Accel’erating Medical Technology
By Ikyatha Yerasala
InnAccel, a medical technology company based out of Bengaluru, is meeting unmet healthcare needs through its novel products…
The medical technology sector in India is massively untapped and hasn’t been able to reach its full potential. According to a Delloitte report, the Indian medical device market has grown from USD 2.02 billion in 2009 to now. While India consists of one sixth of the world’s population, its domestic medical devices market represents only 1.7 per cent of the global market. This is when companies like InnAccel come into the picture – to meet a crucial unmet need. A medical technology company based out of Bengaluru, InnAccel, founded by Siraj Dhanani and A Vijayarajan identifies unmet MedTech needs through the Biodesign process and develops novel products in India and global emerging markets. Healthcare Executive uncovers their journey.
1. Firstly, how was the idea of InnAccel born?
SD: InnAccel emerged out of an indefinite idea to drive innovation in physical technology in India. I find it tragically absurd that in a country like India, with huge gaps in the physical world (healthcare, transport, water, agriculture), more than 90 per cent of the entrepreneurial activity is in the digital space. It appears that while everybody is rushing to build the next consumer app, nobody is creating novel technologies and products that can positively impact our “real world”. InnAccel was initially conceptualised as a platform to bridge this gap, and tap this ignored opportunity in technology innovation. Right up front, we realised we have to focus on a core area, and medical technology was an obvious choice, given the backgrounds of the two founders. While we started out as an incubator, with a goal of supporting other MedTech innovators, we quickly transitioned to being an innovator ourselves. We’ve developed a proprietary platform for MedTech innovation and product development and leverages it to create novel technologies and innovative products addressing critical healthcare needs in India. Our portfolio of six products today includes first-in-world, IP-protected technologies that address conditions leading to over 700,000 deaths annually in India alone.
2. How do you identify unmet healthcare needs before developing a product to cater to the needs?
We use the Biodesign process, developed and taught by Stanford University, and introduced in India by the Department of Biotechnology’s SIB program. We put together a multi-disciplinary team comprising engineers, product designers, and clinicians, and place them for a 3-month clinical immersion at a partner hospital. The team spends this time observing the delivery of care and identifying problems that lead to negative outcomes (like death, or infection, etc.). All such observations are then put through InnAccel’s proprietary evaluation matrix, supported by secondary research, clinician and patient interviews etc- before the top 8-10 unmet needs are identified. This process is typically a 6-9 month one and results in a highly validated list of unmet needs that need to be solved. Only after this is done, do we select a top need and start a program to develop a product to address that need.
3. How does your multi-disciplinary team bring in expertise to the work you do?
InnAccel’s team today is over 30 members, and includes hardware engineers (mechanical, electronics), software engineers, statisticians, clinicians, and commercial team-members. Such a multi-disciplinary team is required to develop a world-class product that successfully addresses a real clinical need.
4. What are your ground-breaking products?
We have products in three areas- Critical Care, Maternal Care and ENT - all have been designed to address identified and validated clinical needs through the Biodesign process. Our two critical care products address critical conditions that lead to over 400,000 deaths in India each year. These products have just been launched in the Indian market and we hope they transform healthcare over the coming years.
5. Tell us more about the critical-life saving device you have designed for ICU patients.
VAPCare is a device to automate a critical procedure in ventilated ICU patients which can prevent lung infection, or VAP, a key risk, and cause of mortality, in these patients. Ventilated patients today are at high risk of lung infection, primarily because of poor oral hygiene management, which in turn is due to poorly trained and overworked nurses, who manually perform this procedure. VAPCare automates this entire process through a sensor-based, intelligent, system, and improves oral hygiene while freeing up critical nursing time. VAP today causes more than 250,000 deaths in India each year, most of which can be prevented through effective oral hygiene management, that our device VAPCare provides – it’s the first-in-world technology with patents granted in the US, China, and India, and is a shining example of indigenous innovation and Make in India.
6. What is SAANS - how is it going to change the face of neonatal care?
Saans is an exciting product that we developed to address neonatal deaths that occur due to lack of breathing support for these babies. We observed that premature babies were being sent to hospitals to receive breathing support (CPAP) in the NICU, however many babies were dead when they reached the NICU as they didn't & have CPAP therapy during transport. Saans is the world’s first portable, infrastructure-independent, CPAP system that can work in all settings (maternity homes, PHCs, transport), and can also be powered manually. It’s designed to provide short term CPAP therapy to neonates in non-NICU settings or during transport and will address the 150,000 neonatal deaths each year due to lack of CPAP therapy.
7. From the time you started your company till now, how has the MedTech space in India evolved?
When we started InnAccel, indigenous innovation in MedTech was just starting out. Over the past few years, we have seen a lot of startups come up with exciting products that address key challenges faced by the Indian healthcare system. The grant funding environment has dramatically improved- in large part due to BIRAC, the funding arm of Department of Biotechnology. Today, you see many MedTech startups developing novel technologies, most of them funded through grants by BIRAC and international Foundations. Commercialisation, especially government procurement, still continues to be a challenge plaguing most MedTech startups. While the government is doing a great job funding indigenous innovation through grants, we also need a central body that funds procurement and pilot testing of indigenous innovations in a chosen district- with a view to generating data and proliferating the technology throughout the public healthcare system.
8. What more do you want to do or see in the MedTech space in India?
We have a very clear goal- to create and launch 20 innovative MedTech products by 2025 and transform healthcare in India and global emerging markets. Our plans for the next few years will focus on this goal, along with successful commercialisation of our current portfolio of 6 products. This should keep our hands full for the next 5 or 6 years. I’d really like to see more MedTech companies take this first-principles approach to innovation, i.e. starting from a deep understanding of an addressable healthcare challenge and developing a novel technology to address this challenge. I’d like to see them take a needs-based approach to innovation, as opposed to a product-led approach (better ECG, cheaper stent, etc.). Also, I’d really like to see this approach being taken in other areas that can be impacted by innovations in physical technologies. Companies building novel technologies in power, water, transport, etc. that are specifically addressing challenges and opportunities seen in India.