This device aims to tackle ventilator-associated pneumonia

Nachiket Deval , a National Institute of Design graduate, had always wanted to make a medical device that would be of use to the masses. He also tried to make one for his thesis project. The natural progression for Deval was to start a company after a few stints in a couple of design and engineering jobs.

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But he first had to find a problem to solve. That’s where the Stanford India Biodesign programme came in. He and his cofounder Nitesh Jangir spent three months in a hospital in Bengaluru, observing the various pain points. Finally, they settled on tackling Ventilator Associated Pneumonia (VAP).

VAP is a lung infection that might happen when people are on mechanical ventilation breathing machines in hospitals. Thus, Coeo Labs began in October 2014.

“Patients in ICU for a primary ailment often get a secondary pneumonia infection. This is a hospital-acquired infection. Almost six lakh patients develop this every year. The mortality is around 30-40 percent. This increases the ICU stay by a minimum four days. This adds much burden on the family. This led us to startup,” said Deval.

The solution that the duo came up with is an electronic machine called VAPCare, connected to a disposable tubular structure, and can control the suctioning based on the sensor input. The machine can also do oral cleansing based on user-defined timing. That helps maintain hygiene by rinsing out the oral cavity with an antibacterial solution through the tubular structure.

“Patients on a ventilator are sedated and are unconscious and hence they do not have cough and gag reflexes. All these get collected in the oral cavity. These seep into the lungs and cause contamination. These bacteria cause infection leading to pneumonia,” said Deval. “Currently, nurses do suctioning through a tube-like device, and the effectiveness depends upon the nurse’s skill. Could we make this process-driven instead of individual-driven?”

Coeo Labs has received the Government of India’s Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council’s (BIRAC) Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG) and the Small Business Innovation Research Initiative (SBIRI) grant. The startup was also one of the winners of the recently concluded Elevate 100 programme of the Karnataka government.

“They are addressing a very deep healthcare related issue. Patients, although they have gone to ICU for something else, develop pneumonia and a huge number of deaths occur due to this. It is completely underestimated. It is a global need….and the concept is good,” said Taslimarif Saiyed, CEO of Bengaluru based bio-incubator C-CAMP. Coeo Labs will soon commercially sell VAPCare.

The startup has filed three patents and is on the path to receive its CE certification. The founders are also working on another product called Saans. This is a mechanical device to maintain respiration and oxygenation in premature neonates with respiratory problems.

The device can be powered in multiple ways – through batteries, compressed gases, an ambulance’s DC electrical supply, and manually. Saans is still undergoing various trials.

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