It’s the new episode of Digital Health Interviews. We continue to introduce you to startups from all over the world in digital healthcare and MedTech. Our latest guest is Dhruv Agrawal — CEO of “Aether Biomedical” (Poland). We spoke about what bionic prosthetics are, how bionic prosthetics work, and their pros for patients.
Dhruv Agrawal: a fantastic startuper born in the central part of India and working in Poznan, Poland. Experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the medical device industry. He is skilled in Interdisciplinary Research, Python, Sales, Business Development, and Entrepreneurship. Strong business development professional with an MBBS focused in Medicine from Vardhman Mahavir Medical College. He learned Electronics by himself and studied Medical Regulations at the University of California. Now Dhruv is a student at the University of London getting a Master’s in Data Science.
“Aether Biomedical” is a rehabilitation robotics startup focused on building bionic limbs for upper limb amputees. The company has raised $5.5M in funding. When Dhruv Agrawal and his team started it, they had no idea what entrepreneurship and building a startup were.
Dhruv Agrawal: My dad gave me a 3D printer for my 18th birthday, and that’s how everything started. We, with co-founders, first met in college and connected over the interest in helping patients worldwide. With an introduction to a hand amputee and acquiring a 3D printer, we quickly realized a gap in the prosthetics and orthotics fields we could fill — and got to work. It was a very organic process concerning coming to Poland. I didn’t make a conscious decision to go there; we were just looking for some opportunities — and got a 50 000 dollars grant during the Poland Prize Program by “AdVentures” In 2 months, we got our first trust from a “Shape VC” venture company. Poland, as a place, has a lot of things to offer. If I had to do it over again, I would consciously choose this country as a place to be.
It’s pretty rare when startup founders without professional experience or gaining business experience in different companies decide to start a company right after college. More precisely, it’s rare if the company succeeds, by “Aether Biomedical” looks like does it. What is the secret?
Dhruv Agrawal: We didn’t want to make a startup; we wanted to solve a problem. We didn’t use a lot of rational thinking concerning what the pros and the contras are. I missed a lot as a founder without working experience. But there were some reasons: first, I wasn’t afraid to give up equity initially. The majority of people have been with me since the first day. I focused a lot on delegating things I was not skilled in. Second, I focused a lot on learning, going to the university, and doing a job; there’s a lot of valuable information online in digital media today. You can learn from other people’s mistakes and don’t necessarily need to make your ones. Partly that’s why I continue to study and improve my knowledge in various fields.
“Aether Biomedical” was born in 2018. The team has invented a product that has fulfilled the founders’ goals from long ago — a multi-articulating bionic prosthetics hand, “Zeus.” To achieve this goal, they developed cutting-edge prosthetic and rehabilitation devices through innovation in bio-signal processing. While this technology may not be entirely new to the biomedical industry, they were looking to develop it further, shaking up the world of medical devices by engineering products that can exceed the current global standards of prosthetics.
Dhruv Agrawal: We wanted to fill today's gap between patient and assistive devices. In the digital world we are living today, it is a problem. The machines are dumb and do not give feedback to their users and clinicians. We want to build a layer of controlling communication between patients and such devices to make the rehabilitation process much better, to make the assistive device a part of a patient’s life and body. We worked on three main things: we built sensors, which pick up and calculate musculus data or impulses; we built algorithms and processes for it; we built software that allows us to use these biomarkers. It’s ribbed on with a software layer available with a web application for clinicians and a mobile application for patients. Hence, clinicians can track how often the patient is using this device remotely, what he is doing with it, and what kinds of parameters changed. The goal is to be more proactive so clinicians can see the problem and be able to solve that.
“Aether Biomedical” was founded on the premise of creating healthcare technology and robotics based on human-centered design. A culture focused on building the next generation of bionic devices, utilizing advanced bio-signal processing and software integration.
Dhruv Agrawal: We are trying to breach the gap as much as possible. We don’t pick any signals from the brain; we are focused on the peripheral nervous system. The signal comes from the brain to the central and peripheral nerve systems, then — to the nerve endings, which end up in the muscles. Tell your muscles to contract and move — we pick up the signal. Even after amputation, patients have residual strengths; they still have these nerve endings fighting with the present electricity. We try to decode what the patient would want to do if the hand existed and make Zeus do the necessary things. We push the boundaries every day to become closer to the human body.
The cost of the product depends on many factors: most patients get it through insurance from $15 000 to $25 000. The company’s goal is to be the brains behind every assistive device on the planet, supporting patients with multiple pathologies — both bionic prosthetics hands and legs. They plan to achieve this by utilizing the latest advancements in biomedical technology, from the inception of their ideas, through product design and production, to the roll-out to the users they serve worldwide.
After a year of expansion in Europe and India, “Aether” is now launching Zeus arm into the U.S market, with its U.S. headquarters in Chicago. In the future, the company plans to expand its product line and technological innovation to spread access to prostheses across the globe and reinvigorate amputees with strength and confidence.
And traditionally, in the final part of the episode, there are some invaluable pieces of advice for startup founders in digital health.
Dhruv Agrawal: The most important thing to focus on is going out and talking to customers. When you have an idea or a prototype — speak to them! Get your testing product started as soon as possible! Even a plan on paper can give you some valuable information. We made such mistakes and needed to pay for them heavily after launching the product. You also should ensure that the different stakeholders who will be a part of your product ecosystem are involved as heavily as possible in the product development process. It’s crucial to find out those key features or technological advantages that will give you improvement over your competitors.
Our previous episode was with Robert Kitlowski: How to Create Digital Health Startups from Scratch?
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