What's in this issue:
Health and Biomedical Devices
This article is based on a panel discussion that was held during fourth National Workshop on NEMS/MEMS and Theranostic devices (NWNTD 2018) organised by Centre for Excellence in Research and Development of Nanoelectronic Theranostic Devices (CENTD) under the aegis of Centre for Nanotechnology, IIT Guwahati, India. The panel members were Prof. Gautam Biswas (Director, IIT Guwahati), Prof. A.K.Ganguly (IIT Delhi), Dr. Jitendar Sharma (MD and CEO, Andra Pradesh Medtech Zone Limited (AMTZ) and associated with Kalam Institute of Health Technology (KIHT), Dr. S.Saha (JSV Innovations) and Prof. S.Chakraborty (IIT Kharagpur).
Prof. Gautam Biswas started his talk with need of developing a technology through which the cost of flow cytometer can be brought down to 25 lacs or best to 2.5 lacs from 2.5 crores. Flow cytometry in biotechnology is a laser or impedance based biophysical technology employed in cell counting, biomarker detection, protein engineering etc. This technology is routinely used in the diagnosis of health disorders especially blood cancers and has many other applications in the area of basic research, clinical practices and clinical trials. Prof. Biswas also emphasised on the development of hand held and low cost biomedical devices through which blood sugar can be measured with higher precision and accuracy and at faster rates. He further added that a human body always has some sort of disorder. Hence, we need to inculcate good habits and practices like doing regular exercises, walking or cycling to office/lab instead of using cars especially in a premises like IIT Guwahati. These practices will keep our body fit and active. For instance, Wasim Akram (renowned fast bowler of Pakistan cricket team) was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 30, even though he went ahead to make a fabulous career in cricket owing to his healthy sportsman practices. Therefore, detection of a disease at right time is utter important for its possible and successful treatment. Hence, our research efforts should be directed towards such goals.
Prof. A. K. Ganguly added that if a research student wants to work on a tough problem in this field, then he/she can work on development of biomarkers for lung cancer which can detect this horrible disease at its very early stages. Usually, lung cancer is detected in its fourth stage when it is too late.
The other areas for research, as Prof. Ganguly mentioned, can be the fabrication of low cost paper based and throw away kind of devices for detection of generally prevailing diseases such as jaundice, diabetes, typhoid etc. or fabrication of other devices like low cost insulin injector etc. He said that for development of such devices scientists from various labs need to collaborate with industries. In Chandigarh, India, there is a biomedical device hub to serve such academia-industry collaboration.
Not only this, Dr. Jitendar Sharma said that there is a medtech zone (AMTZ) in Visakhapatnam which is entirely dedicated for medical devices manufacturing with an objective to reduce the cost of manufacturing up to 40% to reduce the import dependency of such biomedical devices which is currently near 75% in India. He also mentioned about "BREAK and MAKE" sessions being organised in AMTZ where participants are asked to break a medical equipment like CT scan machine into various parts so that non-theoretical experimental knowledge of basic components of medical equipment and devices could be gathered. He further mentioned that KIHT has association with more than 8000 plus companies that are ready to auction for funding a platform and potential technology from academia. For instance, he added that a typical CT scan machine costs near 15-16 crores. If an Indian technology can develop idea and process to manufacture the same machine in less cost, then it would be a huge leap in biomedical device manufacturing arena and such technological development will get full funding support from industries to get commercialised. Unfortunately, our research is not oriented towards such product-level developments. Dr. S. Saha also added that manufacturing excellence is lacking in India. He said that healthcare is one of the best market/ tech sector that is expected to grow very fast in near future. We have huge market potential but lack in efficient biomedical devices that are potential enough to compete with their foreign counterparts. In the end of the discussion, Prof. S. Chakraborty added that there is a need for the development of low cost biomedical devices with high quality science in India which is currently lacking by a huge percentage. Prof. Chakraborty also suggested some interesting research areas. For example, a researcher can work upon the flow dynamics of blood through the pores of a paper to develop something like a paper based sensor for detection of sugar, other blood related tests or diseases linked with blood. He said that that science is universal but technology has to be local. He added that immediate mentoring to write a business plan after a technology that has been developed is not readily available in Indian academic institutions for young research community.
So, here we can conclude that, though there is a huge market and scope for biomedical device manufacturing in India, at the very first step we need the development and innovations of genuine Indian technology to manufacture such biomedical devices. Moreover, I personally also want to add that these devices are needed when there is a disease or health related issue for early and effective detection. Our first motto should be to avoid such health issues as possible as we can. For this, we all need to give priority to early morning exercises, walking or playing some sports, doing regular yoga and if possible daily 15-20 minutes of meditation. We need to inculcate good health habits at first preference to stay healthy and fit. Without crossing the boundaries of IIT Guwahati, I want to share some of experiences that I have been through in this campus. We have nearly 6000 plus of population living in IIT Guwahati’s naturally decorated campus. But only a mere percentage of that is seen running/walking/playing sports/doing yoga or meditation on the grounds of IITG in evening or morning (where the percentage is even less than evening). I have never witnessed people talking about ways and habits for health improvement etc. What can be sensed from the IITG students life style is that I will not go to the field unless my body asks me to do so by creating some sort of health issues. Moreover, I will take this opportunity to add a point which some of you might have noticed. When some foreign student comes to IITG (especially from European countries), within some days she/he is seen playing some sort of sports or doing some running or exercise because such health beneficial life style is already embedded inside them. We Indians though feel satisfied to lock ourselves inside our labs or rooms for most of the hours of a day and feel reluctant to step on the field for some sort of physical activity. Our research scholars have a general vision that seating 10-12 hours in lab will only give them their dream degree. Spending an hour for exercise or playing a sports seems almost an impossible and unfruitful task for them. It would not be out of place for me to mention that we feel happy to avoid our veins and nerves to open their realms and free themselves by doing a physical activity which eventually dulls our mind. We should always carry this in our head that a sound and effective mind dwells in a sound body. If we do so, we will have less discussions left for development of biomedical devices which certainly comes after the discussions for improving our health standards.
Finally, I will sign up with following lines from Swami Vivekanada: "A person playing football can understand Gita more deeply than anybody else".