April 22InterviewIssue

Adopting Accessibility, Affordability and Availability

UnivLabs has set out on a goal to develop cutting-edge, affordable medical equipment for the Indian and global markets to fulfil our mission of care for all. Sunil Singh, Founder and CEO, UnivLabs Technologies, reveals more about how is the company is helping to solve the unmet medical devices, in interaction with M Neelam Kachhap

What inspired you to establish UnivLabs and how the company is solving the unmet medical devices needs globally?
I used to work for a multinational medical equipment firm and had the opportunity to visit a few hospitals
during my time there. During one of these visits, I noticed overcrowded and suboptimal infrastructure in a
major public run hospital. One of the primary reasons for this deficiency is because the majority of medical devices originate in developed economies which have high input costs, thus remaining costly limiting the widespread and sufficient adaptation in emerging markets. This stirred a thought that India has sufficient intellectual as well as ecosystem capability to indigenously develop and manufacture routine as
well as high-end medical equipment. We have already proven our capability in the IT, auto, space, vaccines and Pharma sectors to name a few.

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Global firms have set proven benchmarks in technology and quality while the Internet has made knowledge
open. A product developed in emerging economies entails lower input cost without quality compromise thus keeping medical devices affordable compared to the ones originating in developed economies. This can help
improve infrastructure in both emerging and well-developed economies bringing qualitative benefit to everyone.
India being heavily dependent on imports I realised that by working for global corporations I am personally enriched but not able to make a larger impact on society at large and the healthcare field in general. With the above insights, UnivLabs was founded, and we set out on a goal to develop cutting-edge, affordable medical equipment for the Indian and global markets to fulfil our mission of care for all. Our current focus is on
surgical endo-Vision systems, novel urology surgical consumables and wearable pharma infusion pumps.

What was the rationale behind your move towards a career in medical devices?
The healthcare sector in India is starved of companies making medical devices and we mainly rely on imports. UnivLabs Technologies was founded on the concept of making medical equipment in our own country at a reasonable cost to make India self-sufficient and establish a trade balance.

The import of high-tech medical equipment results in the higher cost of healthcare delivery restricting the transfer of benefits of technology to every Indian. This insight resulted in the formation of UnivLabs Technologies, the vision of which is to provide worldclass novel medical devices for India and the world. UnivLabs has evolved with the philosophy of adopting 3 A’s i.e. accessibility, affordability, and availability. Both developed and emerging markets can benefit from our products. UnivLabs has established the foundation for being a long-term viable Indian medical device player.

How Univlabs’ 4K laparoscopy tower and laparoscopy towers are functioning in the operating rooms in India?
The UnivLabs 4K Laparoscopy Envision System has been validated in India’s leading tertiary care hospitals, including Medanta-The Medicity, Fortis, MAX, Manipal, and others. Over 113 multispecialty surgeries have been
performed, with an overall surgeon satisfaction rating of 4.3/5 for the product compared to the best in the world.
For more than three years, UnivLabs has been the market leader in laparoscopic tower subcomponents such as light sources, saline pumps, and insufflators, with over 2000 installations in India, the Middle East, and Africa.

What is the current scenario of healthcare innovations in India? What kind of change are you bringing to the Indian healthcare ecosystem?
The Indian healthcare sector is quite vibrant which includes healthcare providers, hospitals and pharmaceuticals. Unfortunate innovations in medical devices lag compared to global benchmarks and we as a country need to do a lot to catch up. The Indian government is supporting these healthcare breakthroughs through several initiatives with programmes like Biotechnology Industry Research  Assistance Council (BIRAC), Andhra  Pradesh MedTech Zone and many  others.

Pandemic has also galvanised the private sector still given the scale and regulations of the healthcare industry
the outcome will take time to become visible. UnivLabs is innovating in the field of surgical endo-vision and urology and we aim to make Indians independent in these fields. We are making these technologies more affordable for widespread adaptation of minimally invasive surgeries.

How will the new policy framed by the ICMR/DHR policy on Biomedical Innovation & Entrepreneurship for medical professionals at medical institutes across India promote startup culture and an innovation-led ecosystem at medical institutes?
We are confident that the ICMR/DHR approach would foster biomedical innovation and entrepreneurship in
medical colleges and institutes. Under this approach, innovators can serve as non-executive directors, scientific advisors, or consultants. They can work on inter-institutional and industrial projects and consultancies alone or through businesses. They may be able to sell technologies to enterprises, resulting in financial gain, commercialisation, and societal benefits. They may be a licensor. The policy allows for sabbaticals for
translational corporate work. Innovators can outsource sponsored research and consulting contracts.

What’s your plan and vision?
UnivLabs is ideally positioned to develop and market at least ten innovative products with a high impact on healthcare delivery during the next ten years. The company’s objective is to become a medical device industry leader based on significant research. In the next ten years, UnivLabs intends to be among the top 10 medical devices companies in the world. To provide expanded healthcare coverage the entire medical device industry’s dynamics must evolve. The existing medical device sector must collaborate to bring in the efficiency and scale of vehicle production to make devices more affordable.

We wish to provide a wide spectrum of medical devices that are both common and groundbreaking. UnivLabs aspires to create a Tesla-style mega factory for medical devices wherein technology will evolve, expand, and be manufactured all under one roof to achieve the highest goal of cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

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