New Delhi: Gurgaon-based health care firm Artemis Health Sciences Pvt. Ltd and Royal Philips Electronics NV plan to start three research studies using advanced medical technologies in a bid to find more efficient and cheaper ways of diagnosing diseases.

Data from the studies will add to Philips research database while Artemis hopes to be able to use the high-end imaging and scan machines to detect blockages in the heart at a fraction of the cost and spot tumours early. The research collaboration is the first of its kind, said Kushagra Kataria, executive director at Artemis, who sealed the partnership 10 months ago and is readying clinical trials now.

Raring to go: Artemis executive director Kushagra Kataria.

A study done by consultant Ernst and Young for trade body Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry estimates the market in India for medical devices and equipment will more than double to $4.98 billion (Rs19,450 crore) by 2012 from $2.18 billion last year. Of this, radiology equipment such as MRI (short for magnetic resonance imaging), computed tomography or CT scan and ultrasound machines will account for a sixth of the market, the study said.

Indian medical laws currently do not mandate testing of diagnostic devices here. Yet, given that “India has the largest variety of disease patterns, R&D on diagnostic devices is needed for Indians," said Anjan Bose, senior director and business head, medical systems, Philips Electronics India Ltd. (In India, a proposed central drug authority will have powers for approving diagnostic equipment as well.)

Philips is talking with health care chains about partnerships and Artemis, too, will look out for tie-ups with drug, biotech and medical device firms.

The first study to be launched will be on heart patients. Philips’ 64 slice CT scan—so called because it slices an image 64 times and provides greater clarity—will be pitched against conventional angiography techniques in which a catheter is inserted in the body to release a dye which can then be viewed to find blockages in the heart. The 64 slice CT scanner can do the same in six seconds by tracing the dye injected externally and at Rs11,000, costs Rs4,000 less than angiography and other hospital costs.

“We are trying to test the hypothesis that this CT scanner is as effective as the conventional angiography," said Hassan Tehrani, a teaching consultant at Artemis and part of the Phillips-Artemis research team. “We already know it is cheaper, faster, non-invasive and reduces the hospital stay from a day to few hours."

The second study will involve a so-called 3Tesla MRI machine to see if it is more effective than older generation scanners in diagnosing tumours. The machine at Artemis is the only one installed in India so far. The last study will use ultrasound machines to test the prevalence of ‘aneurysms’—a disorder that causes bulging and rupture of arteries—in some 3,000 subjects, said Tehrani.

Artemis will be applying for permission from Indian drug control authorities for the 64 slice CT scan tests soon, said the hospital’s head of medical services Anjali Kumar, adding the studies will be done conforming to international ‘Good Clinical Practices’ guidelines. The test procedures for the other two tests will be ready within a month.