A biologist by profession, Rahul Pathrihas worked in various companies and gained expertise in GeneExpression and Genotyping Scientific Software Development. In his latest avatar as an entrepreneur, Pathri is credited for establishing Docturnal, a healthcare startup providing non-invasive screening apps. Docturnal is a startup envisioned to do social good. The app called TimBre for Tuberculosis, gently nudges the base-of-the pyramid people to take a TB test, the diagnosis is not only accessible to people but it’s less cumbersome too. Far from the stigma attached to TB, one hopes to see healthier lungs & a happy society in times to come!
By Ms. Kavitha Srinivasa
Strange as it may seem but Rahul Pathri, a self-taught musician has managed to find a connection between the sound of the cough, characteristic of TB and a pathological pattern. The connection hasn’t ended here. He has even seen a business opportunity to diagnose other cough based symptoms such as COPD, Bronchitis, Asthma and Whooping-Cough and has strategically arrived at Docturnal, a 2016 healthcare startup that provides non-invasive screening apps. It is a point of care screening app for early detection.
Social & Emotional Vacuum Fills up
A few minutes into the interview clearly indicates that Docturnal is a new frontier but it fills up a particular social and emotional vacuum in Pathri’s life. “I was diagnosed with an Arthritic condition that needed Biologics which had a prerequisite to undergo TB test and thus I got an opportunity to undergo a Mantoux test and IGRA in two years. It was cumbersome but caught enough attention and curiosity,” recalls Pathri.
As fate would have it, Pathri’s mother ended up suffering from TB prior to which she was diagnosed for Type II Diabetes and in a span of two years, TB conquered the immune system. Around the same time, TB took away a friend’s life. When the friend passed away, we understood that there was a drummer who lived in the same neighbourhood (Yapral-secunderabad).These trying circumstances have impacted him in more ways than one.
That’s when the journey began. As a former biologist he has had expertise in both biology and software, apart from enriching his portfolio by working with companies involved in GeneExpression and GenotypingScientific Software Development. However, he decided to gain exposure in TB by participating in the IKP-GCE (Grand Challenges Explorations) in 2014-2015 organized by the Gates Foundation. The IKP-GCE platform has been the tip of the iceberg but it has given him enough exposure to groom into an entrepreneur.
Cough into the Mobile
The entrepreneur did not want to be another ‘me-too’ health app service. Right from its inception, Docturnal has benchmarked itself against other health apps on numerous factors. The most important being it allows individuals to screen at home or office in a non-invasive manner after downloading the app from Play Store.
Pathri has created and patented an algorithm for predicting and detecting tuberculosis. “The prediction of the algorithm is correct and the accuracy is fairly reasonable,” says Pathri. This is how it works. Once TB is detected, an SMS is sent to the individual, who is also referred to a hospital in his/her vicinity. Location awareness modules like government centers, along with referrals like chest specialists and healthcare workers are being built into the App.
The startup is in its Alpha stage. As Pathri is based in Hyderabad and operates from the T-Hub, the app is available in Telugu. To Pathri, it’s about being in the right place at the right time. “India is the TB capital of the world and the Telangana government has a goal to eradicate TB by 2025,” he reasons. Already around 100 people represented by white collar workers have been screened from the vicinity.
Pathri plans to maintain an EMR (electronic medical record) for each positively screened individual from various hospitals, nursing homes and leading diagnostics. Though the app will be offered free of cost, each patient will have to pay around Rs 500 per screening conducted in a controlled environment under the supervision of a healthcare-worker or doctor or lab-technician, which typically involves coughing into a Microphone Array for more accurate signal.
The entrepreneur never shrinks away from new challenges. He is now working on an Algorithm to predict Blood Glucose Monitoring and Diabetic Retinopathy (beta).