Teralumen Solutions

 

In conversation with Dr. Jyotirmayee Dash, founder of TeraLumen Solutions (May 2022)

Interviewed by N. Ramakrishnan

Q1. What is your background and why did you apply for BIG?

I have a B.Tech in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Indira Gandhi Institute Of Technology, Sarang, Odisha, an M.Tech in High Voltage Engineering from Anna University, Chennai, and a Ph.D in TeraHertz Imaging and Spectroscopy from CSIR-SERC Chennai. After completing my Ph.D., I joined as an Assistant Professor at SRM University, Chennai.

During my doctoral studies in Terahertz technology, I was actively involved in setting up the first fully dedicated Terahertz laboratory in India. Despite the immense development in India over the past few decades, there is still a gap in the development of state-of-the-art technological devices. Most of the devices and components need to be imported from Europe and the USA. This gave me the drive to build India’s first Terahertz company and apply for BIG.

In July 2019, I founded TeraLumen Solutions, a deep tech startup that combines TeraHertz technology with artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop products for bio-medical and non-destructive evaluation.

Q2. What was your BIG project? 

My BIG project was development of an intraoperative device based on Terahertz technology for real time cancer margin detection. Terahertz radiation falls between infrared radiation and microwave radiation and hence can be used in a wide variety of applications. Terahertz radiation can penetrate a range of non-conducting materials and can pass through clothing, paper, cardboard, wood, masonry, plastic and ceramics, and can be used in imaging systems.

For example, cancer treatment most often involves surgery and chemotherapy. During the surgery, the surgeon will remove the cancerous tissue and leave the healthy tissue in the body, but most often will remove some bit of healthy tissue also during the process. At present, there is no device that can show if all the cancerous tissue has been removed. The product developed by TeraLumen will tell the doctor whether the entire cancer tissue has been completely removed.

The advantage of Terahertz technology is that it can differentiate between benign and malignant tissue clearly. It can see the boundary between benign and malignant and give a clear image. TeraLumen’s first product is an imaging device that gives real-time image of the tissue. Due to our progress in BIG, we were able to collaborate with major cancer hospitals such as Narayana hospital Bangalore and AIIMS Jodhpur. 

Q3. How was your post BIG journey and what are your BIG plans for the future?

During BIG, we managed to develop one complete prototype (both hardware and software) for cancer margin detection. We also completed preclinical validation with large samples during BIG. The grant money from the BIG Scheme lasted for about two years. TeraLumen also got grants from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of the Government of India and the Tamil Nadu Government’s Startup scheme, totaling about ₹1.64 crore, all of which have helped the company through the last three years since its founding in July 2019. Post BIG, we are currently working with three hospitals in the country for large scale clinical validation with more than hundred tissue samples, which I hope will be completed in a year! We are also applying for follow on funds from BIRAC such as SBIRI so that we can reach the market.

Going ahead, our plan is to deploy our systems in leading cancer hospitals, multispeciality clinics and cancer research institutes in India. This will help to bring down the cancer diagnosis time and reduce the need for repeat surgeries. Since Asia accounts for almost half of the global cancer incidence, we intend to build a strong customer base in major countries in India and Asia in the next 5-7 years.

We are also looking forward to completing the regulatory approvals and ISO certification. By the early quarter of 2024, we would like to sell five devices to the Key Opinion Leaders across India. This will give us a first mover advantage for entry into the India market.

Funding raised post BIG project:

  • TIDE 2.0 Proof-of-Concept grant
  • Nidhi-Prayas grant
  • Entrepreneurship Development and Innovation Institute – Innovation Voucher Programme (EDII-IVP)
  • TIDE 2.0 scale-up grant
  • TANSEED award
  • Wharton India Startup Challenge Award
  • DST NIDHI Seed Support 

Q4. Any advice for aspiring BIG grantees? 

It is important for entrepreneurs to explain their competency and capability, for them to show that they have done a lot of background study of their idea and the technology and the market, all of which will give the BIG committee the confidence that the founders are capable of delivering and developing their idea
into a viable business proposition. For me, it helped that I had a strong technology background, having completed a Ph.D in TeraHertz technology. That
assured the appraisal committee of my technical competence. Also, our proposal highlighted the numerous applications that can be developed using TeraHertz technology and how Teralumen planned to go about building products.

To summarize, individuals who have carried out some preliminary work or have a valid POC study will provide better confidence to the selection panel.

Q5. Despite being virtually (remotely) incubated, how was Venture Center able to help as your BIG partner? 

Venture Center, being my BIG partner, has played a major role in getting though BIG and hand-held me through the entire process. The team at Venture Center guided me at various stages of BIG. I had opted for pre-submission mentoring by Venture Center, and so starting from my application to the final round, they have not only helped us in shaping the proposal but also in making better presentations. I made four to five presentations to the Venture Center team and the continuous feedback helped me fine tune my idea and the proposal before I made a successful presentation to the BIG committee.

 In addition to this, through out the BIG journey, Venture Center was continuously monitoring our progress and helped us to complete the project in time. They have made the complete process, starting from technical documentation to the financials, hassle-free. The IP team at Venture Center also helped us file the patent at a very nominal cost.

 

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