Dr Abhishek Sen and Dr Yogesh Patil, co-founders of Biosense, felt and experienced the problem of anemia up close during their medical posting. At tribal village, that was nearly 20 km away from the nearest Primary Health Centre (PHC), a large population amongst women was anaemic but due to inaccessibility and lack of roads, it was impossible for villagers to travel to the PHC to get their blood samples tested.
Despite being severly anaemic, women failed to recognize the signs of being anaemic, did not feel sick enough to justify a trip to the PHC & lose their daily wages.
It was clear that these anaemic women would end up risking not only their but also their infants life due to complications during pregnancy, primarily because the health setup fails to recognise them as anaemics at the first place, until its too late.
So if these women can't walk to the PHC, how about a doorstep worker going to the village? That's where the compliance of the existing tools was low. It was learnt from a health worker of the National Malaria Control Program that the rural population failed to co-operate in providing a blood sample to the health worker because there was no perception of being “sick”.
The immediate solution that comes to mind : Prophylactic treatment - lets distribute nutritional supplements to all.
But such drives have had only limited success, due to a number of reasons, clinical as well as behavioral. Therefore even with a high prevalence rate, prophylactic treatment has not proven to be the "one shot" cure that it appears it might be. What was really needed in the field, was an affordable, portable, easy to use (for the health worker) device, to enable affordable screening, regular monitoring and effective treatment control.
Abhishek and team started tinkering in their college dorm-room and began development towards such a device.
Together with a few friends - now co-founders of Biosense - Yogesh, Aman and Myshkin - he got shortlisted for the IIT techfest 2008, where the team Anaemedia was awarded the 2nd prize. The prize money was reinvested to improve the prototype. Anaemedia continued to participate in various competitions, with the core technology getting refined each time.
Anaemedia stood runners up at the Piramal Prize and were awarded incubation at the Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. In December 2008, Anaemedia was reincarnated as Biosense Technologies Private Limited.
It has been a winding road from those early days - overcoming technical hurdles in the quest for a truly appropriate, affordable, non-invasive tool to solve the anemia monitoring problem.
Here are a few "failed" versions, that nevertheless each taught the Biosense team something new, and helped refine the ToucHb technology.