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This biotech engineer is on a mission to create human organs using 3D tech

Firoza Kothari, co-founder and CTO, Anatomiz3D Medtech
Mumbai-based Firoza Kothari, co-founder, Anatomiz3D Medtech, dreams of doing research work and fabricating organs in a lab using human cells. The 28-year-old, who as a child wanted to be a doctor just like her grandfather, has come  long way since. That dream failed to take off as she realised that she couldn't stand the sight of blood.

But that did not stop her from pursuing a career in healthcare. Early last month, Anatomiz3D signed up with Apollo Hospitals Enterprise to establish 3D-printing labs in its hospitals. Anatomiz3D will collaborate with Apollo Hospitals for design and printing of complex implants for domestic and international markets. 

Kothari has built a distinctive startup and has emerged as one of India's  leading patient specific solution provider to the healthcare industry for design, 3D printing, prototyping and bioprinting technologies. 

With a biotechnology engineering background, Kothari began her journey in 3D printing after doing monotonous work in the pharma industry. During her six-month internship post college at pharmaceutical company Lupin, where she was working on monoclonal antibodies, she realised this was not what she wanted to pursue. “While biotechnology was really exciting theoretically, it was monotonous to work in the field then,” says Kothari. So she tried hands at a sales job at a pathological company, but even that did not excite her. 

So in 2015 she started working at a medical 3D printing company, Sahas Softech, started by her brother Sohrab Kothari and his friend Sagar Shah. It  was here that she took up her first case of creating the heart model of a six-month-old baby using 3D. “It involved understanding the technology, the material, its applications, reading CT/MRI scans and converting them into 3D models in a way that surgeons can visualise it. This 12-day period was really exciting and I knew this was my calling,” she says. 

This was the first case of 3D printing in paediatric cardiology in which the patient’s MRI scan was turned into a CAD model, with which the team were able to design a replica of the baby’s heart. They were then able to 3D print the model with two different views necessary for the surgery. 

This gave Kothari a boost and she started exploring the use of 3D in other surgeries. Realising the immense potential of 3D printing in healthcare, Sahas Softech formed a separate entity called Anatomiz3D Medtech in 2016, a one-stop solution for all medical products involving 3D printing. Kothari became the cofounder and CTO of this startup. 

The company has so far served 1,400 cases making 3D models of patients' body parts, assisting doctors to study the organ without opening up the patient in the operation theatre. This way doctors can study and plan the procedure knowing exactly what to expect in the OT. 

“Advances in 3D printing technology today produce customised, lighter, stronger, safer and higher performing products with lower lead times and costs. This gives doctors with a better understanding of their patients and improves patient comfort level with products that are designed especially for their anatomy. Patient-specific design of implantable devices and surgical tools will help optimize surgical processes and costs,” said Sangita Reddy, Joint Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals Group.

“This is just the beginning and as the technology continues to develop, we will see the unlocking of the full potential of 3D-printing in healthcare,” Reddy added.

According to Kothari, surgeries done with the assistance of 3D models reduced the OT time and  surgeons are able to perform the surgery faster as they study the anatomical models beforehand. 

Keeping her childhood dream aside, she now has a new dream -- to do research work and fabricate organs in a lab using human cells. “There are loads of challenges but 30-40 years down the line, there is a possibility of this becoming a reality and we might not need organ donors one day,” she says. 

The company is also planning to enter the education space with 3D models to help upcoming surgeons practice and prepare themselves better for the future. “They would not have to wait for cadavers for practice and each medical student would have the opportunity to practice individually rather than congregating around one cadaver,” said Kothari. 

Anatomiz3D has so far raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from Pune-based 3D Incredible and is now planning to raise a Series A this year.

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