Tanuj Gigras, IIT -Bombay engineer and co-founder of Pune-based company Nayam Innovations, talks about their innovation and what they are hoping to achieve
What does your company do?
Nayam Innovations is a biomedical device startup founded in December 2012. We are translating scientific advances made in polymer chemistry, physics and electronics to build better and advanced medical devices.
We are a group of scientists and engineers from India developing an artificial implant of the eye to treat cataract and its post-surgical refractive error complications using our proprietary technology ISITE.
Why are you excited about this space?
Innovations in technology and delivery methods in the last four decades opened the way to providing cataract surgery to millions of people globally at an affordable cost. Every year, more than 20 million cataract surgeries happen in the World, of which about 6.5 million happen in India. By 2020 this number will go up to 32 million and 8 million respectively [WHO data].
Unlike other healthcare areas, eyecare distribution systems are not fragmented, indigenous manufacturing is well-established and penetration of surgery is comparable to developed countries. Ageing population across the world will increase the need for cataract surgery. However, established MNCs are innovating to cater to the 1% wealthy individuals who could afford their products. They are not innovating on products which can make a difference to the majority of populations. Hence, there exists an opportunity to disrupt the market by creating a product which is at par with premium products in functionality but can be delivered at 1/10th the cost to the poor and middle-class populations, both in developing countries like India and in the west.
What problem are you trying to solve?
During cataract surgery, lack of trained surgeons, errors in pre-operative biometry (eye measurements), unpredictable healing of surgical incision, pre-existing cylindrical eye power leave many patients with sub-optimal vision. They are either dependent on spectacles or have to resort to more expensive technologies like LASIK. For a poor patient, earning less than $5 (Rs 320) a day, both these options are not feasible.
With use of ISITE, a patient’s vision will be at par with other expensive surgical methods, but at an affordable cost.
What is innovative about your product?
The innovation lies in materials, instrumentation and process engineering.
What is the impact you want to have?
Vision impairment and poverty are inextricably linked. In resource-poor settings, it determines ones prospects for education, employment and dignity of life. For the poor in India, poor vision means low productivity and loss of daily wage.
Daily activities such as meal preparation, bathing, walking, counting money and reading for older adults become difficult resulting in subsequent neglect from the family (especially older women).
In resource-poor settings, spectacles are hard to get, they break due to hard physical labour, or get lost, and, thus, have an average life of about two years. Options like LASIK and more expensive implants costs thousands of dollars and are not covered by insurance and therefore are out of reach for the poor.
Using cutting-edge technology we want to improve the quality of life of these millions of patients.
How do you think Villgro will help?
Apart from providing funding to develop the technology, Villgro will be able to help us with developing the right business models and partnerships. Through interactions with Villgro mentors and other portfolio entrepreneurs we will be able to avoid a lot of costly mistakes during the early stages of development.