Pune: Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) are the second most common infections in the human body. Globally 150 million people suffer from these infections. Half of all the women in the world suffer with UTI at least once in their lifetime. One in three women under age of 24 contracts UTI. The problem is clearly big and is further accentuated by the 2-3 days detection time the conventional “culture” takes. It becomes worse in rural settings, which are devoid of basic facilities, leave aside culture laboratory.
Now taking a big step in this direction is a small Pune based startup, Module Innovations. The company is developing USense, a platform based solution that detects the presence of 4 specific uropathogens (mainly 4, with E.coli responsible for maximum cases) in 30-60 minutes (48-72 times faster than culture) by a color change. USense can be deployed at the Point of Care and works without electricity. This can be used by a layman and should be highly affordable making it a product of choice for detection of UTI in rural and urban settings. This helps not only the urban labs and hospitals which are overloaded with patients but also the rural primary and secondary healthcare centers with severe lack of trained manpower and facilities.
There is a personal angle too. Story dates back to the inception of the company, when the Module Innovation founder, Sachin Dubey’s sister-in-law was pregnant. While the family was elated, the happiness didn’t stay for long as she was diagnosed with UTI. It took full 3 days when proper antibiotic could be prescribed. The 3-day ordeal was painful. This was the situation in one of India’s big city. It was impossible to imagine the plight of a patient from a town or a village in India. It was then we decided to intervene. The personal incidences backed by the facts indicating UTI to be a global problem made Sachin and his friends to take up the challenge and enter into this area.
The vision of Module is to make strip and solution based detection mechanisms for microbial detection in clinical and non-clinical environments. The detection platform being developed at Module can be used for detection of various viral and bacterial diseases. Module also presented a technology in collaboration with Prof Vincent Rotello from University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA to the Wellcome Trust’s Affordable Healthcare Programmed held at London. Here it is developing a colorimetric strip for detection of bacteria in water in less than 5 minutes, priced at less than Re 1.
Module derives its name from Mohit Dubey, Sachin’s elder brother, with its logo indicating fusion of two modules of nanotechnology and biotechnology to create endless opportunities. With the human and technological inspirations behind, Module was founded in June 2014.
Module has several achievements to its credit, the biggest of which include a 50 lakh grant from Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), Selection for the finale of the affordable healthcare India scheme by Wellcome Trust, UK, in collaboration with UMass, Amherst, Selection for the IIM-A, CIIE healthcare accelerator. The latest and the most outstanding as Sachin states, is winning the Unitus Seed Fund’s StartHealth-3 competition with a cash prize of Rs 10 lakhs and an opportunity for fund upto 2 crore.
“The journey so far has been a collage of happy and sad moments with challenges at numerous points. The government has been quite supportive for bringing out agencies like BIRAC, but apart from the financial support it was the mentorship that was critical. Module has been lucky to have Venture Centre, Pune and C-CAMP, Bangalore in their advisory board who helped bring in right advice, people and connect needed at appropriate times. Finding qualified and talented people, who share the founder’s vision of a startup, continues to remain a challenge,” said Mr Sachin Dubey.
Made in India and for the world
The vision of Module is to make strip and solution based detection mechanisms for microbial detection in clinical and non-clinical environments. The detection platform being developed at Module can be used for detection of various viral and bacterial diseases. The company aims to earn a name in quality diagnostic technology at affordable prices.
Talking about the challenges, Sachin added further, “Also we believe that funding biotech companies in the valley of death is critical to sustain the innovation atmosphere otherwise there will be a huge count of startups that will die. There is also a lacking of clear guidelines in terms of regulations and certifications for medical devices and an equivalent system like the US-FDA should be in place in India.”
Banking on positive outlook
Module is now seeking more funds as it plans to expand in terms of human talent, expanding the product portfolio and begin pilot studies of USense. It is open for collaboration with technical institutes, hospitals and government agencies. Module has been able to raise enough funds to sustain its operations and R&D efforts for bringing out innovative products. It has so far raised around 65 lakh from grants and awards and are in talks of raising another 50 lakh as seed fund. Company is looking at raising around 1crore for another 12 months to bring USense into a marketable form.
The company aims to earn a name in quality diagnostic technology at affordable prices. Leveraging the platform being developed for USense we plan to roll out multiple products aimed at diagnosis of several other viral and bacterial diseases in humans and animals. Products for pathogen detection in food to be used during the food processing while production and, on-shelves, saving millions of dollars for the industry also keeping consumers in perfect shape. Module plans to introduce Wellness products to be used at home keeping track of one’s health.
“The market opportunity is huge with Indian diagnostic market pegged at more than 2.5 billion US$, and with the startup India movement in full swing, we believe that we will be able to leverage and contribute to the mission of our PM Narendra Modi of “ Make in India” but we want to go an extra mile with our products” Made in India, for the world” says Sachin whose only dream is to contribute to states like Rajasthan, where he belongs and has been a witness to lack of healthcare facilities.
“The vision of Module is to make strip and solution based detection mechanisms for microbial detection in clinical and non-clinical environments. The detection platform being developed at Module can be used for detection of various viral and bacterial diseases. The company aims to earn a name in quality diagnostic technology at affordable prices.”
“Funding biotech companies in the valley of death is critical to sustain the innovation atmosphere otherwise there will be a huge count of startups that will die.”
Management Team at Module
The core team is small with three members and one more to be inducted soon, but is immensely supported by an eminent advisory board. (Pics in order) Sachin Dubey serves as the CEO, Usman Khan is the COO and Prajyot Gandhi handles the Marketing. Sachin and Usman are M Tech from CCT, University of Rajasthan while Prajyot is a MBA from IIM-Ahmedabad.