MUMBAI -- Long overshadowed by the information technology boom, India's burgeoning medical technology sector may finally get its chance to shine as the world searches for a solution to the new coronavirus pandemic.
As the government steps up efforts to stop the spread of the virus that has brought the country to a standstill, medtech startups are focusing on rolling out new ways to battle the virus.
One such company is Bengaluru-based SciDogma Research. Before the onset of COVID-19, the company had developed a molecular analysis device to test for tuberculosis. The device has since been modified to test for the coronavirus, shortening the time for results to as low as 1.5 hours, according to company founder Dr. Satya Tapas.
Far more affordable than existing devices, Tapas told the Nikkei Asian Review that once the prototype is completed SciDogma will be "open to partner with third parties who need the device or who are willing to manufacture it."
The company is also working on a ready-to-use reagent kit that can work inside the machine to identify the genetic sequence of sample molecules of diseases associated with the coronavirus.
All Tapas needs for the research to continue is more money. "I am trying to raise the funds," he said.
Atrimed Pharmaceuticals, another Bengaluru startup that specializes in drugs made from plants and claims to own the world's largest plant molecule database, says it has "shortlisted three herbal molecules" that may damage the protein of the coronavirus' distinctive outer spikes.
Dr. Hrishikesh Damle, the company's co-founder and CEO, told Nikkei the company was looking for partners to help with laboratory testing.
New Delhi-based PerSapien Innovations, whose wearable air purifying device and air filters for automobiles earned it a place among 10 startups selected to join Google's Launchpad accelerator program, has switched to developing face masks.
Using the same material technology to create a single mask that can provide eye, nose, mouth and ear protection for medical professionals treating COVID-19 patients, the company hopes it can help relieve mask shortages.
These and other companies are just a small sample of medtech startups that the government is marshalling to help fight the pandemic.
Late last month Startup India, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body specialising in supporting Indian startups, launched the United Against COVID-19 Innovation Challenge calling all medtech startups -- as well as larger companies and researchers -- to submit ideas.
Those whose pitches are chosen will have priority access to government procurement programs.
In addition, favoured startups will likely be eligible to receive more funding through the India Private Equity & Venture Capital Association.
The public-private initiative to nurture new technologies in medtech to combat COVID-19 may result in globally competitive companies -- perhaps one silver lining to the pandemic that threatens to devastate India's already sluggish economy.