Hyderabad: A hand-held digital camera-like device developed by Jagdish Chaturvedi has helped doctors to screen hundreds of thousands of patients for ear, nose and throat (ENT) ailments in rural India.
The portable ENT endoscope device—sold as Entraview—costs less than one-fifth of the imported ENT diagnostic kits. It has offered doctors a much-needed low-cost, easy-to-use alternative to doctors.
Entraview is just one of several affordable medical devices Chaturvedi, a 32-year-old Bengaluru-based ENT specialist, has co-invented and developed in the last six years.
In August, Chaturvedi made it to the annual list of the ‘Innovators under 35’ list of the prestigious MIT Technology Review, a magazine published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for the year 2016 in the humanitarian category.
Entraview was the result of a question that came to Chaturvedi during his days as a trainee doctor under the tutelage of Ravi Nayar, a professor and head of the ENT department at St John’s Medical College and Hospital in Bengaluru.
“We noticed a lot of farmers with throat cancer would come to the hospital very late, and when I asked him the reason for this, he nudged me to understand the problem and find a solution," Chaturvedi said.
Chaturvedi found doctors in rural areas were using rudimentary tools such as mirrors, torches and tongue depressors—allowing the cancer to go undetected until too late.
“That’s when I started thinking about to make a low-cost, camera-recording device where an endoscope can be attached (for use) even in rural areas so that diagnosis comes early," Chaturvedi added.
It was not smooth sailing for Chaturvedi during the initial days—in addition to the funding problem, he struggled to get an engineer and designer on board to convert his idea into a prototype.
“The engineers and designers were quoting huge amounts, and I really didn’t know whether to trust them or not," Chaturvedi said.
Chaturvedi lost money he had saved for the project because an engineering firm he contracted to build the prototype kept him waiting and never delivered.
He eventually found a design firm called Icarus Design Consultants to help develop the first prototype that worked well.
The prototype won the gold medal competing against 800 technology innovations in a contest held by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Lockheed Martin in 2012.
Chaturvedi decided to learn the process of medical device innovation and avoid mistakes he made building his first product.
He was selected for the Stanford India Biodesign (SIB) Innovation Fellowship in 2012, held at the Stanford University in California. SIB, funded by the Indian government, brings people from diverse backgrounds and forms multi-disciplinary teams consisting of doctors, engineers and designers to examine clinical needs within an Indian setting and identify opportunities for medical technology innovation.
Chaturvedi employs biodesign processes honed at Stanford in developing products by working with teams of engineers and designers. Once the product is ready, he will help form companies with the teams for the purpose of funding and commercialization.
Chaturvedi’s typical business model is to develop a product and license it to Indian companies for commercialization.
Out of 18 devices he co-invented, five medical devices were licensed in the ENT, pulmonology, medicine and hepatobiliary spaces; they lowered costs by more than 50% and reduced maintenance requirement.
Three of products have hit the market including Entraview, pleural fluid disposable kit called Thorashield for tuberculosis patients and a balloon sinoplast surgical device to treat sinusitis among outpatients.
Chaturvedi said three more products will be commercialised in the next few months—including a nasal foreign body extractor and a device to reduce ventilator-associated pneumonitis (inflammation of lung tissue).
Chaturvedi co-founded a start-up incubator called InnAccel. So far, InnAccel has funded two start-ups and built an internal team to develop medical devices on its own.
Even as he is building teams and developing products, Chaturvedi continues his clinical career by running an ENT clinic in the evenings and carries out surgical procedures at Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru, as an associate consultant in ENT surgery.
Chaturvedi, who comes from a family of doctors, is also a stand-up comedian and theatre artist.