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Villgro Innovations Foundation, India Health Fund to support start-ups in infectious diseases

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While Villgro supports innovations from proof-of-concept ready stage till the development of a prototype ready for initial pilot, IHF supports innovations which have a ready prototype and initial pilot data to enable their validation, regulatory approvals, market entry and scale up

Around World Antimicrobial Awareness week, India Health Fund (IHF), a Tata Trusts initiative, and Villgro Innovations Foundation (VIF), one of the world’s largest social enterprise incubators, launched a first-of-its-kind collaborative platform — I4ID – Innovate for the fight against Infectious Diseases. The collaboration will support the development of affordable, point-of-care health technologies and digital innovations to prevent, control, and eliminate infectious diseases and supplement India’s efforts to prevent future pandemics.

With the I4ID platform the aim is to co-create an innovation programme to identify technology-driven solutions that tackle infectious diseases. Both IHF and Villgro will collaborate with a consortium of partners with the right expertise to nurture innovations from proof of concept to last mile delivery; through mentorship, incubation, market access and enabling in catalysing funds and resources to develop and deploy selected innovative solutions.

While COVID-19 has led to 9 million cases in India, TB cases touched 2.6 million in 2019, accounting for 27 per cent of the world’s TB burden, and malaria cases in India accounted for four percent of the world’s malaria burden. A WHO report stated 700,000 people die, every year, globally, from drug-resistant infections or AMR (Anti-Microbial Resistance), including 230,000 deaths from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

According to another WHO report, there is a dearth of innovations to combat AMR due to reasons such as market failure and long timeline for research on drugs and vaccines development. One of the strategic priorities of the National AMR action plan is to promote investments for AMR activities, research, and innovations.

In line with this, IHF and Villgro launched the I4ID platform, around the World Antimicrobial awareness week to put the spotlight on global AMR and highlight the need for better preparedness for large-scale outbreaks and pandemics in the future. The platform will support startups in developing innovations, such as high-quality rapid diagnostics, to prevent and contain the spread of infectious diseases, including TB, malaria, vector-borne diseases, and COVID-19 among others in congruence with Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan recently reiterating the need for social entrepreneurship in India’s fight against infectious diseases.

Commenting on the collaboration and the platform, Madhav Joshi, CEO, India Health Fund, said, “While Villgro supports innovations from proof-of-concept ready stage till the development of a prototype ready for initial pilot, IHF supports innovations which have a ready prototype and initial pilot data to enable their validation, regulatory approvals, market entry and scale up.”

Srinivas Ramanujam, CEO, Villgro Innovations Foundation, said, “Over the past two decades, we have supported innovative social enterprise models that can sustainably create impact at scale; working with them to help convert their prototypes into market ready products. In our efforts to tackle the ever- growing challenges of infectious diseases and AMR, we found the perfect collaborator in IHF to help democratise innovations and make primary healthcare more accessible.”

The collaborative effort will involve Villgro supporting innovations from proof-of-concept ready stage till the development of a prototype ready for initial pilot, and subsequently, IHF will support innovations which have a ready prototype and initial pilot data to enable their validation, regulatory approvals, market entry and scale up.

The partnership will co-create solutions with a special focus on three core areas: screening and diagnostics of infectious diseases, infection control, and AMR.

Both IHF and Villgro will work towards creating a programme offering for innovators and start-ups, as well as reach out to potential funders and investors.

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