Low-cost portable ventilators, affordable COVID-19 test kits, drones for sanitisation, specialised digital stethoscopes, disposable bamboo furniture for makeshift isolation wards, and “infection-proof fabric” for hospitals — these are among several innovations, by IITs across the country during the lockdown period, which are ready to hit the market to aid the fight against COVID-19. The innovations have taken commercial route either through IIT-incubated startups or the premiere institutes have given license to companies keeping the patent rights with themselves.
The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, which became the first academic institute to get a nod from the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) for its COVID-19 test kit, has given non-exclusive open licence to Bengaluru-based biotechnology firm Genie Laboratories for commercialising the test, but with a price rider of Rs. 500 per kit.
The kits are being manufactured at a facility at the Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone (AMTZ) in Vishakhapatnam, and are expected to be available in the market in the next 10 days.
“Over 40 companies, including a few big names, have reached out to us to commercialise the test. We will be giving open licences to companies which meet the quality criterion set by us. We are also giving the licence with a price rider so that companies do not hike the price once commercialised. We have shortlisted Genie laboratories as the first one, but there will be more companies too,” IIT Delhi Director V Ramgopal told PTI.
According to the IIT Delhi team, the current testing methods available are “probe-based” while the one developed by the IIT team is a “probe-free” method, which reduces the testing cost without compromising on accuracy.
Another innovation by the institute, an “infection-proof fabric” to be used at hospitals to prevent hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) is being sent to various hospitals in Delhi and NCR in the form of bed sheets, curtains and uniforms by an incubated startup called “Fabiosys Innovations”. The innovation was earlier tested at AIIMS.
“We take rolls of cotton fabric and treat it with a set of proprietary-developed chemicals under a set of particular reaction conditions, using the machinery already commonly available in textile industries. The fabric, after undergoing these processes, gains the powerful antimicrobial functionality,” Samrat Mukhopadhyay, a professor at the Department of Textile and Fibre Engineering in IIT-Delhi, said.
“Even after washing multiple times, it does not lose its functionality. This fabric can be stitched into various articles such as bedsheets, the uniforms for patients, doctors and nurses, and even curtains. The fabric satisfies the Indian standards in terms of the number of washing. It is completely non-toxic and affordable,” he added.
A “digital stethoscope” developed by a team at IIT Bombay, that can listen to heartbeats from a distance and record them, minimising the risk of healthcare professionals contracting the novel coronavirus from patients, is already available in the market.
Operating a start-up called “AyuDevice” from the IIT”s technology business incubator, the team has sent 1,000 stethoscopes to different hospitals and healthcare centres across the country. The product is also available for sale at various stores.
An IIT Guwahati startup “Marut Dronetech” has developed two types of drones, which are being used by the Telangana government and various departments across the state. The drones are being deployed for spraying disinfectant in public spaces to prevent the coronavirus. They can disinfect 50 times more area than what can be done using traditional methods, the institute claimed.
“We have also developed public monitoring and warning drones which are fitted with a camera and speaker. These can be used to monitor places, especially with high disease prevalence for crowd gathering and give appropriate instructions to people, using fitted loudspeakers,” said Prem Kumar Vislawath, an IIT Guwahati alumnus.
The institute’s design department has come up with a bamboo hospital furniture range, mass production of which is quick and low cost, to meet demands arising out of hospitalisation of more people with the spike in coronavirus cases.
“The furniture can be used at primary health centres and makeshift isolation wards set up in places like indoor stadiums. It can be easily disposed of when the virus has been contained. Over 200 beds can be manufactured per day using the design. We have tied up with two local entrepreneurs for manufacturing,” a professor said.
IIT Kanpur has collaborated with ICICI Securities for the development of a low-cost ventilator innovated by two of its students.
“This easily portable ventilator will be much cheaper than other life-saving machines available in the market. It will also work as a sanitizer to keep the hospital germ-free. Due to the components used in the ventilator which are specifically manufactured in India, it will cost only Rs 70,000 while available ventilators cost around Rs 4 lakh,” said IIT-Kanpur Director Abhay Karandikar.
“We plan to develop around 30,000 units in 2020, and the first lot is expected to hit the market soon,” he added.
According to the Union Health ministry, India saw the highest single-day spike of 11,929 COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, taking the number of infections to over 3.20 lakh on Sunday, while the toll crossed the 9,000-mark with 311 more deaths.
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