Last year, there were an estimated 18.1 million new cases of cancer around the world1. Could more accessible health technology using 3D imaging data help doctors find cancer sooner and save lives?
It’s the positive diagnosis that can dramtically change someone’s life in an instant: cancer. Physicians and researchers have been fighting back against it and similar devastating diseases for decades. For patients, there has been meaningful progress with new treatments2, such as:
- Hormone Therapy
- Precision Medicine
- Radiation Therapy
- Stem Cell Transplant
- Targeted Therapy
What’s next in the medical frontier for studying and treating disease? The answer might be found in a growing biotechnology company in India. Known as Phase Laboratories (or Phase Labs), the startup is developing new microscopic technology to study how changes at the cell-level affect larger biological systems. The team’s work could accelerate the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, leading to more personal and precise care for patients.
To learn more about the uses of 3D imaging data in precision medicine, we spoke with Sarita Ahlawat, who serves as a technical leader at Phase Laboratories. (Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.)
Interview with Sarita Ahlawat, Technical Leader at Phase Laboratories
1. Can you give us a little background on Phase Laboratories?
SARITA: Phase Labs uses an advanced microscopy technology to capture 3D imaging and retrieve 3D parametric data of morphological changes in biological cells. Early applications include imaging of Pap smear samples for detecting pre-cancerous cervical cells and a population study of red blood cells for personalized wellness testing.
2. How is your team putting your business plan into action?
SARITA: Currently, our project is in the testing phase, where the technology is used on patients from three prominent hospitals in Delhi. As a next step, our testing will be expanded to other regions of India. Once our technology is fully developed, the diagnostic tool will be incorporated as part of our Digital Holographic Microscope – a package that we plan to be used directly in research and diagnosis laboratories, as well as hospitals.
3. Your team was recently a participant in Western Digital’s Data Innovation Bootcamp, a three-day event for select startups in India to learn, network, and pitch to venture capitalists. What were your biggest takeaways?
SARITA: We found the Data Innovation Bazaar to be very useful. It provided us with an opportunity to learn the business side of bringing new technology to market. We gained skills to expand the idea for our startup into a sound business plan, which had been previously an area we were looking to strengthen. Also, we learned how to pitch our idea effectively. With this experience, we got to incorporate ideas from other entrepreneurs and industry experts with different technology backgrounds and perspectives. By the end, our team was more confident in planning our business and expanding to new domains.
READ MORE: We are highlighting every startup from our inaugural Data Innovation Bootcamp. Here are their stories.
- How Data is Helping Kids Overcome Developmental Disorders
- Solving the Straw Paddy Burning Problem with Farm Data
- How a Small Indian Startup is Rethinking Automotive Safety
4. Why do you believe that supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in India is important?
SARITA: To make the future of any nation bright, innovation is central. In India, the scope of technology-based innovation is still limited. However, it seems like there are more opportunities now than even half a decade ago. As a result, more and more young people are exploring entrepreneurship as a career path. In this path, early financial support and guidance are essential. Our economic systems have to believe in a larger number of young entrepreneurs and support them through early failures. Finally, we learned the Western Digital is a pioneer in supporting innovators through its various programs across the world.
“By supporting young entrepreneurs in areas such as health technology, agricultural technology and clean energy, India might be able to meet its ever increasing demands in medical, clean air and food supply.”
Learn how data is making whole genome sequencing in patient care a reality here.
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- Latest global cancer data: Cancer burden rises to 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million cancer deaths in 2018. https://www.who.int/cancer/PRGlobocanFinal.pdf
- Types of Cancer Treatment. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types