New Delhi: When Nitesh Kumar Jangir was studying periodic table and human science in school in a small town in Madhya Pradesh, he was clear about where he wanted to go. Fascinated with new technology and gadgets right from his school days, he always wanted to make sense out of technology from theory to its practical applications.
Having won many competitions in the field of robotics and innovation during college days and presented three research papers at international conferences including one in ICEEN (International Conference on Electrical Energy and Networks) and IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) conference each, this burgeoning innovator already has six innovations to his credit by now, out of which five are in the area of medical technology.
Hailing from Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh, Jangir pursued his dream with years of learning, training, observing and innovating that ultimately resulted in a startup – Coeo Labs in Bangalore to give wings to his dream of innovating devices in the area of medical technology.
After finishing his engineering education in electronics and communication from Gyan Ganga College of Technology (GGCT), Jabalpur in 2011, Jangir got an exposure to various areas of technological innovation — defence and industrial automation, bionics etc before he gradually gravitated towards medical technology.
Nitesh Jangir told India Medical Times, “After my graduation, I was lucky enough to get into a company, which was in my core area of interest — embedded systems. From my school days, I was fascinated with the interconnection of humans and science fiction helped me to envision the idea of bionics. So, after graduation, I designed a sensor to convert biological signals from the skin to measurable electrical signals. I got multiple awards and also funding from IEEE AIYEHUM (All India Young Engineers’ Humanitarian) challenge. This project was in the top 50 inventions of the year (2012) in the DST (Department of Science and Technology) Lockheed Martin India Innovation Growth Programme. I have an interest in primarily two fields — one is defence, and the other is medical technology. After my graduation, I joined a company, which gave me the chance to work in the field of defence and industrial automation.”
His first exposure with developing medical technology came through an internship opportunity at Stanford India Biodesign (SIB) programme, where he along with his team developed a device to perform safer pleural tapping, which has been licensed out to an Indian medical device manufacturer and is expected to be in the market in December.
After completing his internship at SIB in December 2013, the young innovator took part in the Affordable Innovation in MedTech (AIM) Entrepreneurship Programme conducted by InnAccel — a Bangalore based medical technology acceleration company — out of which his startup Coeo Labs was born. InnAccel is giving technical, clinical and business mentorship and support to Coeo Labs.
“We spent two months at the department (Department of Emergency Medicine at St John’s Medical College Hospital, Bangalore), another week at the EMRI 108 ambulances, attended medical conferences and various clinical settings in remote areas (primary health centres, community health centres, district hospitals, private clinics etc) during our unmet need analysis process. After this rigorous need analysis and filtering process, we came up with solutions for two of our top needs, following which, Mr Nachiket Deval and I started a company called Coeo Labs Pvt Ltd,” said Jangir.
According to Jangir, his team included Nachiket Deval (a product designer from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad), Ramakrishna Pappu (a business specialist from New York University Stern School of Business, New York), Dr Vimal Kishore Kakkani, Dr Raghuveer Rao and Dr Sajid Mohammed Ali (from the Department of Emergency Medicine at St John’s Medical College Hospital, Bangalore).
Jangir said, “We conducted an unmet need analysis at the emergency department of St John’s under the guidance and mentorship of Dr Jagdish Chaturvedi (Director, Clinical Innovation at InnAccel), Mr Siraj Dhanani (CEO, InnAccel), Mr A Vijayarajan (CTO, InnAccel), Dr Shakuntala Murthy (HOD, Department of Emergency Medicine, St John’s Medical College Hospital), Dr Girish Narayan (Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, St John’s Medical College Hospital).”
“Coeo means coming together in Latin, which reflects our multidisciplinary team working for a common cause,” he added.
Currently, the startup is busy developing a device to reduce the chance of getting Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP) in ventilated patients in hospital intensive care units (ICUs) as pneumonia is the second most common nosocomial infection in critically ill patients, affecting 27 per cent of all critically ill patients. Eighty-six per cent of nosocomial pneumonias are associated with mechanical ventilation and are termed ventilator-associated pneumonia. An innovative product in the field of traumatic brain injury is also on the cards.
At a time when most of the start-ups fail or struggle to survive for lack of adequate funding and necessary support, the young entrepreneur shares his opinion, “India being a place known for affordable innovations has most of the ingredients needed for medical device innovations but the issue is with the mixing them all. Our education system doesn’t have space for co-creation or collaborative education. People from different branches of engineering usually won’t work together as they are not trained to do that so talking about clinicians working with engineers is rare, but now government run programmes like SIB or private programmes like AIM are spreading the culture of co-creation.”
“The biggest issue while developing a new medical product in India is prototyping shops. We don’t have prototyping shops which can do work for fewer quantities, for example below 50 units. But again conditions are improving now; even venture capitalists are ready to invest in medical start-ups where returns are late but chances of success is more than investing in an app or pure IT solution,” he said.
The five medical devices developed by Nitesh Jangir are — a sensor to measure skin resistance, a device to do safer pleural tapping, a device to reduce chances of ventilator associated pneumonia, a device to manage raised intracranial pressure, and a mechanical CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine for neonates with RDS (respiratory distress syndrome).
While India still imports a significant percentage of medical equipments from advanced nations, the indigenous medical innovators are also creating a buzz in the national and international arena. Though, still at infant stage, niche start-ups in the area of medical technology are more likely going to be among top choices for innovators in the future.
by Vidhi Rathee