Cancer is definitely among the most troubling illnesses in the world. Global medical teams are working to develop methods for effective diagnosis and therapy and trying to get the maximum number of people treated for this disease as quickly as possible. Making a mark in such a demanding ecosystem through one’s expertise, innovation, and sheer compassion, is a remarkable feat indeed.
That’s what inspired us to speak to Dr. Subasis Sarangi, founder of SIAMAF Healthcare – a cancer theranostics company. Dr. Sarangi walked us through his journey of building SIAMAF and the lessons he learned along the way.
Why Cancer Nanomedicine?
While working as the principal investigator of the Imaging Systems Laboratory at St. John’s Medical College Hospital and Research Institute in Bangalore, Dr. Subasis Sarangi, a Ph.D. in superconductivity and nanomagnetism, realized that his work on magnetic nanotechnology could be applied to the development of radiation and chemical-free solutions for cancer diagnosis and therapy. Importantly, he wanted to keep this solution affordable to the majority of the Indian population. This resolve led to the birth of SIAMAF.
Identifying Patient Needs to Arrive at a Product Idea
Cancer is undoubtedly one of the biggest problems in the modern world, says Dr. Subasis Sarangi. It has been estimated that 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Close to 2 million new cancer cases are diagnosed each year in India and 20 million worldwide.
The subsequent problem is the cost of cancer care in India. Standard cancer care in the country is expensive and can cost patients 5 – 20 lakhs, making it unaffordable to most patients. Modern-day technology is also not widespread, making it inaccessible. Most cancer patients discontinue treatment due to unaffordability and inaccessibility, observes Dr. Sarangi, which is unfortunate.
Cancer treatment is also highly stressful for the patients and their caregivers. It requires all-round management, with oncologists, surgeons, physicians, radiotherapists, counsellors, and palliative care management, not to mention the side effects of radiation and chemicals.
Dr. Subasis Sarangi recognized that the need of the hour is to develop affordable and accessible treatment solutions that also relieve the side effects caused by current radiation and chemical-based treatment. SAIMAF’s vision is to enable faster recovery for cancer patients and reduce the mental, physical, and financial burden on patients and their families using magnetic nanotechnology solutions.
Building a Solution From an Idea
Building the solution was quite demanding and complex, says Dr. Sarangi. The medical device that was being developed fell into the category of Class 2, and the process required multiple iterations until satisfactory results could be obtained.
The product went through different stages of development like proof of concept, prototyping, MVP development, and so on, and also additional processes that are required when building healthcare products, like approval from the ethical committee to conduct clinical trials, approval from CDSCO for a manufacturing license, validation, and publication of clinical data, and so on.
SIAMAF faced similar challenges that MedTech companies face and tackled them with a team of scientists, engineers, business developers, and clinicians with experience in nanotechnology and biotechnology and a strong network of partners like MSMF who took SIAMAF in as an incubatee and helped them at every stage of development.
As closing advice, Vishnu Vardhan state that for a product to be successful, it has to solve a pressing problem of the customer. When such a product gets the light Then, if the product is right for them, they will make it a success.
Launching Market-Ready Solutions
Dr. Sarangi sees a lot of promise in Magnetic Nanotechnology with great potential in the field of cancer research and treatment.
SAIMAF’s first product, MafPro, is an ultrasensitive hand-held magnetic probe system for the staging and localization of breast, uterine, head & neck, and colorectal cancer. The device uses nanomagnetic sensing technology to detect the exact location of the tumour accurately and also determine how far the cancer has spread.
Their second product, MafCyto, is a novel magnetic blood filtration system that helps treat cytokine release syndrome – a life-threatening condition in cancer, sepsis, and COVID-19 patients. The device can perform magnetic blood filtration to remove cytokines, toxins, pathogens, cells, and other targets directly from a patient’s bloodstream using a magnetic nanoparticle-based filtration system.
Lessons from SAIMAF's journey for MedTech startups
Dr. Sarangi considers the MedTech sphere as definitely challenging but also fulfilling. Here’s his advice for MedTech startups, drawn from his experience building SIAMAF from the ground up:
- Developing medical products is expensive and time-consuming. MedTech entrepreneurs should have patience and faith in their vision.
- Medical products have a longer product life cycle when compared to many other consumer-based products. If you have an innovative idea and work hard, your product will have the potential to capture the market.
- Finding the right talent for developing a medical product is a challenge due to the
Multidisciplinary nature of the field. Entrepreneurs should, however, take the time and build the right team.
- Introducing new medical products needs acceptance from clinical practitioners, which can take some time. Have patience.
- Developing a medical product needs stringent quality requirements to be satisfied – a high degree of accuracy, reliability, robustness, and redundancy. It is highly recommended not to cut corners.
MedTech is a promising field in India, with the government backing projects through funds and policies like Atmanirbhar. Since India is a heavily populated country, MedTech solutions are also an immediate requirement. Dr. Subasis Sarangi encourages young entrepreneurs and startups to find innovative ideas and help the medical community grow for the betterment of the country and the world.
About The Author
Dr. Subasis Sarangi received his Ph.D. from IISc, where he studied superconductivity and nanomagnetism. Following this, he pursued his postdoctoral research at the University of Houston and Texas Medical Center, with a focus on cancer nanomedicine. Throughout his academic life, Dr. Subasis Sarangi’s core research topic has always been the use of magnetic nanotechnology for radiation and chemical-free cancer diagnosis and therapy.
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