Sananda Bhattacharya ( )
From telemedicine, e-pharmacies, diagnostics, mental health monitoring, fitness and wellness and much more – healthtech startups in India are entirely transforming the health and wellbeing landscape by offering innovative solutions across verticals. With around 8,000 healthtech startups, valued at $2 billion and growing at almost 40 percent, India is at the center of a massive revolution in the healthcare space.
Healthtech startups are now starting to shift their base towards prevention with several of them working on technologies for wellness, early detection, and medical care solutions for diseases. Aided by the right government support and mentorship from the ecosystem, these startups can push the frontiers of technologies like IoT, AI, blockchain, and AR/VR to come up with innovative, game-changing products.
The seventh edition of the Qualcomm Design in India Challenge (QDIC) includes 12 startups designed by India and supported by Qualcomm. Here, we have three startups revolutionising innovation in the healthtech space. Here’s a look at how QDIC enables these startups to step up their innovation game and drive impact.
Back in 2019, Dr. Jyotirmayee Dash was pursuing her doctoral studies in Terahertz technologies when she came to know that a close friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer in her early 30s. This led her to take a closer look at the gaps in cancer detection and care, after which she realized that the technology she was developing as part of her Ph.D. had the potential to address the concern. A thorough discussion with the experts and mentors in this field led to the formation of TeraLumen Solutions to develop a solution for cancer margin detection.
TeraLumen became India’s first Terahertz company to develop the first intraoperative device using safe and reagent-free technology which can detect cancer margins accurately and non-invasively during surgery.
“Our product will help onco-surgeons to make accurate and informed decisions in real-time during surgery regarding the cancer margin instead of waiting for days for histopathology results. This device will reduce the number of repeat surgeries significantly and at the same time will conserve maximum healthy tissue. The incorporation of a Machine Learning module and a fully automated integrated software will help to detect cancer margin with higher accuracy, aiding in clinical decision-making, and lead to better health outcomes,” she explains.
Dr Jyotirmayee always envisioned the creation of a product with a significant social impact, and TeraLumen’s product promised to deliver the same. Adding to this, Jyotirmayee says, “The product currently targets the diagnosis of breast, oral cavity, lip, and head and neck cancer, accounting for around 28 percent of all cancers. Also, owing to its high accuracy, the device will help reduce the number of second surgeries, thereby providing better patient outcomes benefitting more than 0.12 million patients per year.”
The Qualcomm Design in India Challenge, according to Dr. Jyotirmayee, is a great platform to encourage the Indian startup ecosystem. “Integration of the Qualcomm processor in our product will help us to achieve reliable high-speed medical grade devices. The overall support by Qualcomm will positively impact the complete product-based startup ecosystem and enhance manufacturing facilities in India. Besides, the core technical team at Qualcomm is guiding TeraLumen to interface the entire system with the Qualcomm processor,” she adds.
TeraLumen plans to integrate the Terahertz device with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor where the entire system control and interfacing will be driven by the processor.
In India, creating a deeptech startup from scratch is an uphill task. Despite all the obstacles, Dr Jyotirmayee aspires to be at the forefront of providing innovative solutions and to be recognised globally as India’s first Terahertz company.
Sparcolife Digital Healthcare Technologies
A management graduate from ICFAI, Pooja Shwethadri Hemmige had over a decade of experience working for a multinational smart chipmaker. During her college days, she had to suffer from menstrual irregularity which got worse with thyroid imbalance and menorrhea, making her scramble for a permanent cure which her medication failed to provide after years of treatment.
Seeking out alternative non-medical treatment options led Pooja to launch Sparcolife in the middle of the 2020 lockdown with the support of like-minded people. It is a full-stack company in healthcare building Digital Diagnostic and Digital Therapeutic Systems to address the multifarious problems that have descended as a result of the digital lifestyle that mankind has been living over the past few decades.
“Vyli is our flagship digital health platform to detect and address behavioral and mental health issues alongside reproductive health treatment, using the principles of integrated behavioral healthcare. By enabling the adoption of evidence-based behavioral healthcare among working women, we will help them have an improved quality of life and enhanced workplace productivity,” says Pooja.
Talking about implementing Qualcomm’s technology in accelerating the growth of Sparcolife, Pooja explains that they are developing a multimodal diagnostic device and multisensory digital therapeutics system to help patients get personalized behavioral healthcare.
“Our multimodal diagnostic system combines facial emotion recognition, micro-expression analysis, speech emotion recognition, pupillometry, and thermal imaging based on emotional detection to determine the anomalies in the patient’s mental health condition. We had initially designed our system to acquire the multimodal data, stream and compute it in the cloud. Realizing the data privacy and connectivity challenges, we chose Qualcomm Robotics RB5, and are using the computing power for AI, deep learning, computer vision, concurrency of cameras, rich multimedia, and security to achieve our multimodality,” she adds.
Currently, Sparcolife has completed working with a few hundred women who have benefited from their digital health-based well-being programmes. Envisioning the future, Pooja adds, “We ideally believe that by 2030, our platform will positively impact 50 million working women to live a pleasant life without chronic reproductive health issues and help over 10 million couples globally have a wholesome life with a child of their own.”
Back in 2010, right after Dr Bala Pesala returned from the USA, he was constantly suffering from a gastric issue. This went on for a long time when he finally met an ayurvedic doctor who could cure him of the ailment. That was the moment when he felt that it was necessary to understand the science behind ayurveda and merge it with modern approach. Thus, Ayur.AI came into existence two years back, with the goal of reinventing ayurveda for the 21st century.
“We use ayurvedic principles but generate evidence through digital devices like smartphones or our very own digital kiosk that we are implementing as a part of the QDIC program. The information obtained from these is synthesized and then we use advanced artificial intelligence algorithms to diagnose the patient properly. Subsequently, we also suggest personalized diet, yoga, meditation, and herbal supplements for the person,” explains Bala, founder and CEO, Ayur.AI
Coming to the usage of the QDIC platform, Bala says that Qualcomm is enabling the hardware of the first-of-its-kind digital kiosk. Besides, they are also using the Qualcomm STM 660 chip through which they have made a customized boat, where they can interface the sensor display, the cameras, and everything else used to collect the parameters from the patients’ display.
“We have also integrated the ECG and PPG sensors with the Qualcomm chip that will be collecting the patient’s pulse and from the pulse, we’ll be training an AI and AI-based deep learning networks to predict more parameters from that. So these are all the inputs that we are collecting through our application, which runs on the Qualcomm chip,” explains Bala.
Currently, Ayur.AI ensures a holistic solution combining various aspects, which will treat a person better and in a more fundamental way. “So currently, we are deploying it in India and our goal is to globalize this data-driven framework by creating evidence for the whole world. So our motto is to propagate this integrative health, wellness, and medicine solution to the whole world,” concludes Bala.