How startups are using new approaches to tackle healthcare challenges in India
Impact venture fund Unitus Seed Fund (USF) recently concluded the fourth edition of its StartHealth competition, a nationwide challenge to find, fund, and mentor healthcare startups. Out of nine finalists, the top two slots went to Bioscan Research and NanoSniff Technologies.
“Every entrepreneur's journey is different. But one thing that's common in all the entrepreneurial journeys is grit—the grit to not give up— and this perseverance is the key. It has worked for me till now,” says Shilpa Malik, Founder, Bioscan Research, a health-tech startup which won the top place at StartHealth 2017.
Bioscan enables early detection of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by road accidents, falls, violence, or natural calamities. In India, every year nearly two million people are injured, and one million die due to TBI, according to government statistics. Lack of availability of CT/MRI scans severely limits fast screening onsite.
The Ahmedabad-based startup has developed an affordable, non-invasive screening tool for a quick onsite scan that can be effectively used to detect intracranial bleeding. This will minimise the waiting time at tertiary care centres by sending non-critical patients to other hospitals, according to Milind Shah, Venture Partner, Unitus Seed Fund.
Talent acquisition, commercialisation timelines, and adequate funding are three key challenges up ahead, says Shilpa. (See also YourStory’s coverage of the Affordable Healthcare Conclave 2017.)
A close second in the competition was NanoSniff Technologies, whose microcantilever-based bio-sensing system can detect heart problems such as myocardial infarction. The ailment is often confused with general gastric problems, leading to delayed or no diagnosis and ultimately necrosis.
Startups should recognise their IP and protect it via patenting, advises founder Nitin Kale. “Think from the user experience while designing the product. Of course, functionality has the upper hand over decorations,” he adds.
To scale effectively, the startup is exploring outsourcing of manufacturing as well as setting up a management workflow system. “We shall be designing intelligent experiments with the help of cardiologists and pathologists to limit variability within acceptable limits,” says Nitin.
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These two winners will now pitch for up to Rs 4 crore in investments, while Bioscan Research will receive a cash prize of Rs 6 lakh. The competition drew submissions from 186 startups. Seven other startups feature in the final shortlist, leveraging AI, SaaS, and bio-sensors:
- Curill combines diagnostics with AI to accurately diagnose most diseases with over 50 percent reduction in cost, time, and effort.
- Datacogin has developed a comprehensive AI-based system for visual inspections in the areas of pathology, including haematology. It claims to improve workflow efficiencies in hospitals and diagnostic centres by 75 percent.
- I3systems creates machine learning products that automate high-risk underwriting and perform financial analysis of medical claims.
- Lattice Innovations’ critical care management system is a SaaS-based model that collaborates with medical device suppliers to solve problems of skill shortage, cost, speed, and accuracy of healthcare in rural areas.
- PathShodh has developed a patented biosensor device that enables diabetes management and early diagnosis of chronic kidney disease. The ailment affects 30 percent of an estimated 63 million diabetic patients in India.
- SURGERi is a data analytics platform designed for surgeons to digitise, collate, and analyse surgery data for improving patient care.
- Wellthy is an AI-powered digital platform that facilitates behaviour change and personalised medicine to reverse and control diabetes.
Jury members included Barath Shankar Subramanian, Principal, Accel Partners; Ganapathy Venugopal, Co-founder & CEO, Axilor Ventures; Jogin Desai, Founder and CEO, Eyestem Research; Milind Shah, Venture Partner, Unitus Seed Fund; Padma Chandrasekaran, Advisor, Unitus Seed Fund; Vaibhav Agrawal, Associate Partner, Lightspeed India Partners Advisors; Vijay Subramaniam, Global Portfolio Manager, GE Healthcare; and Madanmohan Rao, Research Director, YourStory.
Started in 2015, StartHealth has so far received applications from over 600 startups. UE LifeSciences, a previous StartHealth winner, enables low-cost breast cancer detection via a handheld scanning device. It has raised a Series A investment round of $4 million from Aarin Capital (Manipal Group), Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (Founder and CEO of Biocon), and Unitus Seed Fund.