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Meet the Bengaluru man who developed a novel device to measure kidney functions in real-time

Meet the Bengaluru man who developed a novel device to measure kidney functions in real-time

Acute Kidney Injury is a sudden episode of kidney failure where it accumulates waste products and becomes unable to maintain electrolyte and water balance. Bengaluru-based Dilip Shankar developed AKICare, the only device across the world, that monitors kidney functions in real-time in critically ill patients to save the patients from dying.

AKICare device is a novel attachment to any traditional urinary catheter system that provides a new diagnostics tool for kidney function.

Acute Kidney Injury, also known as acute renal failure, is a sudden episode of rapid kidney damage occuring within a few hours or a few days. It causes a build-up of waste products in your blood and makes it hard for your kidneys to keep the right balance of fluid in your body. It affects other organs such as the brain, heart, and lungs. Acute kidney injury is common in patients in the hospital, in intensive care units, and especially in older adults.

Hospital-acquired AKI is associated with increased morbidity & mortality in 7-18 % of all critically ill patients. It is a global problem faced by both developed and developing countries. Additionally, we have hardly 200 nephrologists in a country of 1.4 billion population. Dilip Shankar of Accord Innovations developed AKICare that reduces chances of hospital-acquired Acute Kidney Injury by monitoring kidney function in real-time in critically ill patients.

Monitoring of kidney functions in critically ill patients

AKICare device is a novel attachment to any traditional urinary catheter system that provides a new diagnostics tool for kidney function. It analyzes urine in real-time to monitor renal perfusion status, thus preventing avoidable deaths and kidney injury of critically ill patients. The artificial intelligence & sensor-based system provides at-risk assessment to identify the need for intervention & disease progression. It evaluates responsiveness to treatment and provides accurate AKI staging for monitoring as per KDIGO recommendations.

Bengaluru-based Dilip Shankar developed AKICare, the only device across the world, that monitors kidney functions in real-time

The idea of AKICare was born in Bengaluru in 2019 and the full-flung activities kickstarted in 2020. The initial prototype has undergone multiple iterations since then. Dilip shares, “We conducted preliminary pilot tests under the able mentorship of doctors in Hyderabad.” The critical feedback helped him improvise the product and make it best-suited for the Indian market. The clinical trials are delayed owing to covid but should be underway soon. “Although there are emerging alternatives across the world, their cost is ridiculously high. However, AKICare is extremely cost-effective. The disposables cost around Rs 200 per patient,” adds Dilip.

Affinity for the healthcare industry?

Dilip grew up with an innovator’s mindset and pursued engineering. During his years at graduation, he learnt about the existence of different problems plaguing society. He went on to build around 150+ prototypes for different solutions. However, healthcare remained his top choice. He shared, “India imports around 80% of healthcare devices. We lack the capability and infrastructure to develop medical equipment.” Moreover, medical devices require specific regulatory checks and trial procedures to get approval.

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Dilip wished to transition from an innovator to an entrepreneur. His 18-month-long fellowship at C-CAMP & BIRAC – SPARSH, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, gave him opportunities to go for clinical immersion in hospitals. He visited different hospitals in three states to identify potential problems. He did so to figure out solutions and validate them with various experts. As part of the clinical immersion, Dilip identified 270 need statements and went through a range of existing problems. He zeroed in on the top 10 problems and validated solutions for the same. It was during a hospital visit for one of the 10 problems that I came across a problem.

The inception of AKICare 

During his clinical rotation at hospitals, Dilip understood the problems faced by doctors, patients, nurses and also the treatments, procedures followed at hospitals. His primary objective was to identify the patient pain points and unmet needs which has not been solved in healthcare. He was deeply moved to see the doctors, nurses, patients, and caretakers face debilitating effects of the condition. Various experts guided him in the process. Considering factors like criticality, potential social impact, regulatory, intellectual property and scope of innovation, a need statement of ‘Clinicians need a way to monitor kidney function in real-time to detect the onset of impending renal dysfunction’ was chosen.

Dilip recalls, “One day a patient named Ramesh was hospitalised for a kidney-related problem. During the hospital stay, Ramesh developed an additional complication apart from his existing problems. He needed laparoscopic surgery. On day 4 after surgery, he passed away.” This incident shook Dilip. Not many solutions are available in the market for the timely detection of acute kidney injury except the creatinine test. The test is manual. However, the current golden standard test fails to detect this problem as it’s late by 48- 72 hours. Hence, Dilip went about developing AKICare which is the only device in the world to monitor kidney functions in real-time. He validated more than 100 solutions before finalizing the final solution – AKICare.

Winning the Young Innovators Challenge Award 2021

Dilip is focused on tackling the biggest challenges in healthcare by developing the next generation of medical devices with smart sensors and artificial intelligence. His vision is to see kidney function monitors beside every patient in the hospitals. Talking about winning the Young Innovators Challenge Awards, he shares, “It is great to have won such a prestigious award. Our mentors have shown immense support for our work. They helped us in handholding and taking our innovation to another level.” Dilip believes that such awards would specifically help them with funding. This would assist him in realising the goal of bringing sophisticated medical devices into the Indian healthcare industry.

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