraceutical and cosmetic products.
  19. Shanthanu Chakravarthy (Rs 49 lakh): Creation of virtual reality-based endoscopy simulator.
  20. Yostra Labs (Rs 49 lakh): Built Sparsh, a hand-held device that can perform three quantified screening tests–tactile threshold, vibration perception threshold, and thermal perception threshold–which help in early diagnosis of DPN (diabetic peripheral neuropathy).
  21. Next Big Innovation Labs (Rs 49 lakh): Development of India’s first 3D bio-printer and its medical applications.
  22. Aindra Systems (Rs 49 lakh): An automated and affordable ‘point-of-sample collection’ screening tool for cervical cancer.
  23. Jayachandra S. Yaradoddi (Rs 25 lakh): Economical production of eco-friendly bioplastic material for packaging segment.
  24. Viravecs Labs (Rs 39.50 lakh): Development of novel nano particle-based formulations for in-vivo delivery of genome editing tools for therapeutic interventions of genetic disorders.
  25. GR Manjunath (Rs 25 lakh): Micro-bubble based STP (sewage treatment plant).
  26. Krimmi Biotech (Rs 25 lakh): Development of a meliorated diet formulation for rearing commercially important worms such as Bombyx mori (silkworm) and Galleria mellonella (greater wax moth), and the subsequent utilisation of their discarded pupa for production of novel bio-pesticides.
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