Dr Janani Venkatraman is the founder of Biomoneta Research Pvt Ltd, a new company that aims to fight Healthcare/Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAI’s). She completed her Doctorate from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India prior to pursuing a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Yale University.
In this interview Dr. Janani opens up on her journey as the founder of a startup and gives us insights into her products.
Could you tell us a little about how your company was founded and its founders?
Prior to founding Biomoneta, I was part of the founding team of Bugworks, a company that discovers pharmaceuticals to combat antibiotic resistant infections.
People need hospital stays for a variety of reasons. Many of these people acquire new infections in the hospital, over and above their pre-existing conditions. This can considerably prolong their stay in the hospital and in some cases can result in fatalities. While setting up Bugworks, we realized that in order to effectively combat HAIs, we needed to look at preventive technologies, in addition to discovering new antibiotic drugs.
We asked the question if we can reduce the incidence of HAIs by lowering the microbial content in the environment around vulnerable people; be it in the hospital or in the home.
What are your products?
Currently the focus of Biomoneta is in two directions. Research and development is being carried out on Air-purification systems as well as Surface-Purification systems. While the aim of the air purification system is to scavenge the bacteria and other microbes in the air, the surface purification system aims to lower the microbial content of surfaces such as hospital beds and railings by scavenging the bacteria that adhere to them.
When can we expect a product from you in the market?
Biomoneta will be launching a product in the next 3-5 years. Laboratory tests have been conducted and prototypes are being made. Field testing will be conducted soon.
Who are your competitors?
People use ultra violet radiation to kill microbes in the environment. Xenex, a company based in USA manufactures robots that use Ultra Violet Radiation as a means of sterilization.
Hepa Filters are effective in filtering out sub-micron size particles. This includes bacteria, fungi, viruses and dust particles. Hepa Filters only filter the microbes but do not destroy them. There is a need to eliminate microbes in the environment by killing them.
How has your journey as the founder of a startup been?
I have received excellent help. I worked with Bugworks before I spun off the idea to start Biomoneta and received legal help from the people I knew from my stint at Bug-works. It took close to 1 to 1.5 months to get the company up and running.
Your take on startups in India?
It has been difficult to raise money. In biotech research, infrastructure costs are high. I have been using the facilities at CCAMP, an incubator that provides laboratory facilities and other support for life science startups. It is a very vibrant eco-system that incorporates several companies into a single building.
Several schemes supported by the Govt of India are available that provide seed and follow on funding, however it is hard to secure these in the timelines required to run a company. Additionally, assigning equity in exchange for anything other than money is a challenge in India. This means that an early startup, which has little spare money but needs expert advice, cannot easily give equity to advisors and consultants in return for their time.