With one-third of the global population infected with tuberculosis (TB), the disease is a chief cause of death. It claimed 423,000 people in India in 2016 alone, and a staggering 40 percent of the Indian population is considered to have been infected with the extremely contagious bacteria, with a more critical majority being affected by possible TB than the disease itself. Alarming statistics imply that the disease claims one life per minute in India, presenting it the TB capital of the world.
Rahul Pathri, Founder and CEO of Docturnal, incorporated a healthcare startup aiming to devise simple to utilize, non-invasive, and point of care solutions for TB screening.
Repetitive screening devices
A delayed diagnosis spreads the disease, and usually, newer drug-resistant strains are transferred. The current conventional diagnostics are costly, cumbersome, idiosyncratic, and frequently misleading (false positives/contradictions), thereby enhancing the burden, he elaborates. Rahul himself had to undergo such tests (IGRA and Mantoux), some of which are even examined by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Post this, adjacent family members and colleagues also had TB; that’s when I learned the nuances around early investigation and stigma,” shares Rahul, who worked on to finding Docturnal in 2016 with a team of like-minded people.“Our concept is to screen with 95 percent efficiency and also cater to Drug-Resistant Cases (MDR-TB),” he continues.
Docturnal has established products that make the discovery of diseases simple and hassle-free. “Moreover, they are available, affordable to the last mile and prevent stigma by conducting screening with real-time decisions,” Rahul insists.
Docturnal’s principal product TimBre aids in point of care TB screening. It is a screening app, where the noise of cough of an individual is registered (utilizing a microphone array) by a clinical practitioner or a healthcare operator along with their statistics and clinical variables. The data collected is then prepared in real-time, leveraging machine/deep learning to identify if the cough is TB positive or adverse, Rahul explains.
This is also accompanied by a call to action, which involves connecting positively screened patients with pulmonologists, the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP), and other associate diagnostic centers. It is followed by presenting a customized app experience while prognosis that often includes training around drug adherence and suitable diet (futuristic).
Pilot plans and major learnings
To date, Docturnal’s center team has raised funds to the theme of USD150,000, including grants, etc. “Several pilot projects across Hyderabad and Telangana have been remarkably steady, predominantly with pulmonologists and telemedicine health camps,” says Rahul.
“Our pilots have helped close to 2,000 suspects and still adding. We are working with RNTCP exactly, and it is a matter, of course, we see a larger impact,” he adds confidently.
Sponsored by IIIT-H, UberExchange, AIRmaker Singapore, Startup Nexus, AIM Smart City, and BIRAC, Docturnal is watching to pilot in more medical institutions in the coming months.
When asked about their most significant knowledge through these projects, Rahul states: “In rural areas, we have seen an expanding number of people who have started up in talking about TB encountered by their parents or other family members. The moment is ripe for utilizing the technological nature of the prevailing solution”.
Owing to the infectious nature of the disease, one requires to build protocols that are fool-proof and will not impede further contagiousness in a mass screening situation.
Docturnal’s solutions are granted on a subscription basis where the price is between 0 to 100 rupees (B2G model). “Alternatively, an undivided solution can also be purchased that serves a hybrid (B2B) model wherein subscription rises after a year while the customer pays well before for hardware, algorithms, recording, and EMR,” says Rahul, describing their business model.
Rahul and his team are also continuously striving to devise discoveries to their screening methodologies, which are not lacking any loopholes. Since evidence is the primary input, receiving cough recordings sets the team at high risk presented the infectious nature of the situation, even though they adhere to precautionary obligations. The company is also interested in expanding to other topography that are hotbeds of TB and builds their hardware and algorithms extensible for the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by 2019.
Docturnal Pvt. Ltd, a healthcare startup concentrated on non-invasive screening solvents for tuberculosis, has amassed an undisclosed sum from Mumbai Angels Network, the organizations said in a statement.
According to the announcement, 11 investors from the system have invested in the company. The investors comprise angel investor Abhijeet Birewar; Akshay Mittal, founder of basmati rice maker Sagar Basmati Rice; and Shantanu Agarwal, executive director at automotive furnishing fabric manufacturer BMD Pvt. Ltd, to mention a few.
Docturnal, which was established in 2016 by Rahul Pathri, Arpita Singh, Balakrishna Bagadi, and Vaishnavi Reddy, screens and identified tuberculosis using their flagship merchandise TimBre. The product can also be utilized to screen other lung-based diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and others that have a cough as an asymptomatic state.
The Hyderabad-based business will use the capital to expand the product for clinical trials over several hospitals in the country and also to grow its team and technology, told Pathri, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta. Mumbai Angels Network leading executive Nandini Mansinghka stated that med-tech and health-tech are buzzing sectors currently and the network will view to invest in other innovations within the enterprise. “We see developed interest from the next level investors, both VC Funds and the important organizations in companies discovering in the medical and healthcare area using technology,” she continued.
Mumbai Angels Network encompasses more than 300 investors and over 100 portfolio organizations. In the fiscal year 2017-18, the network had delivered out 12 cheques. Its new venture in the healthcare space was in a technoscientific diagnostics startup Theranosis Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd, which concentrates on the oncology space.
Current healthcare deals
Numerous startups offering a broad variety of healthcare services have recently captured the attention of investors. Last week, medical technology business Cyclops Medtech Pvt. Ltd raised USD1 million (around Rs 7.2 crore) in new capital from impact investment fund Unitus Ventures and enduring investor.
In August, Info Edge (India) Ltd, which operates internet businesses 99acres.com, and Naukri.com invested Rs 2.64 crore (USD377,071) in medical healthcare records solution MedCords.
In July, Bengaluru-situated artificial intelligence-based medical records platform HealthPlix accumulated USD3 million (around Rs 20.7 crore) in a Series A funding accomplished from venture capital companies IDG Ventures India and Kalaari Capital.
In that same month, iNICU, which concentrates in providing care for newborns, raised an undisclosed quantity from Venture Catalysts. In June, artificial intelligence and cloud-based diagnostic group SigTuple had raised USD19 million in a Series B round led by subsisting investors IDG Ventures India, and Accel Partners.