Wadhwani Research Centre for Bioengineering (WRCB), IIT Bombay organized a one-day summit on ‘Low-cost diagnostics for affordable healthcare’ on 3rd June 2022. The event was planned to create opportunities to brainstorm with different stakeholders involved in the development of low-cost diagnostics solutions. The event was co-sponsored by Wadhwani Electronics Lab (WEL) and Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE).
The event saw the participation of more than 150 people including innovators, industry experts, entrepreneurs, academicians, and representatives from government and non-profit organizations. Prof. Siddharth Tallur, the convener of the event, gave the opening remarks and welcomed everyone. This was followed by Prof. Debjani Paul’s presentation about WRCB’s journey highlighting the aims, activities, efforts, and the impact of the center on supporting translational research and commercialization of technologies developed. The ultimate goal of WRCB is to become an example of a translational research ecosystem in India.
The summit featured talks by 10 renowned professionals Dr. Debojyoti Chakraborty (Senior Scientist, CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology), Dr. Arindam Ray (India country lead, New vaccines, and immunization systems, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Prof. Ravikrishnan Elangovan (Professor, IIT Delhi), Mr. Rishabh Chopra (Lead strategy and partnerships, PATH India), Prof. Mudrika Khandelwal (Associate professor, IIT Hyderabad), Mr. Anurag Meena (Co-Founder, NeoDocs), Dr. Satya Dash (Founding CEO BITS BioCyTiH foundation), Dr. Savita Ayyar (Founder, Jaquaranda Tree), Prof. Swaroop Ganguly (Professor-in-charge, IIT Bombay Research Park), Mr. Rakesh Rajiv (SINE) and Dr. Anirvan Chatterjee (Founder Haystacks Analytics).
A very engaging keynote talk was delivered by Dr. Debojyoti Chakraborty on how their research led to the development of FELUDA, a paper-based test for coronavirus, which became very popular in India. Initially developed to detect sickle cell disease, this technology was improvised successfully to detect COVID19. Prof. Ravikrishnan Elangovan discussed his work on developing a microscope for cell counting applications and Prof. Mudrika Khandelwal talked about her ongoing work on how to find a solution to this significant issue of antimicrobial resistance. It was very promising to see the academicians engaging at various levels of translational research impact the lives of developing economies such as India.
Another set of talks by representatives of several foundations and industries opened up the avenue on the challenges faced by the entrepreneurs of start-ups while they start their new ventures. Dr. Arindam Ray and Dr. Satya Dash discussed the risks and the many valleys of death faced by them. They discussed how to mitigate these risks from the lessons learned from the stories of successful start-ups and through proper planning. Mr. Rishab Chopra, from the PATH India foundation, helps private innovators to engage in the public health sector. A young entrepreneur Mr. Anurag Meena and Dr. Anirvan Chatterjee gave very enthusiastic and motivating talks about their respective start-ups, Neodocs, an AI-enabled HealthTech platform, and Haystack Analytics, who developed a universal infectious disease test based on whole genome sequencing. Mr. Rakesh Rajiv from SINE an incubator inside IITB, and Prof. Swaroop Ganguly from the IITB research park also delivered talks on their activities, supporting young entrepreneurs and building academia and industry connections.
WRCB recently launched a new initiative External Funding Support (EFS) service for the faculty members. Dr. Savita Ayyar, who is a Research Management specialist has recently joined WRCB, paving a new pathway to support its research and innovation activities. She discussed in her talk how this collaboration aims to create a new support system in which WRCB will provide a comprehensive funding database, conduct funding outreach programs, and provide grant writing and submission support. This initiative was lauded by the audience and received massive support.
The summit also featured a panel discussion on a topic of recent interest “bottlenecks and potential solutions to translational innovation in low-cost diagnostics”. Eminent professionals including Mr. Krishnan Neelkanthan (Partner, Ankur Capital), Dr. Chandrashekhar Nair (CEO, Molbio Diagnostics), Dr. Manohar Kollegal (Head, Centre for Innovation in diagnostics, India, Siemens, Healthineers), Dr. Rishabh Chopra and Dr. Arindam Ray were invited to be on the panel. Dr. Abdur Rub (CEO, WRCB) chaired the panel discussion. They discussed in detail the high rate of failure in the healthcare innovation sector.
Mr. Neelakantan gave an overview of the past activities at Ankur Capital and challenges faced in the healthcare space in rural areas where a significant difference can be made. Dr. Nair talked about his experience working on emerging technologies in diagnostics. It taught them the challenges and several bottlenecks that come in the way. Dr. Kollegal discussed how they focus on the unmet needs in healthcare and developing products and concepts as per Indian healthcare needs. Mr. Chopra about his previous involvements especially in the national TB program with the private sector. He also shared how PATH India focuses on working with the government in improving the planning and service delivery of different disease control programs.
The panel then discussed the future of diagnostics in the coming 10-15 years, where digitization will play a crucial role. In their concluding words, the panelists advised young scientists and entrepreneurs in the audience to be open to learning from their own mistakes, be open to feedback, and advised to not take shortcuts in building a global quality product. Closing the discussion, Dr. Rub extended his gratitude to the participants of the panel discussion for their time to share their views and perspectives.
The talks were followed by a very interactive poster session. Research students from IIT Bombay and participants from industries were given a platform to display their work in the form of poster presentations as well as product/prototype demos. During this session, the participants had ample opportunities to network with and gain from the experience of experts in the domain area. An expert selection committee was appointed to evaluate the posters participating in the competition. Winners of the best poster award were announced during the event and were awarded certificates and prizes.
It is said that the most successful event is the one that achieves your goals and exceeds your expectations. We look forward to another successful event soon.
Meera: Write-up on the talks, edits, draft modification
Milind: Write up on a talk and panel discussion
Sneha: Draft reading, edits, draft modification