Bangalore-based Bempu Health Private Limited has made its home country proud by being the only Indian company to have been selected among 12 global innovators who will be receiving millions in funding from United States and its partners for their brilliant concept of saving the lives of the newborn babies in developing countries.
The 12 innovators have managed to win their spot by outdoing 650 other applicants from all across the globe. The selected 12 will be awarded with a whopping USD 3.4 million in funding from Saving Lives at Birth, which is focused at preventing newborn, maternal deaths and stillbirths in the remotest of the areas around the world.
Bempu received the honour of being among the 12 innovators for developing a boot-shaped foot monitor called APNEBOOT that alerts parents/ doctors while stimulating the baby to prevent potential health consequences during an apnea event.
Apneas and temporary cessation of breathing are often occurring symptoms in premature newborns. Under conditions, where the babies are not under 24×7 vigilance, these apneas can be detected very late or go completely unnoticed, which can cause the babies irreversible injuries.
Prior to APNEBOOT, the Bangalore-based medical device social enterprise Bempu Health Private Limited has received applause all over the world for setting on a mission to make hypothermic newborn deaths a thing of the past by inventing Bempu, a continuous temperature monitoring bracelet combined with an inbuilt thermometer.
Around 92% of newborns in India become hypothermic and many of these unfortunate newborns end up bidding the world an early goodbye. The sad reality is, that this can be totally prevented with early intervention and regular temperature monitoring techniques.
What is Hypothermia?
An amalgamation of the word hypo meaning “below”, and the word thermia (thermē in Greek) meaning “heat,” hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature falls below 36.5ºC (97.7ºF).
Bempu was developed with a sole aim of ensuring that a premature and low birthweight newborn maintains a healthy temperature. The bracelet device is capable of working non-stop for four whole weeks and can be replaced if baby’s health still requires it.
Bempu has a built-in algorithm that lets the parents know if the newborn baby is hypothermic or is at the stage of slipping into a state of hypothermia. The device is quite simple to use and comprehend. All one has to do is place Bempu on the baby’s wrist and then wait for a duration of five minutes. If a blue light starts blinking from the bracelet at an interval of 30 seconds, that means the baby is warm. If an orange light blinks and an alarm sound is set off, that means the baby is cold and is entering hypothermia’s first stage. This gives the parents enough time to jump into action and inform the doctors while in the meanwhile, keeping the newborn warm by swaddling him/her with warm clothes or holding them close to their skin.
Ratul Narain, a graduate in Biomechanical Engineering and post-graduate in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford, founded Bempu in 2013. After working for over eight years with some 80 paediatricians and neonatologists all across India, Ratul could identify several problems with the system. But, the one which caught his eye and touched his heart was how several newborn babies were dying a premature death because of the unavailability of something as basic as temperature monitoring in the hospitals and homes. His intention to do something about the issue grew even more when a neonatologist narrated an incident to him about how once a newborn baby was brought to her in early morning for an emergency but it had already died sometime ago. The most likely cause of the baby’s death could have been that the baby suffered from hypothermia at night at home and due to unavailability of immediate attention and medication, it couldn’t make it.
The journey of Bempu-the device began with full force in November 2014, when its founder Ratul landed a grant from the prestigious Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to build a hypothermia alert device. The device was meticulously prototyped and clinically tested within a year of its funding and was launched at Rs. 2,000 in October last year. It was made commercially available to doctors, who prescribe it to their patients, in January this year.
Besides Bempu Health Private Limited, other awardees whose names were announced at the sixth annual DevelopmentXChange in Washington included Australia’s Monash University for making rapid adoption of inhaled oxytocin possible by providing an evidence base, Yale University for validating a cost efficient breathing aid, PremieBreathe, for infants suffering from respiratory distress.
Launched five years ago in 2011, the Saving Lives at Birth partnership includes US Agency for International Development, the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.K’s Department for International Development, Grand Challenges Canada, and the Korea International Cooperation Agency. It is a worldwide shout-out for scalable, out-of-the box solutions to put a full stop to infant and maternal mortality around birth time.