Bengaluru-based startup AIndra to tackle low screening rates of cervical cancer.Bengaluru | RNW | By J Vignesh, ET Bureau | 5 Feb, 2016, 02.00 PM IST.
In India, the availability of cancer screening apparatus and expertise is limited to only fairly large cities, which means that the rest of the country has to travel to these cities to get their screening done. But with the mushrooming of healthcare startups, aid might well be on the way. One such startupis Bengaluru-based AIndra Systems, an artificial intelligence-based startup, which has set its sights on tackling the low screening rates of cervical cancer."We wanted to address cervical cancer with our expertise in artificial intelligence. Cervical cancer is not an aggressive cancer, it has a long gestation period of atleast 10-15 years, yet one woman dies every seven and a half minutes because of cervical cancer in our country," said Adarsh Natarajan, founder and CEO of AIndra Systems.AIndra Systems has been around since 2012, but was into using computer vision to tackle the attendance issue in the midday meals scheme for the Government of Karnataka. They came up with a facial recognition solution for the same. Then they moved onto vocational training, IT and textile verticals. Around this time, Natarajan had a chance to interact with A Vijaysimha, CEO of OneBreath, a medical device company, who stressed the need for indigenous medical device."We felt that the gargantuan problem could be automated by AI. When a sample from a far flung area goes to a tertiary oncology centre for screening, the results take atleast four to six weeks to come back," said Natarajan. The time taken results in low rates of prevention.The AIndra device banks on the pap smear test, a method of cervical screening to detect potentially cancerous cells. The cells are first smeared on a glass slide and stained with a chemical reagent (pap stains) and put under a digital microscope.The setup has an on board computing unit, which classifies the sample as either normal or abnormal and sends it to a pathologist to confirm the findings. The pathologist can either endorse the view of the machine or reject it. This reply is remembered by the machine and thereby self-learns so as to build a database. The whole process takes less than a day's time.The startup has already partnered with Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology and Cancer Care India, an NGO, for conducting on-field trials, and is also in advanced talks with St. John's hospital."The idea that one can screen for cervical cancer is in itself powerful, what AIndra is doing is game changing innovation. It has the potential to change the scenario in India," said KC Bhushan, senior advisor at social enterprise incubator Villgro. Villgro has invested in the startup. AIndra's solution will be available for less than five lakhs.