A start-up born at the IIT-Madras Incubation Cell has bagged a million dollar order from a Singapore-based company to transfer technology used by its first two products. The key focus of the technologies is clinical training using virtual patients so that actual treatment becomes safer.

The two products — “Laparoscopy Surgical Simulator with Haptics Feedback” and “In-Vitro Fertilisation Training Simulation with Haptics Feedback” — are expected to change the way doctors are trained to make the patient safer. While high-end simulators with haptics feedback cost around Rs 2 crore in the international market, these new technologies integrating virtual reality with haptics (interaction involving the sense of touch), home-grown in IIT-Madras’ Touch Lab, will cost just about Rs 30-35 lakhs.

The start-up Merkel Haptics was formed in 2011 to convert lab work into products, and Touch Lab at the Applied Mechanics Department of IIT Madras was founded to research the sense of touch.

Prof M Manivannan, Founder and principal investigator of the lab, said: “The Touch Lab is unique and the only touch lab in India. This project started when I visited CMC Vellore. I was watching how laparoscopic surgery was done. The idea of a laparoscopy surgical simulator with haptics feedback was converted into a PhD thesis and a prototype was developed in the lab in five years. It was then taken to the company (Merkel) to develop it into a product to make it commercially viable.”

The project received Rs 60 lakh from the government. CMC Vellore provided chemical advisory input and carried out the preliminary validation of the product. It was patented in 2012-13. “The second product – In-Vitro Fertilisation Training Simulation — has been commissioned by Innov4Sight Health and Biomedical Systems Put Ltd, Singapore,” said Merkel Haptic Systems Pvt Ltd CEO P B C Paul.

“Our objective is go for an Indian company transfer so that the Indian customer can afford these products. We went for this Singapore-based company as it has a huge base in India and, also, the company got an order from the Singapore government for the In-Vitro Fertilisation Training Simulation product,” Paul added.

“Actual training is happening on real patients and there is always scope for mistakes. This is what is happening in all clinical training, with risk of injury. Our technology will replace the real patient with a virtual patient and doctors can practice on the virtual patient any number of times until they master the skill so that the real patient is safer,” Manivannan said.

“The Medical Council of India has made skill labs mandatory. But this virtual technology with haptics feedback is not available in India and foreign companies are making a lot of money,” Manivannan added.

According to Paul, these products will not cost more than Rs 35 lakh to Rs 40 lakh. He said this was also “a much better technology and (the need for) after-sales support is almost negligible”.

Source: Times of India