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This Bengaluru-based start-up can diagnose drug-resistance in tuberculosis patients in just few hours

RA Chandroo

Nearly 1.7 million die of tuberculosis each year, and one-third of that number is from India alone. Reason? The infectious disease takes too long to be detected in many cases and in most, at least four weeks. And treating this affliction takes even longer — antibiotics over period of six to nine months. To make things worse, certain drugs turn out to be ineffective to treat the particular patient, and the doctors have to restart the whole process all over again! That’s where start-up AarogyaAI comes in.

The Bengaluru-based company has developed a time and cost-effective test, using genomics and artificial intelligence, to diagnose drug-resistance in TB patients and enable effective medication. The start-up eliminates the trial and error process and gives a report in just few hours. They also come with lower rates at Rs.9,000-12,000, which is much more affordable against the industry average of Rs.20,000.

“So far, these tests have been through capital-intensive heavy machines requiring specific experts. Such luxury can only be found in big cities,” says Dr. Praapti Jayaswal, co-founder and CEO of the company. She adds that when it comes to certain regions in the hinterland, patients have to visit a primary healthcare centre to submit their sputum sample. By the time the samples reach a bigger hospital in the closest cities, more than 70% of these become unfit for testing.

Jayaswal has tested her SaaS (software as a service) product at major diagnostic labs across cities. The aim is to make the test available at the remotest corners of the country and at affordable prices. To achieve this, Jayaswal has approached the Central TB Division of the Health Ministry and they strongly hope to garner government support to scale up. Meanwhile, they have already procured the data and built partnerships with Genotypic and CCAMP in Bengaluru, Lifeline Laboratories, Indian Spinal injuries Centre and Sir Gangaram Hospital in Delhi; and Foundation of Medical Research, IQVIA in Mumbai. 

The start-up is well-funded by UK-based Entrepreneur First and San Francisco-based Illumina, and the the founders are targeting revenue of Rs.60-100 million in FY21. They also plan to tie-up with six more labs/hospitals and three state programs in the coming year. With a PhD in tuberculosis research from Translational Health Science and Technology Institute and a 12-year experience in medical research, Jayaswal is on her mission to ‘change the world’ along with her co-founder, Avlokita Tiwari. And, they aren’t just stopping here. AarogyaAI will also be developing tests for other anti-microbial diseases such as urinary tract infection and cholera in the next phase of growth for the company.