Geetha Manjunath, 54, Niramai Health Analytix
- Funding received $6 million in venture capital
- Base bangalore
- Life saver revolutionising early detection of breast cancer through Thermalytix—a diagnostic solution using AI algorithms
- Presence 10 cities in india
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women. It is estimated that one Indian dies of the disease every eight minutes. Compared to this dire fact, detection is patchy, even as more young women are being afflicted by it. After losing two of her cousins to breast cancer due to late detection, Dr Geetha Manjunath, then a lab director heading data analytics research at Xerox India, started conducting research on ways to detect it early.
She found out that thermography had the ability to detect the cancer in all age groups but was often inaccurate. With a small team of researchers, she explored the use of machine learning algorithms to address that gap. As promising results turned up, she quit her job and, along with her team members, created Niramai Health Analytix in July 2016.
“We have built a solution for detecting early-stage breast cancer in a privacy-aware manner for all women. The core technology is called Thermalytix, a computer-aided diagnostic solution that includes new artificial intelligence algorithms on thermal images,” says Manjunath, founder, CEO and CTO of Niramai startup.
The solution is a portable device, non-invasive and radiation-free where no one touches or sees the person during the test. Manjunath claims the test is affordable, safe and can be conducted by low skilled workers. The hardware used is an off-the-shelf thermal camera imported from Sweden, with the proprietary software doing the analysis.
The key challenge for Manjunath, who holds a PhD from the Indian Institute of Science and a management degree from Kelloggs, Chicago, was to prove the accuracy of her innovation. She collaborated with hospitals to collect data, conduct double-blind clinical trials and evaluate the Niramai test against established standards of detection. This led to papers in international journals and presentations at medical conferences.
“While women trust it due to its simplicity and privacy, we need to create more awareness about the need for this breast health test so that more women can walk into our centres,” Manjunath, who has over 25 years of expertise in IT innovation, says. While the cost of a typical mammogram is around Rs 3,500, Niramai-partnered hospitals offer it at less than half that price, she says.
Niramai is the only Indian company listed on the 2019 cohort of AI 100 startups in the world by global business data intelligence platform CB Insights. The company won a gold prize in Hack Osaka 2019 amongst a field of 2,000 startups. Manjunath has also led multiple research projects in Artificial intelligence, mobile and distributed computing, which have resulted in innovative prototypes, patents and publications.
The Niramai solution is available in 10 cities—Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Bhubaneshwar, Mysore, Pune, Dehradun, and Vadodara--in hospitals such as HCG and Cloudnine and would be expanding to more cities. The company recently received clearance from the Banglalore muncipaliy and the city mayor to conduct screening tests in all government hospitals. The Maharashtra government, too, has given the green light for its deployment in two district hospitals.
Manjunath feels that there is a need for integrating technology into medicine as the future of healthcare is being driven by digital technologies and AI-based solutions. “Data-based clinical decision-making will improve the quality of care as it is based on all relevant patient information,” she says.