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Winner Spotlight: Coeo Labs Aims to Reduce Fatal Lung Infections for ICU Patients

Dena Levitz Headshot

Dena Levitz

Challenge Cup Reporting Fellow, 1776

In India 250,000 patients a year die from ventilator-associated pneumonia.The ailment is an infection of the lungs that Coeo Labs says is so rampant because of outdated procedures  suctioning patients’ airways.

That’s why the startup has created a device to reduce the risk of VAP. Coeo Labs emerged after is founders, Nitesh Kumar Jangir and Nachiket Deval, were fellows at InnAccel, India’s first medical technology accelerator, and then received a grant through the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council.

Now in the marketplace for less than a year, the startup also was the health category winner in the Bangalore Challenge Cup competition. Following the event, the cofounders discussed their company’s strides and goals with 1776.

Your solution revolves around ventilator associated pneumonia. Explain that condition.

Deval: It’s a lung infection that is present in hospitals’ intensive care units. Patients in the ICU are intubated, sedated and do not have gag reflexes, so these people have secretions and the secretions can get contaminated because of bad hygiene or bacteria. In a normal human being there’s a lot of immunity, but patients who are on a ventilator, they don’t have the same amount of protection so even a small infection can be fatal.

So in such patients if their lungs get infected it can lead to pneumonia.

Your device helps to measure and manage these secretions. How does that work?

Jangir: This device basically has a sensory mechanism that senses the secretions and then can automatically remove them. There’s a lot of IP around how that works. It has two components: one part of it has to go inside the body and the other is an intelligent machine-learning device, which takes care of when to and not to do secretions.

How long did it take to develop this device?

Jangir: Typically a device like this would take two years. We are in the 6th month of that. But we have verified these technologies and tested them and have proof of concept.

Deval: And we have verified it with doctors in India in different settings.

Jangir: This is not just an Indian issue, by the way. It’s an issue of the world. Reports show that more than 150,000 patients in the U.S. get this disease so it’s not just specific to developing countries. But the problem in India is that the standard of hygiene is not where it needs to be so it increases incidents.

How do you plan to roll this out to get it in hospitals and patients in need?

Deval: Our business model is to get a distribution network through people who are selling ventilators to the hospitals—so the distributors who are already in there will sell our device along with ventilators. That way we’re not selling the devices by ourselves to hospitals but using an existing distribution network. Because if we do it ourselves we’ll fail. We have distributors who have really good relationships.

How did this idea develop?

Deval: Our company went through India’s first med-tech incubator, and this idea came out of that. We spent two months in emergency and critical-care departments with the doctors, looking at the patients, looking at tests and devices used and all the care given, and based on assessing needs we felt that this would help.

Jangir: We all got excited about it because we knew it was a big issue. And the designers were excited, the doctors, the whole team was excited. And our company name, Coeo, is all about that. It’s a Latin word that means coming together and uniting. People from different fields coming together to solve an issue.

You’re a relatively new company. What did you learn from competing at Challenge Cup?

Deval: It was a really nice experience.

Jangir:  To just get to know all these other startups, get contacts, find other people in these industries and also to get feedback from the mentors. They gave us really critical feedback which was really warranted and became really useful.

Dena Levitz Headshot

Dena Levitz

Challenge Cup Reporting Fellow, 1776

Dena Levitz is traveling to almost all of the Challenge Cup cities to cover the competition and analyze startup ecosystems around the globe. Dena joins 1776 after finishing the first…