- Biodesign Innovation Labs has been lauded for its emergency and transport ventilator, RespirAID, during Covid-19
- RespirAID is not a replacement for high-end ventilators, it is an emergency support
- RespirAID also resolves the challenges posed by the Ambu bag that has a reliability of only 75%
The Covid-19 crisis has revealed challenges in healthcare like never before. As the number of cases rise, hospitals and healthcare centres are heavily burdened due to lack of infrastructure and shortage of skilled manpower.
Ventilators are crucial in the treatment of critical Covid patients, and there were only an estimated 8,432 ventilators in the country in March, as per Invest India’s report. Traditionally, India has imported ventilators from Europe and China, but acute supply chain disruptions due to Covid-induced lockdowns, served as a wake-up call for the country to focus on indigenous production.
Several startups rose to meet this demand in record time, including Bengaluru-based Biodesign Innovation Labs, helmed by brothers Gautham and Adithya Pasupuleti.
Founded in 2017, this medical device startup has been lauded for its emergency and transport ventilator, RespirAID that has proved to be a saviour in these times of crisis.
In a freewheeling chat with The Blue Circle, Gautham Pasupuleti, CEO and Managing Director, Biodesign Innovation Labs shares his vision behind RespirAID, how this innovation is different from the rest, and the way forward.
Fighting the Covid Crisis
RespirAID provides patients with immediate respiratory support and is safe to use, easy to operate and is consistent in performance. However, Gautham is quick to point out that this device is not a replacement for high-end ventilators; rather, it works well as an emergency support.
“It is bridging the gap between manual ventilation and high-end ventilators. For instance, if a patient has a cardiac arrest, then he has to be resuscitated and stabilised. In such cases, this portable ventilator comes to the rescue by keeping the patient alive, until he/she gets access to a high-end ventilator.”
This automated respiratory assisting and invasive device provides intermittent positive pressure ventilation to patients with respiratory illnesses, and to those who need immediate stabilisation with sedation and intubation, according to YourStory.
“This affordable ventilator comes with all the essential features such as breath rate, tidal volume, inspiratory expiratory ratio, peak pressure and PEEP in addition to alarms,” added Gautham.
In March 2020, Biodesign Innovation Labs collaborated with Remidio Innovative Solutions to mass produce RespirAID. Remidio was given a non-exclusive licence to provide engineering support in the manufacture of these portable ventilators. Agreements have also been signed with KRAS and Cyient allowing them to manufacture RespirAID on a contractual basis.
Inclination Towards Healthcare
Before starting Biodesign, Gautham’s career included stints at several healthcare companies. His time as researcher at MIT Media Lab initiatives, where they developed ophthalmology devices with the support of LVPEI Hospital, inspired him to establish CornealX, an AI-based eye care startup, which now comes under the ambit of Biodesign Innovation Labs.
In 2017, brothers Gautham and Adithya did a clinical immersion and found out that there was an unmet clinical need in patients who do not have proper access to healthcare. During this time, they visited over 100+ hospitals, met hundreds of cardiologists, anesthesiologists and other medical staff to understand the operation of existing ventilators, and stopgap solutions when ventilators are unavailable.
“We found out that there is a disparity in doctor-patient ratio, and shortage of ventilators that leads to mortality. It is these existing gaps and challenges that inspired us to innovate and make a solution that is accessible, affordable, reliable and easy to use. We wanted to create something that can be deployed at scale and delivers a huge impact on society,” informed Gautham, adding that they wish to use their life-saving innovations for critical care patients.
RespirAID can be used on patients of all age groups, from children to adults, who suffer from various respiratory issues, arising from cardiac-related problems, accidents or similar conditions.
“We also found that respiratory illnesses are one of the major reasons for mortality around the world for children, and developing countries have a high under-five mortality rate due to pneumonia and hypoxaemia. Our main aim is to serve the underprivileged population in the developing countries who are having issues with accessing healthcare,” shared Gautham.
RespirAID also resolves the challenges posed by the Ambu bag that has a reliability of only 75%. By definition, an Ambu bag is a manual resuscitator, used to provide positive pressure ventilation to patients.
“Using an Ambu bag can lead to inconsistency in the ventilation parameters and exhaustion. Our device can deliver a specific breath rate as set by the clinician or a paramedic,” shared Gautham.
Creating a solution is one part of the story, but its proper usage is equally critical. That’s exactly why the brothers ensured that doctors are provided requisite training.
“We also made sure RespirAID is meeting low-lung compliances. For instance, if someone has high-resistance lungs, you need more pressure in order to ventilate them. So, if the patient is unable to breathe, you will have to artificially ventilate them. We understood that our solution is more of an emergency aid and not a replacement for sophisticated ventilators,” he said.
Biodesign Innovation Labs boasts an international team of designers, engineers, medical practitioners, and industry experts working together on this low-cost ventilator assist device.
They work closely with Stanford India Biodesign Alumni, professors and clinicians from the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Global Health, affiliated to Harvard Medical School.
The startup is being assisted by BIRAC, part of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, Government of Karnataka, Nidhi Prayas – Department of Science and Technology and CAMTech MGH.
It has also been listed by Qualcomm’s under ‘Top 10 Startups in India for the Design in India Challenge 2019’ for its innovation RespirAID.
Gautham is also a part of ‘Forbes India’s Ultimate 120 Pioneers of Change’.
“We are open to receiving investment and working capital loans to scale up. In fact, recently, we have been announced as finalists in the Ayushman Bharat PMJAY Grand Challenge. These are startups that solve healthcare challenges with cutting-edge solutions,” concluded Gautham.
(Edited by Anu Choudary)
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