Pune: Close to two and half years ago, a scientist decided to turn into an entrepreneur to work towards his goal of developing a game-changing technology to detect Tuberculosis. Behind the motivation was the years of research work on the deadly disease by Dr Dhiman Sarkar, Senior Principal Scientist, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s National Chemical Laboratory (CSIR-NCL), Pune, who has 81 publications and 47 patents to his credit.
The result of the initial intense deliberations between him and his co-founder, the lecturer turned entrepreneur, Mrs Manikankana Sarkar Bandyopadhyay led to the formation of a startup, Annweshan SciTech, on 13th January 2015. It was followed by the immediate steps towards developing the prototype of the product based on the years of research by Dr Sarkar.
One of the important aspects of TB being so deadly is the large number of “missed-out” cases during testing, because of which these suspected TB patients do not receive timely treatment. The founders also believe that a lack of understanding between so-called experts about the usefulness of conventional methodologies in evaluating any novel, game-changing diagnostic technology has been a drawback. To circumvent this problem, Dr Sarkar discovered a novel method of detection in the year 2011. He tried it on suspected TB patients, and encouraged, by the preliminary results, decided to setup Annweshan SciTech to bring affordable TB diagnosis to the common people.
Dr Sarkar discovered a novel method of detection in the year 2011. He tried it on suspected TB patients, and encouraged, by the preliminary results, decided to setup Annweshan SciTech to bring affordable TB diagnosis to the common people.
Commenting on the need for a better diagnostic tool for TB, Manikankana mentions, “Tuberculosis is killing people every day throughout the world. According to a WHO report prepared in 2015, India is amongst the top 30 high burden countries. One of the problems was found to be “missed-out” cases during detection,” she continues, “So with our novel and simple technology, as developed through research, we wanted to help suspected missed-out cases of TB.”
Slow yet steady towards the goal
Over the past two years, Annweshan has generated data on approximately 1800+ samples, going beyond what was required for their BIG project. The primary focus at this moment is the second phase of data generation, which is critical to the validation process and in line with the requirements for the successful commercialization of their disease detection kit.
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the company to get to where it is today. The company was founded in 2015 under the Lab2Market program of Venture Center with the BIG grant from DBT-BIRAC and assistance from BIRAC’s partner, IKP. During this time, Venture Center helped them with creating a business plan and model, and with the technology transfer process from CSIR-NCL to Annweshan.
However, as is common with startups, the early days were quite chaotic and frustrating, with limited resources and finances. Among the key challenges faced by Annweshan during this initial period was a less-than-ideal lab space. “Our challenges were further compounded by the lack of an easily accessible BSL3 facility in Pune; thus, we had to spend a whooping sum for outsourcing and on travelling,” she reveals. However, after every initial struggle, there is always a silver lining, and the good part is that now the company has a concrete lab-space to work from.
Over the past two years, Annweshan has generated data on approximately 1800+ samples, going beyond what was required for their BIG project.