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An innovation that breathes life into the baby

PT Jyothi Datta | Updated on July 19, 2019 Published on July 19, 2019

Demonstrating how Saans works; (left) Siraj Dhanani and A Vijayarajan

It’s not surprising that a hospital in naxal-affected Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, was among the early adopters of “Saans”, a locally developed innovation that supports a baby’s breathing during transportation.

“In India, more than half the babies who need this (breathing support) are born outside patient care at maternity homes, at PHCs (primary health centres) and maybe at home. And they need to be transported to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) to get breathing support,” explains Siraj Dhanani, of the ground reality that Saans is looking to address. Saans is developed by med-tech firm InnAccel Technologies led by Siraj and A Vijayarajan.

Siraj and A Vijayarajan

 

“Today, there is no device that can give them (babies) breathing support during transportation or at a PHC. As a result we lose 1.6 lakh babies a year,” says Siraj. Saans gives CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) in any circumstance and its proprietary feature is that it can be powered manually if its rechargable battery cannot be charged by regular methods.

Innovation begins at home

“Things like this won’t get made in the West. These innovations will come out only where they are needed. There is scope for these innovations in India and in emerging markets. The problems we face are faced in Africa, South-East Asia..,” points out Siraj. “We need to find more problems to solve,” he says, of the start-up’s philosophy, as its research teams fan out into hospitals and look at critical areas where lives are lost for want of attention. “There will be 10 such things where we are killing people in India because these problems have not been solved by the West. That is really what we want to do,” he says.

Saans emerged out of the research team’s experience at an NICU. “Three babies were brought by parents with a rudimentaty breathing device called the ambu-bag, effectively a balloon. The parents rushed the babies to the doctor, but they are dead, said the doctor. Three dead-on-arrival cases,” recounts Siraj.

The team was traumatised by what they saw, but decided to respond differently, he says. “We simply said if we are gonna be primitive enough to send the baby with a balloon on one side, what can we put between the balloon and the baby so the baby gets CPAP? And that led to the mechanical CPAP system that can be manually powered.”

This med-tech startup does not intend to “sit on its hands” and wait for an optimal regulatory environment, even as the Centre swings between defining medical devices as a drug or a device. Saans is poised for pilot projects in some States where the product’s effectiveness would be demonstrated, Siraj says, adding that hospitals and doctors too are open to adopting the product after initial scepticism that an Indian company has an innovation and not a “me-too” version of a foreign product. It would be priced “appropriate to the market”, says Siraj, with the cost to parent being much less, possibly just rental cost.

InnAccel’s kitty includes other innovations like the one that reduces ventilator-related lung infection and another to detect foetal distress during labour. And though these products were developed for India, Siraj says the company is seeking European and US regulatory approvals, given their potential in developed countries.

Published on July 19, 2019
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