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A low-cost device that injects hope into tackling blood shortages

Anshul Maudar | Updated on January 10, 2018 Published on September 01, 2017

Carolyn Yarina, Sisu chief executive   -  JihoNation

Earlier this year, US-based Sisu Global Health won the First Mile Innovation Challenge organised by GE Healthcare and the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) for developing a low-cost auto-transfusion device called Hemafuse.

The product works like a syringe pulling a patient’s blood through a filter and transferring it to a blood bag to be recycled, critical in addressing the blood shortage, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

Currently focussed on launching in Sub-Saharan Africa, Sisu has begun exploring the India market to understand the “unique” dynamics of working here. Carolyn Yarina, Sisu Chief Executive, explains the relevance of Hemafuse in countries like India.

Excerpts from an e-mail interview:

What is unique about Hemafuse?

It costs significantly less than the US/European models of autotransfusion, while eliminating most areas of risk from more manual techniques seen in developing/rural locations.

Is India a potential market?

India is a significant market due to its sheer size and various levels of surgical care across the country. India has many doctors with significant expertise for emergency situations. However, insufficient access to blood has inhibited doctors in certain areas to perform life-saving surgeries. We have spoken to several Indian doctors who cited lack of blood to be so severe that they need a device to recycle and replace a person’s own blood.

Can it be scaled up and sold commercially?

Sisu’s current focus is its launch in Sub-Saharan Africa. We intend to use this data on sales cycles, product use and efficiency to help launch into other markets.

The information gathered during this initial market launch will be important, since it is often hard for hospitals in other low-resource settings to predict the likelihood of emergency situations like sudden patient blood loss, where Hemafuse is most useful.

How expensive will it be for the average user?

The expense for the average user will be determined by local insurance schemes and support from government/hospital institutions.

Depending on the country, blood is often subsidised at either the government or hospital level.

Our pricing will be based on the current cost of a unit of blood, which can be as much as $250 per unit. Many National Blood Services (often the group most invested in supplying blood to public hospitals) see Hemafuse as a way to reduce waste of blood sources as a part of special hemovigilance programs.

What are the main challenges that face this industry in developing countries?

The biggest challenge we face is that 80 per cent of the world’s medical devices are designed for 10 per cent of the world’s population. That means that 90 per cent of the world is underserved in the unique problems that it faces. These underserved countries have very different challenges than well-served markets: disease landscape, fragmented distribution channels, and higher rates of employee turnover.

We can’t effectively improve healthcare in developing countries (or, in our view, emerging markets) until we focus on these issues, and until we invest in them.

(The writer is a Young India Fellow at Ashoka University and former intern, BusinessLine.)

Published on September 01, 2017
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