Kerala wants research to set the stage for affordable medical devices

The state government is working on a plan to convert research papers emerging from universities and other institutions into useful and affordable medical products and devices for the general public .
For representational purposes. (File Photo)
For representational purposes. (File Photo)

KOCHI:  The state government is working on a plan to convert research papers emerging from universities and other institutions into useful and affordable medical products and devices for the general public.
‘Knowledge translation’, the idea of converting knowledge into useful products, will help in the manufacture of cutting-edge medical devices such as dental implants, orthopaedic implants, blood bags, etc, in the state, top officials told TNIE, adding that the government will coordinate with various departments to achieve its goal.

The entire initiative is being coordinated by the Thiruvananthapuram-based Kerala Medical Technology Consortium (KMTC), an initiative of the state government to accelerate medical-device manufacturing and technology by fostering an ecosystem of knowledge-sharing between research organisations, academic, industrial, and healthcare institutions, and the government. 

The project aims to come up with medical products that are either used for diagnosis or treatment or that are helpful for people with disabilities, said C Padmakumar, special officer of KMTC.  “The usefulness of knowledge is only realised when it is converted into a product. Even now, we import 75% of products and medical devices, which are costly. If we translate the knowledge generated in universities into commercially usable products, more people will benefit from it,” said Padmakumar.

KMTC has taken the proposal forward by unifying the departments of health, medical education, higher education, industries, and other agencies. Dr Harikrishna Varma, head of biomedical technology at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, said a link between various departments is essential in producing such devices. 

“Research and findings should not end up in labs. It should reach the people. And the cooperation of industries is important in translating knowledge into useful medical devices. KMTC holds regular meetings with various stakeholders,” said Dr Harikrishna. The industries department will support the manufacturing of products and medical devices, said Padmakumar. “Kerala has more than 25 companies that produce high-quality products and services in the medical field. We will collaborate with these companies,” he said. 

These products do not include high-end drugs, which require huge funds and extensive research, something that only multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical companies can hope to conjure up.
He said research conducted in universities and laboratories, and problem statements from hospitals will be the source of data. “The health and medical education departments are working through agencies, including multidisciplinary units in medical colleges.

We also bring together research institutions, medical colleges and industries. When all of them collaborate, we get a final product,” said Padmakumar. Dr Harikrishna said the benefits of the initiative would reach the general public only if it is supported by the government.  “This is a good initiative. As it is a government initiative, everybody will benefit,” he added.

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