These Four Indian Startups Are Revolutionizing How To Detect Cancer
The World Health Organization stresses on the importance of early stage screening for cancer to limit the chances of morbidity and mortality. Specifically, cervical and breast cancer, if caught in early stages, can lead to long-term survival in patients, states the National Cancer Institute.
Four Indian startups are revolutionizing cancer care through cutting-edge technologies designed to detect the disease in its early stages.
A data-driven solution
Rohit Kumar Pandey, Apurv Anand and Tathagato Rai Dastidar founded healthcare startup SigTuple, which analyses blood, urine, semen, chest X-Rays and retinal scans via an AI platform called MANTHANA. Currently, the team is working with a leading oncology center in India to determine testing patterns for pre-cancerous and cancerous cells using a complete blood count (CBC) test.
Cofounder and CEO Rohit Kumar Pandey says, “Our aim is to help detect cancer at an early stage, which will reduce mortality rates.”
Pandey and the other cofounders saw immense potential in India’s healthcare space to provide intelligent data driven solutions due to availability of data and enhanced cloud platforms. They identified gaps in India’s healthcare space such as an imbalanced doctor-to-patient ratio, expensive technology upgrades of medical devices and inefficient analysis of lab results, and devised MANTHANA, which churns data to generate intelligence in analysis.
Pandey and his team added electro-mechanical components and a mobile phone to a standard microscope, converting it into a digital scanner. When a lab technician places a sample slide on the device and presses the auto scan button, images of the slide get captured, fed into MANTHANA and a report is generated. This report, which contains medical data and visual representation of the abnormality, is made available on MANTHANA and can be reviewed by a pathologist on a laptop or handheld device. Pandey calls this a “hub and spoke” model as lab results can now be accessed, analysed and processed by pathologists anywhere.
MANTHANA is in beta phase with select diagnostic labs in Bangalore. “Medical experts feel it improves their efficiency and allows them to deal with large numbers of patients with ease,” says Pandey.
Contact-free at a lower cost
While she was at Xerox, Geetha Manjunath and her team were exploring AI-powered healthcare solutions that didn't involve touching a patient. “We were doing pilot projects for several hospitals and wanted to enhance thermal imaging for cancer detection,” says Manjunath. That’s how NIRAMAI was born.
NIRAMAI, which stands for Non-Invasive Risk Assessment with Machine Intelligence, uses thermography and machine learning to detect early signs of breast cancer. Manjunath says that while mammography is one of the most popular technology solutions to detect breast cancer today, it has its limitations. A mammogram is usually done on women above the age of 45 (as breast density of younger women makes mammography inconclusive) and use of X-rays for screening is debatable. Moreover, the process of taking a mammogram is a painful, uncomfortable ordeal for women, too.
NIRAMAI addresses these concerns as it is contact-free, radiation-free and the technology leads to fewer false positives. It is also a cost-effective option. While a digital mammography costs around $54 USD (3,500 Rupees), a scan done by NIRAMAI costs around $15 USD (1,000 Rupees), explains Manjunath. “In addition to running the test in diagnostic labs, we also conduct free screenings at rural healthcare centers, and corporate camps where we charge women $1.50 to $3 USD per scan (100 to 200 Rupees per scan).”
NIRAMAI is being used in clinics in Bangalore currently, and Dr. Manjunath has been receiving inquiries from Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai. She plans to take her product to Dubai, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia and the United States.
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