India annually imports medical devices worth over Rs. 30,000 crores, most of them unaffordable and unsuitable for local population. There is a need to indigenously develop high-quality yet affordable devices for local manufacture and use. Biomedical Engineering and Technology (incubation) Centre or BETiC at IIT Bombay is bringing the relevant stake-holders together for this purpose.
As a child, I observed my Mother would never throw down anything on the pavement. Like her, I carry home a banana skin, a used paper napkin if I cannot find a dustbin. Everyone thinks they are the only ones flinging out a tiny piece of uneaten apple out of the car window.
But when many hands do that, it becomes a smelly heap.
Long years ago, in what now seems like a previous lifetime, I used to drive every morning to work, and listening to the radio was an enjoyable distraction from the crazy traffic and a way to keep up with the latest music. Now I work from home and along with driving, listening to the radio has become a rare occurrence! But this morning I was in my car driving after a long time, and switched on the radio. Every single advertisement had something to do with illness – ads for medicines conveniently delivered at home, ads for new super speciality hospitals opening up, ads which tell you not to ignore stomach pain as it might turn into cancer, ads for health insurance which will cover not only the cost of your treatment abroad but also fly you and a companion there by business class! Just listening to the ads is enough to make you sick.
An attractive opportunity develops: About a decade ago, during an evening visit to the neighbourhood garden with her friends, my mother heard about a Vitamin E supplement that improved the quality of one’s skin and hair. One of the elderly ladies in the group had been prescribed the tablet by her doctor. My mother and all the other ladies in that group ended up checking with their doctors and then taking the Vitamin E supplement too.
One hot and idle afternoon in late May, I received a forwarded message from our Mumbai Chapter’s Rural Initiative Group (RIG) WhatsApp group.
भुरिटेक गावात पाणी पोहोचवल्याबद्दल तुम्हा सर्वांचे शतशः आभार.
OK, what’s so great… you would think. But it is a great thing, and I must tell you the story.
Yoga started in India, was exported to the West, became wildly popular there, and is now seeing a resurgence in interest in India. Ayurveda, on the other hand, has not become anywhere near as widely accepted in the West as yoga has. Passion, patriotism and antipathy to big pharma make an objective discussion on alternative remedies like Ayurveda somewhat difficult. What is tougher still is focussing the discussion on “genuine” Ayurveda and ignoring the myriad products that simply claim to be Ayurvedic.
Today, we see great innovations and unforeseen interventions in the area of medical sciences and healthcare – whether these are low-cost sanitary napkins or highly sophisticated implants. The research community have even ventured into producing organs and artificial meat in the lab. And it won’t be wrong to say that materials development has contributed immensely to this disruptive development. Recently, I was reading about nicotine patches which basically function to satisfy the urges of mind and body, while avoiding the adverse effects of smoking. Transdermal patches like these also have one particular advantage, that is it reduces the need for frequent dosing, causes lesser systemic side effects and offer overall good patient compliance. Of course, bringing something like this to the market involves two things: one to make such interventions possible technologically and second cost optimisation to make it accessible to the people.
June, 2018 – July, 2018
Healthcare is one of the largest sectors in the Indian economy both in terms of employment and revenues, and paradoxically, one of the greatest challenges facing our nation. A large number of minds from the IITB community are engaged in grappling with key Healthcare issues in various roles – as founders of NGOs that offer primary healthcare, as scientists researching drug discovery, as technologists and innovators solving problems related to delivery and devices, as incubators supporting and guiding start-ups, and as investors funding small firms, etc. In this issue of Fundamatics, we bring you some of their stories, as well as articles exploring different aspects of Healthcare.
Being son of a doctor, I saw healthcare from very close quarters but the fact that it kept my father so busy, I chose the easy way out, become an engineer! After finishing 4 eventful years at IIT, the only goal for me was to land up in a good job. While at IIT, as creativity flows, I did come up with an idea for a non-stop transportation system, and shared that with my friends and they couldn’t stop making fun of me for next 3 days. That self-consciousness and fear was enough for me to not pursue on the idea. 10 years later when I sent a link showing a prototype and a patent on the same idea, guess what my friends did, laughed at me again! This time for me not having the conviction to pursue my idea. I believe they were right.
I have been constantly thinking of the blockbuster movie Om Shanti Om as the televised drama of Sridevi’s life, including lurid details of her family and interpersonal stories, and her death unfolded one after the other, all in public view, since 25th February (late in the night). Just as the fan-protagonist (played by Shahrukh Khan) of Om Shanti Om, who was drawn to be unwittingly a victim of the events and a helpless witness to the life and death of a dream-girl actress ‘Shantipriya’ (she too wore costumes like that of Hema Malini and Sridevi in movies like Dream-girl and Himmatwala), the entire world looked-on with gaping disbelief as frame after frame peeled open in public view. The ‘nation’, as it were, was held in a breathless ransom during those seventy two hours post Sridevi’s death (echoes the name ‘Shantipriya’).