A device to decipher body signals

NK Minda | | Updated on: Jul 23, 2018
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US-headquartered DyAnsys has been making wearable medical devices in India for the US market

It is an unlikely combination of an electrical engineer and a mathematician teaming up to start a venture that would capture the signals thrown up by the body’s autonomic nervous system to come up with devices to treat various problems.

Srini Nageshwar, an electrical engineering graduate from the first batch of IIT-Madras, had more than three decades of experience in the computer industry. After passing out from IIT-M in 1964, Nageshwar worked nearly 25 years at Hewlett Packard and almost a decade at Iomega, before spending some time at a couple of start-ups in the Silicon Valley. He was on the board of Fongit, an innovation incubator in Geneva, Switzerland, when he met Melvyn Lafitte, a mathematician, with whom he started DyAnsys.

After quitting Iomega, Nageshwar says he was invited to be on the board of TVS Electronics in the late 1990s, which brought him to India almost every month for a few days.

During a recent visit to Chennai, where DyAnsys manufactures medical devices, 76-year- old Nageshwar recalls that Lafitte told him that the two of them could do wonderful things in medicine because the human body throws out some excellent signals.

“I knew computers and I said, processors are going to get smaller and smaller and that we can put a huge amount of power in a small space,” says Nageshwar.

DyAnsys began as a research project in Geneva in 2001. The autonomic nervous system, says Nageshwar, runs all the body’s internal organs and it is an early warning sign if the ANS is not working properly. “As it happens that information is in the ECG. It is easy to acquire, but to extract some information takes some high falutin mathematics,” says Nageshwar, Director and CEO, DyAnsys.

Doctors at the University Hospital, Geneva, told them they were on to something, after which they got their concept validated by medical professionals in the US and by a doyen in the medical devices space. It was then that Nageshwar and Lafitte incorporated the company in the US in August 2003.

Thanks to help provided by TVS Electronics, says Nageshwar, they were able to start with a small engineering team in Bengaluru. And, as DyAnsys’ operations grew, they decided to locate their manufacturing unit to make the wearable devices in Chennai, where they now have a 20-member team.

DyAnsys, said Nageshwar, started with an autonomic nervous system monitor, whose first application was for neurological complications of diabetes. The company would have sold about 300 units in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

When they wanted to take the device to the US, they were not able to scale the business there, which prompted the company to look for other applications. In 2009-10, they found it could be used to manage chronic pain. The device, which can be mounted at the back of the ear, has batteries and a processor, and is used to send currents to the brain to unlock the body’s own pain medication.

“We started manufacturing it here in 2012 and started shipping to the US. We got FDA clearance. We have been able to run the company on a pay-as-you-go basis. We are generating enough revenue that we can run the company,” said Nageshwar. The company sells about 10,000 units of the device that costs about $250 each, to doctors in the US. DyAnsys recently got FDA approval for its auricular neurosimulation device to be used as an aid to reduce symptoms of opioid withdrawal without narcotics. This costs about $450 each. DyAnsys’ products include one for post-operative pain medication.

Nageshwar, who hails from a village near Tirunelveli in south Tamil Nadu, said he would like to bring down the cost of the device for markets such as India so that rural healthcare would improve.

DyAnsys handles all the manufacturing out of Chennai. Nageshwar is happy with the manufacturing capabilities in Chennai, thanks to the presence of various manufacturing industries. But he would like to see more support from banks in India for start-ups. In the US, he said, his company was able to get a credit line and a credit card within minutes of opening a bank account. DyAnsys’ Chennai plant is FDA compliant, he said.

Published on July 23, 2018

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