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Livelihood Creation Profile: Prantae Solutions

This is part a series in which we will profile organizations in India who received a Social Innovation grant through the SAI/Tata Trusts project on Livelihood Creation.

 

The video above is a brief onsite interview in Bhubaneswar between Dr. Shashank Shah, Project Director, Harvard SAI, and Sumona and Aseem on the impact of the Livelihood Creation Project, workshop, grant and mentorship on Prantae and its mission of affordable diagnostics and healthcare for India.

 

ORGANIZATION DETAILS

LEADERSHIP

  • Sumona Karjee, Co-Founder and Director
  • Aseem Mishra, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer

VISION, MISSION AND BROAD OBJECTIVES

Prantae Solutions aims to create affordable technologies for rare and neglected disorders by translating state-of-art interdisciplinary research into medical devices and interventions. Prantae is a Bengali word that means “at the edge”. The founders have opted for this name to signify that they have been pushed to the edge to look for innovative low-cost technologies to address a long-neglected life-threatening problem, the pregnancy disorder – Preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension). It works towards the universal goal of creating better health opportunities in India. Its present focus is on identification of sensitive and specific biomarkers for pregnancy-related disorders, and development of technologies that enable their detection. It aims to translate state-of-the-art research findings to create platforms for diagnostic laboratories and sensitive, modular, portable devices for point of care and self-health monitoring device segment.

ACTIVITIES AND MODEL OF EXECUTION

  • Need identification: This has been the most important aspect for Prantae that enables it to create technologies for target diseases relevant to India. This is achieved through immersion, desk research and market survey
  • Innovation: Prior to initiating any technology development, the Prantae Team enables brainstorming for possible technological solutions among its core team and collaborators. Expert advice on the feasibility of the solution is debated and agreed upon. Stakeholders’ view on the offered solution is also sought. Laboratory scale experiments are initiated to evaluate adaptation of the technology.
  • Technology Development: Sumona and Aseem believe that development of affordable diagnostics cannot be done based on out-dated science. They have been trying to drive latest research findings in physics, chemistry and biology for translation into affordable yet reliable diagnostics that are extremely sensitive to the disease even when clinical symptoms are not apparent. Prantae’s partners in academia and social sciences are crucial entities of the technology development cycle who help them steer confidently into new frontiers.

TECHNOLOGY

  • Area: Medical device and diagnostics
  • Distinctive feature of the technology: Rugged and low-cost

FUNDING

The project is currently funded through grants. Prantae is exploring various government and non-government funding opportunities to upgrade the ideation stage to proof of concept to prototype and final product development.

CHALLENGES

Translating high science into technology is a challenge in itself, especially, if it needs to be made affordable. Prantae also faces the same problem. However, their academic collaborators and mentors are enabling a seamless translation of their science through proactive association

INNOVATION

Most affordable diagnostics are trying to adapt or improvise technologies developed 20-30 years ago. For example, use of PCR or ITA as a method for nucleic acid-based diagnosis. However, there is a limit to how low one can go, even if its components are mass manufactured. Aseem and Sumona realized it early on and therefore decided to search for alternative technologies developed only in the last few years that hold promise for affordability and scalability. This is their definition of disruptive interventions.

POTENTIAL IMPACT ON TARGET COMMUNITIES

Though they are at a very nascent stage of development, their innovation can potentially revolutionize the diagnostic sectors across the globe. Their success could lead to development of new industries in sensor design and microfluidics, while obviously impacting the primary beneficiaries (consumers) in accessing better health care.

FUTURE PLANS

  • Scaling-up plan post positive lab results: They intend to scale-up the sensor design and microfluidic packaging for detection of multiple diseases both infectious and constitutional. However, their primary focus would be on parallel detection of multiple pre-natal disorders, that can be conducted both in specialized laboratories as well as Points of Care (POCs)
  • Likely cost-related benefits and inexpensive treatment: Since Prantae is targeting domains where gap defines non-availability of options, like pre-symptomatic detection of preeclampsia, which in turn leads to incurring of huge economic burden of ICU and NICU beside the health and emotional trauma.

PARTNERSHIPS

Prantae Solutions partners and collaborates with various NGOs, corporate foundations, academic and government organizations:

  • KIIT University Technology Business Incubator (KIIT-TBI), Bhubaneswar, has provided infrastructural support.
  • Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS), Bhubaneswar, is a partner in patient sampling.
  • Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, has provided laboratory space for experimentation.
  • Academicians including Prof. Sudipta Maiti from TIFR, Prof. Ravikrishna Elangovan, Prof. P.V.M. Rao and Prof. Ambuj Sagar from IIT Delhi, have been mentoring in technology development.

AWARDS AND GRANTS

Prantae

  • Harvard SAI – Tata Trusts Social Innovation Grant Winner, 2016.

Aseem Mishra

  • Wellcome Trust-DBT Alliance Early Career Fellow funding for postdoctoral
    research, 2010.
  • Awarded Ranbaxy Science Scholar Award, 2008.
  • Team leader of the wining team of the Indo-UK Young Entrepreneur Scheme (YES) conducted by DBT-India and BBSRC-UK, 2008.
  • C. R. K. Krishnamurthy Memorial Young Scientist award from CDRI,
    Lucknow, 2008.

“Technology and innovation are the keys to access better health for tomorrow”

  • Sumona Karjee, Co-Founder

 

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