Macro Moves

Covid 19: IIT's helping the nation Fighting Against Covid Battle

Created on 11 May 2020

Wraps up in 4 Min

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Updated on 28 Aug 2020

India is leaving no stone unturned in fighting the spread of the Coronavirus. It is surely a humongous task for a country of 1.3 billion people with a high density of population, to avoid a large-scale community spread of coronavirus?

Tackling this unprecedented challenge requires a systems approach and the mobilization of all stakeholders to respond. The Indian government has so far adopted a step-by-step model and been at the forefront with early screening being conducted at airports from mid-January onwards.  Restrictions on travel initiated in collaboration with states. Stopping all social gatherings and events including closing down of restaurants, theatres, and gyms were some of the preventive measures in place. 

But the ground reality is that the hospitals in India are not fully equipped with adequate resources to deal with a rapidly increasing number of Covid-19 cases. To bridge this gap the Government is roping in the country’s top technology institutes to proactively contribute and manage this crisis in an integrated manner. Students and faculty at the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and other top Institutes have joined the fight against coronavirus.

How are they pitching in

  • Developing low-cost ventilators, which are currently in short supply. Mid March India had banned the export of ventilators seeing the shortage that the country was facing. However, components that are used to manufacture ventilators continued to be shipped out of the country until the end of March. A team of professors from IIT-Hyderabad came to the rescue by adopting bag valve masks as alternatives to ventilators. These have turned out to be an effective alternative considering its portability and utility in areas that have no power supply apart from being cost-effective. The Bag valve masks are currently hand-powered and are not suitable for continuous use as a ventilator. The team is working on redesigning it to get power from a battery.

  • Another area of shortage in the production of Personal Protective Equipment for Health care workers. In some regions it was found that the health care workers were using helmets and raincoats due to the shortage of protective gear. The shortage of the PPEs was due to the shortage in the hot air seam sealing machines needed to stitch up the suit. With a bunch of prototypes ready, these institutes are seeking the government’s help to tie up with public sector undertakings for large-scale manufacturing. IIT-Guwahati’s bioengineering teams are together developing prototypes of waterproof gears that come with an antiviral coating for protection. Design experts at the institute have created 3D prototypes of a full-face shield, including headgear, whose production can be scaled up immediately. An IIT backed startup is currently scaling up its production of N95 masks daily.

  • Another indigenous solution to resolve the overburdened medical system is to curb health workers’ exposure to patients altogether. IIT-Guwahati has started making robotic units that can screen potential patients and deliver medicines and food in isolation wards. Drones have also been developed that can be used to spray disinfectants and undertake surveillance without involving humans. They have been working on improvising these models to increase their capacity 

  • A shortage of kits is another big concern. Researchers at IIT-Delhi have been quick to pitch in and develop testing kits that are cheaper and are currently undergoing clinical trials at the Pune-based National Institute of Virology. Although its price isn’t public yet, the government has capped prices at Rs4,500 for now. 

  • Meanwhile, IIT-Guwahati has provided life-saving equipment to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital in Assam, including two real-time polymerase chain reaction machines used to analyze DNA samples for Covid-19 diagnosis. They can analyze up to 2,000 samples in 24 hours. 

  • Hand-held temperature measuring units, ICU beds, medical waste disposal for isolation wards, disinfection showers, are additional products being developed by the students at these institutes

  • IIT Palakkad is working on an automated analysis of ultrasound lung scans using machine learning techniques. These machines help in monitoring patients daily for timely medical intervention to reduce mortality.

  • The bioscience department has been researching on developing a vaccine to control the spread. The IIT-Kanpur’s biosciences department has already managed to isolate the RNA extract of the virus, and are hopeful of developing a possible vaccine in the next couple of months, which can then be tested in a clinical trial.

  • Several apps have been developed to alert the authorities if a carrier moves out of a quarantine zone. One of the apps also assists in getting the nearest ambulance service to reach a patient to the nearest hospital. They have tied up with all the private ambulance operators for this purpose

  • Another IIT team has developed a low-cost LED-based machine which can be used for disinfection of floors at hospitals as well as buses and trains to aid the fight against COVID-19 in the country.

  • One of the hospitals was grappling with a problem on how to design its AC network overnight amid the lockdown. For Covid-19 patients, centralized air conditioning cannot be used, as the virus could spread to other rooms through the ducts. In no time with experts offering to help design its AC layout.

There’s a lot of research currently happening in IITs to combat this virus. Almost every week they come up with new cost-effective innovations. These institutes have come to the rescue and conceptualized cheaper and quicker alternatives. It is heartening to see the younger generation with their bright minds working to bring about solutions to combat this crisis. 

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An MBA Finance graduate, having worked in the Telecom and Banking sector as a Risk and Compliance Manager. An avid blogger with a penchant for traveling

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