Medical Devices Startups Need Exclusive Ecosystem

Opinion---S-Balram

Medical devices refer to a large number of products used in modern healthcare system for prevention, diagnosis, treatment, repair or rehabilitation purposes. These could be simple disposable products such as bandage and surgical gloves to complex equipment like an MRI scanner or a cardiac pacemaker. While there are plenty of low-value products in the market, there is ample scope for innovation in developing affordable solutions to address unmet clinical needs and to bring down prices of expensive medical equipment.

Medical device development is quite challenging compared to developing a consumer product as it is necessary to conduct various tests and evaluations to ensure safety of the product before launching it in the market. This could also be a very resource-intensive and time- consuming process and is therefore an entry barrier to new ventures. The risks of failure could be high in this sector and hence, not many entrepreneurs or startups venture into medical device development projects. There is a great need to support an innovator working on medical technology project in the early stages to try out the ideas with minimum investment. Thus the role and relevance of a Technology Business Incubator (TBI) exclusively supporting medical device startups becomes very important.

Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) in Thiruvananthapuram is well-known for high standards of patient care as well as world class research and biomedical technology development activities. This Institute has successfully developed the know-how for several biomedical products such as disposable Blood Bag, Mechanical Heart Valve, Blood Oxygenator, Hydrocephalus Shunt, Dental Composites, Bio-ceramic products, Hormone releasing Intrauterine device etc. and transferred them to industries for commercial production. SCTIMST has in this process gained rich experience in taking an idea for a medical product from laboratory to market. In order to attract more entrepreneurs and support more startups in medical devices development, SCTIMST launched a TBI in 2015 – SCTIMST-TIMED. This is funded by Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India and KSIDC. The main objective is to support startups to incubate projects in medical devices and biomaterials domain and those related to healthcare sector. TIMED incubator is located within the Biomedical Technology Wing campus of SCTIMST at Poojapura in Thiruvananthapuram, which is well endowed with sophisticated equipment, facilities and infrastructure for medical device development.

TIMED provides space and mentoring support, including the much-needed linkages with doctors and medical practitioners to its incubatees. TIMED has a good network of mentors from technical, clinical and business domains as well as close contact with medical device manufacturers. TIMED has also signed an MoU with Association of Indian Medical Device Industries.

In a short period of time, TIMED has received enthusiastic response from startup community and medical devices entrepreneurs and there is a steady flow of enquiries and discussions with prospective incubatees. Six proposals have been accepted for incubation after a screening process. More are in the process of being screened and accepted.

The projects being undertaken by the startups at TIMED currently include a wide range of products such as wearable device for monitoring vital signals in neonates, clinical dashboard for ICU patients on a smartphone, affordable wound dressings for burn patients, nutraceutical product for malnourishment and  an advanced diagnostic equipment for ophthalmic imaging. The incubatees at TIMED are Mobilexion Technologies Pvt. Ltd., Ellipsor, SRH Nutrition, Sweptron, Zum Heilen Pvt. Ltd. and Eve Labs.

 

(The author is CEO, SCTIMST-TIMED; Email: balrams@sctimst.ac.in)