Sunday, 29 September 2013

We can see the world in a grain of sand

One day, a young reporter boldly asked Thomas Edison about his 9000+ failed attempts while inventing a light bulb and whether he thought he should just give up. Perplexed, Edison replied, "Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp." And shortly after that, with over 10,000 attempts, Edison invented the light bulb.
With a similar mindset, Biosense Technology’s Myshkin Ingawale from Thane and his friends started working aggressively on a dream medical device. Their focus was on detecting the medical condition ‘anemia’ as more than 2 billion people worldwide suffer from it. According to World Bank estimates anemia causes up to USD 50 Billion in productivity losses worldwide. Moreover most of the 2 billion anemic are in the developing world and tightly linked to nutritional status.
Myshkin says “Children and pregnant women are the most at risk of mortality - more than 1 million women and children die annually from undiagnosed anemia although it is perfectly treatable and can be controlled by changes in diet, iron tablets and folic acid.”
Till date, quantitation of blood hemoglobin levels which is an indicator of anemic condition is done only by using invasive techniques as no non-invasive method is currently available. Briefly, a small volume of blood is collected by pricking the finger or by using needle-syringe which is subsequently processed in laboratory to quantify hemoglobin levels. Hence, for measuring hemoglobin you need a trained technician and a small laboratories setup.   
Myshkin and his team conceptualized a completely non-invasive methodology based on ‘optical principals’ to measure hemoglobin. They hypothesized that by using spectroscopic techniques one should able to quantify blood hemoglobin. Although the idea seemed simple, in practical terms it was highly improbable if not impossible.
Myshkin and his team made more than 32 failed  attempts before they could achieve a breakthrough in building world’s first non-invasive, low-cost, scalable, systemic health care solution ‘ToucHb’ for diagnosing anemia. ToucHb could be a boon for millions of poor as well as old people around the globe, who suffer from undiagnosed and therefore untreated anemia. It is simple, inexpensive and non-invasive detector for anemia, which requires no needles, no pricking, no high tech gadgets and no trained assistants. ToucHb is a real game changer. Apart from blood hemoglobin, Touchb can measure oxygen saturation, body temperature and pulse rate. 
Talking more about the device, Myshkin says “The ToucHb works by shining light of different wavelengths through the tissue of the subject’s finger. Hemoglobin has a characteristic absorbance. Understanding the spectrum, and understanding what signals to filter out, ToucHb is able to determine the concentration of hemoglobin present in tissue.” Discussing about the failures, complexities and challenges faced while working, Myshkin adds “We learnt that every small thing has its own complexities. We can see the world in a grain of sand. We had to learn as we went along –We learnt the hard way – by being wrong!” Myshkin adds “there are hundreds of such ‘fixable’ problems all around us! We’ve learnt quite a bit of what NOT to do in product development thanks to our ToucHb story”.
Now, ToucHb is deployed in few clinics in India for testing and currently the team is planning to scale the production from 30-40 a batch to more than 1000 a batch. Biosense Technologies is also exploring opportunities to partner with different international and national health agencies to create global impact with ToucHb.
Myshkin gets excited by the words ‘non-invasive’ and ‘point of care’ and truly believe that there is a revolution underway in medical technologies which India should lead. He also believes that mobile devices will soon play a major role in preventive healthcare. Hence after the ToucHb’s success, now he and his team are working on another breakthrough project, a smartphone app ‘uCheck’ that helps diagnose and monitor 25 medical conditions. The uCheck app greatly simplifies urine analysis and also dramatically reduces the cost. It uses smartphone camera, color dipstick and the uCheck’s peripheral kit, to measure up to 10 parameters of urine such as glucose, ketone, urobilinogen, pH, bilirubin, etc. The results can be saved, shared, exported and analyzed as a trend over time. Routine urine analysis can help diagnose more than 25 medical conditions including diabetes, problems of kidney, liver and bladder along with common infections like UTIs. 
uCheck is already launched for an Apple device and now Biosense Technologies is working on adapting it for cheaper android devices. The android version of uCheck which will be launch soon will certainly empower primary healthcare workers to perform urine analysis in the remotest part of our country which currently has no access to primary healthcare facilities. 
On a personal front, Myshkin is a big fan of bicycles and working on a project idea for a fabrication system that will enable anyone to design a bicycle for themselves, from frame to finish.


  1. Amazing Innovation ! Very True : Impossible is always Untried.