Last night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown for a period of 21 days. With a total shutdown of passenger flight and train services, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic has reached severe proportions in India. As per official data, there are currently 512 active COVID-19 cases in India and 9 deaths. In these times, hospitals are in desperate need of critical equipment ranging from diagnostic test kits, ventilators, N95 face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
Fortunately, some startups are stepping up to fill the gap for crucial equipment.
Mylab (Test Kits)
In a significant development earlier this week, Pune-based molecular diagnostics startup Mylab Discovery Solutions Pvt Ltd received government approval for supplying its PathoDetect COVID-19 Qualitative PCR kit to hospitals. With emphasis on ‘Make in India’ and support from local and central government, the COVID- 19 kit, has been made as per WHO/CDC guidelines.
“Mylab promised that it can manufacture up to 1 lakh tests in a week which can be further scaled up if needed. Further, the company claims that its test kits can test about 100 patients with one kit. An average lab with automated PCR can test more than 1000 patients a day,” says the press release issued by the startup.
Team #MyLab would like to thank #India for support & love. Yes, we are proud to contribute to our nation’s fight against #coronavirus. #mylab #covid-19 #coronakits #mylabdiscovery @PMOIndia. For updates https://t.co/lW48FySJiU or https://t.co/5VKjCgekMO pic.twitter.com/XsIiWtrUJy
— Mylab Discovery Solutions (@MylabSolutions) March 24, 2020
“With local sourcing of test kits, it will be a breakthrough for India as the testing kit by Mylab would cost nearly one-fourth of the current procurement cost. Moreover, Mylab PathoDetect COVID-19 Qualitative PCR kit screens and detects the infection within 2.5 hours, compared to seven-plus hours taken by current protocols. This means that laboratories will be able to do twice the number of reactions at the same time on one machine,” their press release adds.
“As a company, we have already been developing and manufacturing high end molecular diagnostic kits for years. With the COVID-19 epidemic, we have been able to utilise our manufacturing and R&D capabilities. It’s a great feeling for our company that we are contributing in this fight against the COVID-19 menace,” says Dr Gautam Wankhede, Medical Affairs Director at Mylab, speaking to The Better India.
One of the biggest concerns raised by public health experts has been that India was not testing enough and thus didn’t know the extent of the coronavirus spread. Importing testing kits from countries like Germany has proven to be a logistical headache.
AgVa Healthcare (Ventilator)
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), about 5 per cent of the COVID-19 positive patients will require intensive care, of which half will need mechanical ventilation. Thus, hospitals will need a steady supply of ventilators to effectively treat critical patients since these medical devices help in artificial respiration once a patient’s lungs fail.
In this regard, the government has reached out to Noida-based med-tech startup AgVa Healthcare to manufacture 5,000 ventilators by April 15, according to Business Today. Thus far, the startup has been supplying ventilators to major government hospitals like AIIMS, Safdarjung with the entire workforce of the startup working round the clock.
According to this Moneycontrol report, the startup is all set to raise the production of ventilators from its current capacity to 150 units to 12,000 units every month. It goes onto state, “A ventilator costs anywhere between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 12 lakh. AgVa says it sells its ventilator at about Rs 2 lakh by far the cheapest but more basic one.”
But, according to the Economic Times, the flight ban issued by the government has become an obstacle in sourcing sensors, chips and microcontrollers it needs to build ventilators.
Nanoclean Global (N95 Face Mask)
Responding to the shortage of critical facemasks for medical professionals, the Delhi-based startup Nanoclean Global Private Limited is stepping up the production of its proprietary Naso masks. These are N95/FFP2 grade facemasks designed to protect against contagious viruses. The nanofiber sandwiched inside the mask acts as an effective deterrent against bacteria, ultra-fine dust and viruses.
Founded by IIT-Delhi alumni Prateek Sharma, Tushar Vyas, and Jatin Kewlani, the startup is retailing the Naso mask at Rs 149. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, the startup has gone into overdrive in producing these Naso masks.
“We are supplying our face masks to hospitals in the Delhi-NCR region, Mumbai and very soon in Hyderabad as well. Currently, we are figuring out the logistics of supplying these masks because of the curfew. Many of our goods are in transit and are struck at state borders that are sealed. I am rectifying this right now. Before the Janata Curfew, we were able to supply 25,000 pieces a day of N95 masks. For the past two days, deliveries have not happened although production hasn’t stopped. Nonetheless, we are managing to supply these masks in areas that are in urgent need of these masks within a limited geography,” says Prateek Sharma, speaking to The Better India.
Besides these startups, there are other firms engaged in the supply of critical equipment, but considering the rapid nature of the spike in COVID-19 positive cases, our hospitals are in desperate need of more equipment. If there are more startups engaged in making critical equipment for COVID-19, please post them in the comments.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)