BENGALURU: When city-based cancer surgeon, Dr Vishal Rao, invented the Rs 50 voice box called AUM Voice Prosthesis, which helps throat cancer patients speak again, he was not aided by any engineer.
He did not know how to collaborate with them or where to find them. Today, he has founded the Bengaluru chapter of US-based group Docs and Hackers to connect innovative doctors with technology builders.
Thankfully for Dr Rao, his friend Shashank Mahes, an industrial engineer, extended support in manufacturing the 25 gm voice box, about a cm long, at his silicone manufacturing plant in 2015. The voice box has to be inserted with a wooden inserter, built by a Channapatna toy maker Kausar Pasha. Today, 150 throat cancer patients, whose voice box (larynx) was surgically removed, can speak again.
Dr Rao had to do a two-year clinical trial and get approval from the Central Drug Controller for producing these devices. He wants doctor-innovators to get guidance and help from the tech community in the city to enable their solutions reach patients. “It is not easy to bring doctors and engineers together. That’s when we decided to form a forum where we can bring the two together,” Dr Rao said.
“Ankit Gupta, founder of Docs and Hackers in the US reached out to me after he heard my TED talk on AUM. He had already been connecting doctors and entrepreneurs in the US, so we thought of starting a Bengaluru chapter of the same,” Dr Rao said. As of October this year, Docs and Hackers in the US has 1,800 members who are either doctors, hackers or both.
“Saumya Gaur of Unitus Ventures said that a lot of companies with innovative solutions approach them for funding. She said that for venture funding they look for a doctor’s involvement in the product and collaborative strength in the team before investing. So we decided to collaborate and start the Bengaluru chapter of Docs and Hackers for people with a potential to help,” Dr Rao said. The group is not just for doctors as the name goes. The group conists of people from healthcare and other sectors too.