This woman entrepreneur’s startup is building healthcare wearable technology to aid human mobility affected by injury or surgery
After completing her degree in electronics and telecommunication engineering from Pune University, and Industrial Design from MIT ID, Pune, Divyakshi Kaushik worked at Afferent Wearable Tech, a healthcare startup, in Pune.
In 2018, as part of the BIRAC Social Innovation Fellowship 2018, Divyakshi was further exposed to challenges in the healthcare sector. This experience changed her career trajectory into a foray into entrepreneurship.
She explains, “I was extremely intrigued by the human physiology and biomechanics, owing to my background in sports as a national and state-level tennis player. As part of research under the fellowship, I identified a void in solutions for rehabilitation and long-term recovery post-injury, surgery, or strenuous physical activities. In some cases, injury or surgery may cause complications that require lifetime management.”
While working on compression wearables to address leg oedema (swelling and pain) - a persistent problem among many, Divyakshi was introduced to an oncology therapist, who had been managing her lymphedema for over ten years.
Lymphedema is an outcome of mastectomy, affecting 40 percent of breast cancer survivors.
It causes a sizeable swelling and associated pain due to lymph fluid congestion in the adjacent arm. It is irreversible and requires lifelong therapy.
Divyakshi says there are only about 25 certified Lymphedema therapists pan India, and patients rarely comply with therapy due to the long distances they must travel. The only other option they have is manual lymphatic drainage followed by extensive and bulky bandaging.
That insight was a defining moment of sorts, says Divyakshi.
Once she had validated the grave problem through primary and secondary research, Divyakshi was confident that it could be solved with the active compression technology that she was developing.
Divyakshi registeredin Pune in March 2020.
During the research phase, the team built a strong network of healthcare professionals and facilities in Pune. Keeping in mind that their feedback during the product development process would be invaluable, they decided to set base in Pune and are incubated at NCL Innovation Park.
“In January 2021, Anatomech started developing a smart, portable, daily wear, compression sleeve for 10 -12 hours of continuous lymphatic drainage that allows the user to carry on with their daily routine, reducing their dependence on caregivers. It also conceals well within their regular garments to avoid social stigma,” she says.
Anatomech offers two products under its brand KUE.
- Mild graduated compression socks were launched in August this year with 6 SKUs available for purchase on its brand website - kues. In, Amazon, and Flipkart. Graduated Compression socks work by gently pushing blood flow up the leg, helping to prevent leg oedema (swelling and pain). The product is lab tested for 18-21 mmHg medical-grade compression.
- The Lymphedema Compression Sleeve is under development and will be ready for patient validation studies by late 2022. The patent-pending technology helps reduce the size and weight of the compression wearable by 85 percent, allowing the user a healthy lymphatic system and productive use of their time lost in therapy.
For a global audience
Targeting a global audience, Kue’s Graduated Compression Socks are suitable for leg oedema (pain and swelling) experienced by sportspeople helping them battle delayed onset muscle soreness, long haul flyers and “desk jobbers: who experience swelling and tingling due to extended hours of sitting, professionals whose jobs require them to stand for extended periods causing severe fatigue, elderly with aching joints and feet that lead to swelling and pregnant women. They are also suitable for other medical conditions like varicose veins and DVT that lead to muscle cramps and oedema.
In the case of lymphedema, 2.5 million women worldwide live with the condition currently. Women have more lost disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) to breast cancer globally than any other type of cancer.
The products are available B2C on digital platforms and at e-pharmacies.
“We have received positive feedback from 50 paying customers for Kue’s compression socks since our launch in August 2021. At the same time, companies like Tactile Medical and Dr Physio from the US provide lymphedema therapy solutions in India. Their products restrict user movement for two to three hours per day and are usually installed in clinical settings that lead to non-compliance,” Divyakshi says.
Anatomech has been funded in grant and equity by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), GoI, and BIRAC, GoI. It has received significant mentoring and networking opportunities with global field experts in business and entrepreneurship through cohorts like Qualcomm India’s QWEIN that it is currently part of and the WEP by NSRCel, IIMB and InFed, IIMN.
Like every other business, Anatomech faced challenges during the pandemic when access to healthcare facilities was cut off until the infection rates stabilised in October 2020.
“Once we validated the need and began with our technology development in January 2021, we faced delays in shipments as logistics services were restrained during the second wave of the pandemic. This slowed down our product development. Due to the same reason, we also faced numerous delays while manufacturing our first product,” she says.
Her immediate plan is to prepare the Lymphedema sleeve for patient validation studies and expand sales for the compression socks.
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Edited by Megha Reddy