The Optimist Citizen

A duo from Hyderabad invents a device that reduces mortality due to jaundice in newborn babies

About 0.75 million newborn babies die every year in India, the highest for any country in the world. Jaundice has been a lifetaker of the first degree of the newborns. Akitha Kolloju and Prasad Muddam ventured into making nLite 360, a neonatal healthcare device that ensures these babies get a new lease of life.

The Problem

About 90 per cent of newborn babies will become jaundiced two or three days after birth (as per a data by Fortis Health Care). The new-born generally secrete more bilirubin than adults in the initial few days after the birth. The human liver filters bilirubin from the bloodstreams. The newborn-immature liver cannot filter bilirubin rapidly, which leads to the spike of bilirubin levels. Eventually leading to jaundice.

neonatal care

Generally, mild jaundice settles on its own within two to three weeks. However, for moderate jaundice, the infant requires hospitalization. The treatment includes phototherapy where the newborn is placed under a special lamp which emits light in the blue-green spectrum. However such medical care is neither accessible nor affordable in rural parts of the country. Resulting in ill health or mortality of the infants. The issue hence raises concerns or the current scheme of things with respect to neonatal care.

Initial Efforts

Akitha Kolloju, a Biomedical engineer and Prasad Muddam, an industrial designer were taken aback by this data. And quickly do use their respective knowledge-cum-expertise to find a solution. They quickly immersed themselves in finding a solution. They frequented hospitals both private and Government around the tribal hamlets to understand the unmet need in rural pockets of India. 

Prasad working on the prototype of the neonatal care device

It was observed that people from rural areas are unable to afford the care for high-risk jaundice review. A baby infected with a high-risk condition could face life long illness or worse if proper medical care is not given. The problems do not vanish even if an individual has the funds for treatment. There is either lack of tech or lack of experience to use this tech. The erstwhile technologies undergo a tedious process due to the bulk of devices which assess the newborn. Each device performs specific functions like testing blood, administering phototherapy, and receiving feedback on kids’ health. Moreover, the existing tech is not accurate enough either.

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The Invention

The duo brainstormed and developed nLite360 to overcome these shortcomings. The device eliminates the use of multiple devices and substitutes it with one. nLite 360 is affordable, durable, portable and most important of all accurate. The device can provide help for mild to severe jaundice. It uses an AI-based algorithm which assesses and customises the treatment as per the baby. The design of the device can accommodate both the mother and the baby. It is made such that the baby can be with the mother during the phototherapy without exposing her. This allows the baby’s breastfeeding cycle to stay uninterrupted. Treatment can also be done within home care or in rural care. Making the treatment accessible even for remote untapped areas of the country. 

A neonatal care device developed by Akitha and Prasad
File picture of NLite 360 – A neonatal care device developed by Akitha and Prasad

“With this, we expect to impact 42 million newborn lives.” mentions Akitha, “we will be reducing 60% of the jaundice cases and also reduce 40% of the readmission cases thereby making lives better for our future heroes”

Awards and Recognition

The prototype has been made and. Nlite360 is now a minimal viable product. Healthcare products take a lot of time to be manufactured since there are many checks like ethics and regulatory approval. A patent is filed and the duo awaits the grant. So far only lab tests are done however clinical tests will only be possible after the approval. But the strong success backed by data is tipping in their favour.

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The duo is now in talks with clinical hospitals who are actively waiting for the approvals and once they get a green card for clinical trials these partners will accommodate them to conduct the trials on humans. Their product has also grabbed the attention of Telangana govt who are interested to launch the product in their state.

The duo was further recognized and awarded the 3M-CII YICA award 2020. The feeling of being the top 7 from 2500 applicants was a great experience for the duo..“It is a great opportunity to showcase our product to the masses and the outreach through the 3M-CII YICA platform will give visibility to their innovation and provide mileage to seek support from the network, develop the product further and launch into the market,” says Akitha.

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