Web Exclusive
Pocket-friendly innovations from IITs join India's fight against Covid-19

‘Jeevan Lite’, a portable ventilator developed by a start-up incubated at IIT Hyderabad. The device is IoT-enabled and can be operated through a phone app
Fourth-year IIT-Gandhinagar student Amit Kumar had gone to his hometown in Kanpur in March before joining a Japanese-based e-commerce company, when the lockdown was announced. Even though the state issued curfew passes to grocery shops and milk parlours, there was a lot of chaos and locals did not know which shops were open and selling essentials in their area. 

“Getting staples and vegetables became risky because of the coronavirus scare and the lack of awareness about running services in our area,” says Kumar.

So Kumar and three of his other from IIT Gandhinagar started filtering data sourced from the city municipal corporation website on fruit, vegetables and milk shops in Kanpur that were open and were given curfew passes. “We realised that there were over 2,000 shops selling essentials that were open in the city,” he says. So, the team of students came up with an app in just two days called ‘Coshop’ on which a person can get contact details of the local grocery or medical shop that has an appropriate licence to deliver essentials. Using the app, one can either send the requirement list on WhatsApp or call the shopkeeper and tell him what se or she wants delivered home.

Some 50 families in Kanpur are already using this via the Coshop website, which operates as a non-profit set-up run by the students. Within next few days, the students plan to add shops in Indore, Tirupati, Rourkela, Ludhiana, Nagpur, Pune, Bhabaneshwar and Bhopal to their database. 

Like Kumar and his team, researchers and students at several other IITs across India have been coming up with low-cost or non-profit solutions during these times of crisis to help health workers and society at large.

Addressing the shortage of Covid testing kits, a five-member research team at IIT Delhi has developed real time PCR-kits which will not only increase the scale of testing in the country but will also be quite affordable, priced at around Rs 750 in the market. “Our testing kits have been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and will be sold for half the price of other PCR kits available in the market,” says Parul Gupta, who is part of the research team. The ideation and validation of the kits were done in a record 15 days. IIT Delhi is in talks with several corporates for tie-up to manufacture of the product on a large scale and roll it out in the market.

In an attempt to safeguard healthcare workers, a research group at IIT Guwahati has developed an affordable antimicrobial spray-based coating for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits. The coating can kill and prevent the spread of microbes once they come in contact with the PPE surface. A cocktail of metal nanoparticles such as copper, silver and other active ingredients present in the spray acts as an anti-microbial agent. This ensures limited penetration and accumulation of microbial contaminants on the PPE kits. The price of the spray is negligible--50 ml of the formulation costs just Rs 2.

Another concern of healthcare workers is the extended use of strapped and tight-fitting face masks which is painful to the ears.

To address this critical issue, another team at IIT Guwahati has 3D-printed an ear guard prototype and priced it at Rs 5 a piece.

“The design of the guard holds the face mask strap in a place without exerting pressure on the ear. Therefore, masks can be worn effortlessly for hours without pain or discomfort to the wearer. Using 3D printers, these ‘Ear Guards’ are being made in a free size to fit all,” says Biman B Mandal, an Associate Professor at the institute who has developed the product along with two Ph D scholars.

As the shortage of ventilators threatens to affect India’s response to Covid-19, Aerobiosys Innovations, a start-up incubated at IIT Hyderabad has developed a low-cost, portable ventilator called ‘Jeevan Lite’. This device, which is IoT-enabled and can be operated through a phone app, does not require the operators to come in direct contact with the patient and thus offers protection to healthcare providers. The start-up has priced the ventilator ar Rs 1 lakh and plans to produce 50-70 units a day through collaboration with a manufacturing partner. 

IIT Roorkee researchers have also developed a low-cost portable ventilator whose price is estimated to be Rs 25,000 per piece. ‘Prana Vayu’, as the ventilator is called, does not require compressed air and is useful when hospital wards are converted to ICUs. Some of the features of the ventilator are remote monitoring by health professionals, touch-screen control of all operating parameters, moister, and temperature control for inhaled air.

Start-ups incubated at IIT Madras have also started producing N95 masks and face shields to protect those who interact with infected patients. While AirOk Technologies has already donated 25,000 masks to Indraprastha Apollo Hospital and Medanta, The Medicity in NCR, IIT Madras students at Avishkar Hyperloop are 3D-printing 1,000 face shields by deploying thirty-five 3D printers. The masks have been designed in a way that enables them to help regulate the leakage of aerosols and other contaminants. “Our masks are UV-sterilized before packing and we have priced them at Rs 90,” says Deekshith Vara Prasad, Founder & CEO, AirOk Technologies.

Another team at IIT Madras team is manufacturing face shields using 'injection moulding' technology. The face shields, which are available at Rs 60 per piece, are light weight with minimal design. The makers have already distributed over 40,000 pieces till date.

In a response to fight Covid-19, the Department of Science & Technology has set up a rapid response centre at IIT Bombay. The idea is to identify up to 50 innovations and start-ups that are in the area of novel, low cost, and safe interventions to control the virus.

Institute Product  Cost
IIT Gandhinagar 
Essentials shop locator app  Free 
IIT Delhi 
Real time PCR kits  Rs 750 per piece
IIT Guwahati 
Antimicrobial spray for PPE kits  Rs 2 for 50 ml
IIT Guwahati 
3D printed ear guards for N-95 mask  Rs 5 per piece
IIT Madras  N-95 masks  Rs 90 per piece
IIT Madras  Face shields  Rs 60 per piece
IIT Hyderabad 
Low-cost ventilator  Rs 1 lakh per unit
IIT Roorkee 
Low-cost ventilator  Rs 25,000 per un'it
Sources: IITs

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel