This startup aims to solve the shortage of ventilators amid coronavirus pandemic

Biodesign Innovation Labs needs close to Rs 10 crore to set up a large-scale manufacturing facility to make and distribute its portable ventilator that can help patients affected by the coronavirus.

As the coronavirus outbreak wreaks havoc across the globe, infecting more than 900 people in India, healthcare experts fear there could be a severe shortage of ventilators. 

Coronavirus or COVID-19 is known to affect the respiratory system of the patient who is required to be put on a ventilator. A ventilator is a machine used to put additional pressure to pump oxygen into the bloodstream and take out carbon dioxide from the lungs of the patient.

Various reports suggest that India does not have more than 40,000 ventilators at present while it needs at least one lakh more machines for the next three to four months to help patients hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

To fulfil the requirement of ventilators, many startups and innovators are coming up with solutions. One such startup is Biodesign Innovation Labs, which is trying to meet the demand with mass manufacturing of ventilators. 

Bengaluru-based Biodesign Innovation Labs is a medical device and healthcare technology company, which develops affordable and accessible life-saving innovations such as indigenous respiratory support devices for reducing mortality in low-resource healthcare settings and developing innovative mechanical ventilation devices to treat patients with respiratory illnesses during emergencies and mass casualties, as an alternative for prolonged manual ventilation. 

Started in 2017 by Gautham Pasupuleti and Adithya Pasupuleti, Biodesign Innovation Labs has developed a low-cost device called RespirAid. It is a portable ventilator or auto resuscitation or automated respiratory assist device that can stabilise the patient during a respiratory arrest by mechanically providing intermittent positive pressure ventilation at specific desired ventilator parameters, says Gautham Pasupuleti, CEO and Managing Director, Biodesign Innovation Labs.

The device helps in reducing morbidity caused by a shortage of ventilators in low-resource settings, he adds. 

RespirAid with Ambu bag

The background

Gautham was a researcher at MIT Media Lab Initiatives, which was involved in developing ophthalmology devices, in collaboration with LVPEI Eye Hospital, and publishing its work in AI-based technologies for eye care and early cancer detection.

During this time, he founded a startup called CornealX, an AI-based eye care startup, which is now part of Biodesign Innovation Labs, for developing AI-based tech for healthcare applications.

He also worked with corporate companies and startups in SaaS-based technologies in Chennai and Bengaluru as a Product Manager. He studied Instrumentation and Control Engineering at Anna University in Chennai. 

In 2017, Gautham with his present co-founder did a clinical immersion to identify the unmet clinical needs across India. They visited almost 100 hospitals and identified the bottlenecks across India.

“Due to shortage of ventilators, patient caretakers and doctors use bag valve mask devices to manually ventilate patients for prolonged periods of time leading to mortality and morbidity. We also found that respiratory illnesses are one of the major reasons for mortality around the world for children, and developing countries have high under-five mortality rate due to pneumonia and hypoxaemia,” says Gautham.

To address this, the startup decided to develop devices that can save lives of patients with respiratory illnesses. 

Gautham adds that the startup's mission is to save lives, improve the quality of care and vision, and to make healthcare accessible and affordable.

Need for corporate backing

So far, the startup has received support from BIRAC from Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, Government of Karnataka, Nidhi Prayas - Department of Science and Technology and CAMTech MGH. It has been listed by Qualcomm’s on its ‘Top 10 Startups in India for the Design in India Challenge 2019’ for its innovation RespirAID.

The startup needs to raise close to Rs 10 crore to set up a large scale manufacturing facility to manufacture and distribute RespirAID. 

“We are also looking to non-exclusively license our product and partner with industry folks such as Tata, Reliance, Mahindra and other big industry players to mass manufacture enough Biodesign Innovation Labs’ RespirAID Portable Ventilators that can save millions of lives across India and globally to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This will ensure we have enough ventilators and are prepared to tackle the coronavirus outbreak,” says the Co-founder.

(Edited by Javed Gaihlot)


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