Project Lead(s): Tripurari Choudhary
The number of people with diabetes worldwide has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014, with the global prevalence in adults having risen from 4.7% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014. Diabetes prevalence has been rising more rapidly in low- and middle-income countries, and is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation.
Regular glucose monitoring with blood glucose test strips is seen as an essential tool for diabetes management, but affordability and availability are a challenge for those in many countries, including India. In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, one in three adults has diabetes; glucose test strips are available but are expensive, with stock-outs leading to infrequent monitoring of blood glucose levels and poor management of the disease.
In this project, Achira Labs attempted to demonstrate the value of using distributed manufacturing (e.g., cottage industries) and networks for sales for its fabric blood glucose sensors, as a way of enabling patients to access the product.
Achira Labs has previously developed a fabric platform to manufacture diagnostic tests for a variety of applications, including glucose testing. An important aspect of such fabric sensors is that they can be manufactured locally by weaving communities that are widespread in India and other parts of the developing world.
The project involved combining the innovative, fabric-based diagnostic technology and traditional weaving, which is usually done at home. As a pilot, pre-coated yarns were transported to Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, from Achira Labs in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Members of women's groups wove these pre-coated yarn kits on their home looms without any additional training. Dried reagent chemistry allows for storage at room temperature and improved shelf-life.
Concurrently Achira conducted a comparator study of its glucose sensors produced on these home looms against commercially available, gold standard, machine-made sensors.
The project team showed that distributed manufacturing of glucose sensors can be done in a house or facility with a loom and weaver, without additional training or infrastructure, and without having a negative effect on the performance of the glucose sensors.
The strips manufactured from these distributor networks were validated against the gold standard, machine-produced strips, and feedback on both technical performance and usability were satisfactory.
This fabric-based platform has reduced the cost of materials and has the potential to reduce inventory costs, through manufacture at point-of-care settings on a mass scale (150,000 strips per day per loom).
Additionally, the team has demonstrated the economic benefits of the model, as women micro-entrepreneurs are trained to manufacture, distribute and sell the product. These women could obtain loans through micro-finance organizations to run their own businesses.
The project team intends to apply for Transition To Scale (TTS) funding.