The Ask the CAMTech Innovator series features passionate members of CAMTech’s global health innovator community who are working to develop affordable medical technologies for those facing major healthcare challenges in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). Today, we’re talking to Sidhant Jena, CEO and Co-Founder of Jana Care, a a startup company tackling health challenges like diabetes in India, and other chronic diseases with low-cost diagnostics and mobile technology.
Since its founding in 2011, Jana Care has developed numerous innovative healthcare tools and products, including an affordable diagnostic sensor called Aina, which plugs into smartphones and analyzes HbA1c, blood blucose, hemoglobin, creatinine, and lipids from a capillary blood sample. Sidhant has served as a mentor at several CAMTech hack-a-thons and events, and below, shares his background and some pieces of advice about the world of medtech innovation.
Tell us about your background in healthcare and medtech innovation.
I am a biomedical engineer by training who happened to dive into entrepreneurship. In my previous life, I used to work for Medtronic in product development and quality and also spent time working on various public health projects in India.
What are some of your main responsibilities at Jana Care? How exactly did the company form?
I work on everything from product design, fundraising, sales and business development. The company was formed in 2011 out of a class project at MIT called SANA. [In 2011, Sidhant and his team also won the Harvard Business School Business Plan Contest, which provided seed funding to help launch the company.]
What motivates you to work in medtech innovation, and why do you believe it can make a difference in global healthcare?
I started working in medtech by accident – it’s the only job I got after college! However, I realized very quickly the profound impact medtech and especially better diagnostics have on public health. Although diagnostics probably account for less than 10% of total healthcare costs, they determine how the remaining 90% is spent.
Tell us about the HBA1C test. What are the main functions of the device and what has the development process been like thus far?
We have been making substantive progress on the HbA1c test, including major improvements to the blood handling techniques, user experience design and user training methods, which will bring down the barriers to adoption in countries like India.
Can you share some of the biggest challenges that come with working in this field? What are the most rewarding parts?
I think being patient is important. It took us three years to build the core product and then another year to transfer it to manufacturing and get regulatory approvals. Now we are dealing with physician adoption issues and battling the perception issue with new point of care diagnostic devices.
The rewarding part is of-course the impact that you have on patients and clinics.
Your team was chosen as one of the first groups in the CAMTech Accelerator Program – how has that experience been and do you see a benefit in using online communities like the CAMTech Innovation Platform to further develop your projects?
The experience has been great as it helps us connect with a larger community of people like us !
Long-term the community is probably the most important aspect of the program as it creates a support eco-system that medtech innovators need to succeed. I wish we had this when we started the company.
What are some lessons you learned over time in your career? Do you have any tips for other global health innovators?
Being patient and having a high quality standard for products is important. I don’t believe designing for affordability, rather simplicity and quality. If your product is simple and high quality, it will be able to scale and be affordable as a by-product!