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Low-cost test kits to sanitizing drones: IIT innovations to aid COVID-19 fight

Low-cost portable ventilators, affordable COVID-19 test kits, drones for sanitization, specialized digital stethoscopes and “infection-proof fabric” for hospitals — these are among key innovations by the Indian IITs across the country which are ready to hit the market.

The innovations were developed by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) during the last three months when the country was hit by the pandemic. The key innovations have taken commercial routes either through IIT-incubated startups or the premier institutes have given license to companies keeping the patent rights with themselves.

IIT Delhi, which became the first academic institute to get a nod from the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) for its COVID-19 test kit, has given non-exclusive open licence to Bengaluru-based biotechnology firm Genie Laboratories for commercializing the test, but with a price rider of Rs 500 per kit.

The kits, being manufactured at the Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone (AMTZ) in Vishakhapatnam, are expected to be available in the market in the next 10 days.

Another innovation by the institute, an “infection-proof fabric” to prevent hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) is being sent to various hospitals in Delhi and NCR in the form of bed sheets, curtains and uniforms by an incubated startup called “Fabiosys Innovations”. The innovation was earlier tested at AIIMS.

A “digital stethoscope”, developed by a team at IIT Bombay, that can listen to heartbeats from a distance and record them, minimizing the risk of healthcare professionals contracting the novel coronavirus from patients, is already available in the market.

The data or the auscultated sound from a patient’s chest is wirelessly sent to the doctor using Bluetooth, doing away with the need to go near to take readings.

Operating a startup called “AyuDevice” from the IIT’s technology business incubator, the team has sent 1,000 stethoscopes to different hospitals and healthcare centers across the country. The product is also available for sale at various stores.

An IIT Guwahati startup “Marut Dronetech” has developed two types of drones, which are being used by the Telangana government and various departments across the state. The drones are being deployed for spraying disinfectant in public spaces to prevent the coronavirus. They can disinfect 50 times more area than what can be done using traditional methods, the institute claimed. They have also developed public monitoring and warning drones which are fitted with a camera and speaker. These can be used to monitor places, especially with high disease prevalence for crowd gathering and give appropriate instructions to people, using fitted loudspeakers.

The institute’s design department has come up with a bamboo hospital furniture range, mass production of which is quick and low cost, to meet demands arising out of hospitalization of more people with the spike in coronavirus cases.

“The furniture can be used at primary health centers and makeshift isolation wards set up in places like indoor stadiums. It can be easily disposed of when the virus has been contained. Over 200 beds can be manufactured per day using the design. We have tied up with two local entrepreneurs for manufacturing,” a professor said.

IIT Kanpur has collaborated with ICICI Securities for the development of a low-cost ventilator innovated by two of its students and costing Rs.70,000, way cheaper than the ventilators available in the market costing Rs.4 lakh.  

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