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    View: Sudha Murty-backed IIT project aims to shatter artificial heart price barrier

    View: Sudha Murty-backed IIT project aims to shatter artificial heart price barrier

    View: Sudha Murty-backed IIT project aims to shatter artificial heart price barrier
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    By C H Unnikrishnan   IST (Updated)

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    The project, Hridayantra, plans to develop the world's most advanced left ventricular assist device (LVAD) or artificial heart, using technology that is completely indigenous, as well as localised manufacturing.

    When it comes to organ donations, the most difficult to source are hearts. It is believed that easier access to donated or artificial hearts could save at least a million lives every year just in India. Yet implantable, artificial hearts are rarely used in India because of their prohibitive cost, with each one costing upwards of Rs 70 lakh.
    This is exactly the situation that a ‘moonshot project’ at IIT Kanpur, aims to change over the coming years. The project, Hridayantra, plans to develop the world’s most advanced left ventricular assist device (LVAD) or artificial heart, using technology that is completely indigenous, as well as localised manufacturing.
    LVAD is a pump used in patients with end-stage heart failure as a bridge while awaiting a heart transplant or as a destination therapy for those unable to go in for a transplant. India’s cardiac disease burden is about 60 million and the related fatality is close to 5 million a year.
    The alarmingly increasing cases of myocarditis — the heart muscle damage induced by the COVID-19 infection as well as mRNA vaccines — reported worldwide, including India, and the intense scarcity of deceased donor hearts are expected to worsen the situation further.
    Therefore, believe its (Hridayantra) backers, the purely indigenous technology and local manufacturing could reduce the cost drastically compared to imported brands of LVAD, which are priced up to Rs 1 crore.
    “Hridyantra sounds too Indian today, but it could soon be reckoned as a most impactful global med-tech convergence trend,” says Rakesh Bhargava, former chairman and managing director of German parenteral nutrition and oncology drugs maker Fresenius Kabi, and a noted alumni of IIT-Kanpur.
    Seed-funded by Infosys Foundation chairperson Sudha Murthy and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), such interdisciplinary projects could even be a trendsetter, catching attention of India’s other premium science and technology institutions, considering the huge unmet need for an affordable product and the potential of India’s young talent pool, says Bhargava.
    The research fellowship project inviting talents from young science and engineering graduates is initiated by the School of Medical Research and Technology (SMRT), a newly created interdisciplinary teaching and research platform in diverse areas of medical science and engineering, at IIT Kanpur. The project will have its clinical expertise coming from India’s large cardiac care institutions.
    Planned through a research fellowship model to select a team of innovators from science, medical and engineering graduates with relevant experience, the programme is mentored under a task force composed of industry experts. Therefore, if well consummated, the idea could probably be the best as it uses a collective pool of thoughts.
    “The selected innovator will receive a fellowship and a milestone-based ownership in the commercial entity once the indigenous LVAD is successfully commercialised and launched,” said Prof. Abhay Karandikar, Director, IIT Kanpur, adding that the institution wanted to realise a high impact project by supporting indigenous talent with critical R&D support.
    Sudha Murty’s office declined comments as her association with the project is purely from a health philanthropy perspective.
    For the selection of ideas, SMRT has created a high-powered task force comprising engineering faculty members from IIT Kanpur, a team of experts from the US medical devices industry, and clinical experts from All India Institute of Medical Sciences-Delhi, Narayana Health, Apollo, Fortis Healthcare, Medanta, KIMS, and UN Mehta Heart Institute, for this project, according to SMRT chief Prof. S. Ganesh.
    However, the real success of such projects will depend on the commercialisation part, say industry experts. “If successful, this could be a groundbreaking innovation in the rapidly growing global biomedical-technology convergence market (pegged at $64 billion by 2026),” said an industry analyst with a foreign brokerage firm focusing on medical technology stocks.
    Cardiovascular diseases are amongst the leading causes of human deaths worldwide. While India need indigenous technology to stop its heavy dependence on costly imports, the global market is also open for low cost but best regulatory-complied alternatives. Global LVAD market is currently valued at close to $3 billion and grows at 17 percent annually.
    — CH Unnikrishnan is Founder & Editor at Future Medicine India. Views expressed are personal.
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