4 Low-Cost Indian Innovations That Can Lead Our Fight Against Coronavirus

Testing kits, to ventilators, to robots, innovations in the wake of COVID-19 can also bring long-term changes in the Indian healthcare system

Kritika Banerjee Published May 20, 2020 00:00:00 IST
4 Low-Cost Indian Innovations That Can Lead Our Fight Against Coronavirus A representation of the low-cost ventilator 'Ruhdaar'. Photo courtesy: PIB Mumbai

Ever since COVID-19 hit the world, governments, including in India, have realized it is the low-cost innovations that will lead the fight against the virus. At a time when the number of coronavirus cases continues to mount and the healthcare system will likely be stretched, sooner than later, affordable testing kits and ventilators as well as technology that can take some burden off the healthcare staff can help India prepare itself better in the coming months.

We look at a few Indian innovations, led by premier educational institutes as well as startups in the country:

Low-cost testing kits

The Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi’s (IIT-D) Kusuma School of Biological Sciences has developed a low-cost testing kit for COVID-19, which recently got the nod from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The test, according to IIT-D director V. Ramgopal Rao, can cost less than Rs 500. The institute’s website says that “this is the first probe-free assay for COVID-19 approved by ICMR and it will be useful for specific and affordable high throughput testing”. The testing kits, developed so far, were ‘probe-based’.

This month, Bengaluru-based Genei Laboratories became the first firm to get the licence from IIT-D to start commercial production of the kits. The institute plans to give non-exclusive open licences to companies meeting its criteria. The development comes at a time when there is a pressing need to ramp up India’s COVID-19 testing capacity. According to Statista, India’s per million testing figures on 18 May stood at 1,671 against 8,191 for Iran, 35,903 for the US and 64,977 for Spain.

In March, the Pune-based startup Mylab Discovery Solutions, a molecular diagnostic company, became the first Indian firm to get commercial approval for manufacturing of PCR testing kits. 

Robot to help healthcare workers

The Kerala-based start-up Asimov Robotics has developed a three-wheeled robot that can assist patients in isolation wards, thereby reducing the chances of the hospital staff getting infected with the virus. According to a report in The Indian Express, the robot, besides carrying food and medicines, can also disinfect used items and allows doctors and relatives to interact with patients through video calling.

The startup had earlier deployed two robots at an office complex in Kochi to raise awareness about the pandemic and distribute hand sanitizers, napkins and masks among the public.

A digital stethoscope

A doctor reading your heartbeat without putting the stethoscope to your chest was once a possibility only in science fiction. Not anymore.

Ayu Devices, a startup running out of IIT-Bombay’s Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE), has developed a device that can be attached to a conventional stethoscope to amplify the patient’s chest sounds and transmit them wirelessly to the doctor on their smartphone through a USB receiver. This ‘digital stethoscope’ has been named ‘AyuSynk’. The device, which reduces the contact between a doctor and a patient and therefore the chance of contracting an infection, is already being used at Mumbai’s KEM Hospital.

A low-cost ventilator

A group of five engineering students from IIT-Bombay, National Institute of Technology (NIT), Srinagar and Islamic University of Science & Technology in Awantipora (IUST), Jammu and Kashmir have developed a low-cost ventilator called ‘Ruhdaar’. The team, according to a release by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, designed the low-cost ventilator using locally available materials but advanced software. While the prototype costs Rs 10,000, ‘Ruhdaar’ is now up for the next round of medical testing to get approvals. 

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