Combating COVID-19 with innovative solutions, IIT Roorkee's business incubator launches Coronaoven, tracking app

Sulekha Nair

Three startups founded and focussed on niche technologies have decided to join with the request of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee and the state government to come up with innovations that would help combat COVID-19. Thus came about three unique products--to be made available in a short time in the market--hand sanitiser, corona oven-to sanitise surfaces and products, and an app to track quarantined patients.

Low-cost herbal sanitiser

When his family members complained of the shortage of sanitisers in the market in Roorkee, 29 year-old Siddharth Sharma decided to do what he does best. Make it himself. Sharma, a Ph.D research scholar at Centre of Nanotechnology and Vaibhav Jain, research scholar at Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at IIT Roorkee decided to get on with the task at Heal Agnostics that was co-founded by associate professors --Indranil Lahiri, and Debrupa Lahiri and Sharma.

Heal Agnostics Pvt Limited was launched in 2019. It was incubated at Technology Incubation and Entrepreneurship Development Society (TIEDS), IIT Roorkee, and is developing technology for early and quick detection of various type of cancers.  It makes affordable technologies for tissue regeneration, biomedical devices and early diagnosis of degenerative diseases and their bench-to-bedside translation.

Sharma and Jain wanted to make a low-cost hand sanitiser. "We decided to make a herbal sanitiser with anti-bacterial, anti-microbial agents, along with moisturiser. We started work on this project a month ago when the coronavirus cases were being reported in the country. We tested our products by asking our fellow colleagues to use and found it to be very effective. For manufacturing and distribution, we roped in the help of our fellow students--Satish Jaiswal, Kanike Rajesh, Dibyanshu Lahiri, Anshu Dubey, Souvik Ghosh, Nitam Kumar, Vishal Panwar who worked day and night for five days by distributing it within the campus and the Roorkee municipality."

Heal Agnostics gave away 300 litres they made by investing their funds in it. Soon, the product was developed on larger scale with funding from IIT Roorkee. At first, the hand sanitisers were made available  in 100 ml plastic bottles free of cost to everyone at the campus. But Sharma and Jain found plastic bottles were a bane as it was discarded after use and added to environmental pollution.

A huge plastic bottle was then been placed within the campus where anyone in the campus can bring their own individual bottle and fill it. So far, over 600 litres of sanitisers have been given free of cost. Around 10 litres has been given to Roorkee municipality.

Sharma said the bottles will be out for commercial use in the market soon.

Corona oven to sanitise surfaces

Log9 Materials, a Sequoia & Exfinity-funded startup, has come up with an innovative, first-of-its-kind product named CoronaOven that makes use of UV-C light in combination with significant design parameters. This helps to effectively sanitise the surfaces of various products/objects of regular use in healthcare and household settings, thus preventing surface-to-human transmission (of Covid-19 causing virus).

The firm, which has over 16 global patents, is a nanotechnology company that aims to revolutionise the energy sector with an innovative zero emission, low-cost aluminium-air fuel cell. It was incubated at IIT-Roorkee in 2015  by Akshay Singhal (26 years) and Kartik Hajela (24 year), who graduated  in metallurgical and chemical engineering, respectively.

Log9 Materials had to develop a new technology making it safe to test products and surfaces that posed a risk to coronavirus. Singhal says he heard of people keeping groceries in the sunlight so as to kill the germs in it. He decided to make a product that would make it easier to kill the virus.

The corona oven-a technology that Log9 came out within two weeks, was done beating the lockdown challenges, he said. "CoronaOven's patent pending proprietary design has been specifically engineered, by taking into consideration, the cell structure and other characteristics of the "Corona Family of Viruses". CoronaOven provides accurate and necessary energy on each point on the surface of an object to be decontaminated," Singhal said.

CoronaOven is made up of UV-C safe materials-- making it operations safe and ensuring UV-C blockage to ensure that outside personnel do not get affected with the UV-C light. For example, the UV-C doesn't start till the chamber is closed which is made sure using the right switches. Also the internal surface of the chamber is completely reflective and the main body is made-up of UV blocking material to make sure proper safety is maintained for outside personnel.

The oven is available in two variants and will cost around Rs 8,000 and Rs 14,000.

In 2017, Singhal and Hajela set up Log9 Materials in Bangalore in 2017. Pankaj Sharma, a scientist with over 17 years' experience in drug discovery, nano-biotechnology and molecule simulations, serves as a co-founding advisor. The company has developed a fuel cell prototype that can power an automobile for 1,000 km with zero waste and zero emissions and works in energy, and filtration.

One of its famous products is an attachable plug-in filter for cigarettes which incorporates 'nanocomposite filter' made out of graphene particles in a bio-safe plastic casing. The filter has been proven to reduce the toxins in cigarette smoke by up to 50 percent, without compromising in terms of the user experience; each filter is reusable up to 4-5 times. The product is available in e-commerce stores.

App to track COVID-19 quarantined persons

Raven Eye, an incubated startup founded by Prof Kamal Jain of IIT Roorkee, had earlier developed an app to locate one's vehicle. Called FindMyVehicle, the app helps persons to locate their vehicles. It has been in use for over 8 years. When TIEDS made a request to come up with a product to provide relief during COVID-19 outbreak, Jain decided to customise the FindMyVehicle app technology. The unique tracking mobile application uses geo-fencing technology and the system sends an alert to the authorities if any individual violates quarantine. In case the network is not available, the application will send alert through SMS, he said.

The app can be used by government and hospitals. It can also be used to alert the government of a crowd when the lockdown is in force.

The 60-year-old professor's hobby is to come up with solutions using electronics, machine learning, etc. He has over 50 patents so far which are largely used by his Ph.D students and some like the large scale mapping of land is used by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and Uttarakhand for its smart city.

Platform for innovators

With the outbreak of coronavirus in the country, the government was looking for solutions. The state government approached TIDES Business Incubator at IIT-Roorkee, asking them for assistance by developing technologies and medical devices on a war footing for COVID-19 relief. TIEDS has been established to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the region.

"TIEDS Business Incubator plays a catalytic role in encouraging spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation. By designing equipment for diagnosis, treatment and safety, we are gearing to meet the challenges in this crisis," said Azam Ali Khan, CEO, TIDES, IIT. Some of these innovations were made in less than 10 days and will be out in the market in the next week while a few others will be out in a few week's time.

"It is heartening to learn that our incubated companies, past and present, are coming forward to tackle COVID-19. We stand with the government at this critical juncture," said Ajit K Chaturvedi, Director, IIT Roorkee.

Other innovations in the pipeline are low-cost ventilators, smart helmets for health workers and doctors among other products.

Akshay Dwivedi and Arup Das, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, along with AIIMS Rishikesh have developed a low-cost, portable closed-loop ventilator. Named, 'Pran Vayu', the ventilator has feedback that can control tidal volume and breaths per minute. Some of the features of the ventilator are remote monitoring by health professionals, touch screen control of all operating parameters, moister, and temperature control for inhaled air. The ventilator has generated extraordinary interest from the industry community with several offers for manufacturing in scale. The team has also developed face shields which can be used by health workers/ doctors while treating COVID-19 patients.

Shellios, a smart helmets startup, founded by Alumnus Amit Pathak, is developing a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) which can be used by health workers and doctors to counter infection in the hospital premises. They are also separately working on another model of low-cost respiratory aid. Vyaan, a cleantech startup, led by a group of IIT R Alumni, is developing an extremely low-cost reusable mask which can be made available in mass quantity. Both Shellios & Vyaan are incubated and seed funded by TIDES BI.

Test right Solution, founded by Alumnus Shubham Rathore, is developing a Real Time PCR and virus detection kit. This indigenously developed system is expected to be floated at one-fourth of the cost and would multiply the number of tests conducted, by enhancing the existing hospital and lab facilities available in the country. TBS Planet, a media tech start-up at IIT Roorkee, is providing free online subscription of its comics to motivate children during the lockdown period.

Also See: Bacardi India plans to produce 70,000 litre of hand sanitisers; to be distributed to govt hospitals

Coronavirus Outbreak: Rohit Sharma donates Rs 80 lakh to help India get 'back on feet' in fight against COVID-19

Coronavirus Outbreak: Arvind Kejriwal announces Rs 1 crore to kin of healthcare workers who die while treating COVID-19 cases

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