DoctorOn LLC – Columbia

Nahush Katti and Vikram Arun, both university freshmen, are very confident about their product, a smart phone app that takes clear, accurate pictures of the human eye for ophthalmological diagnosis and treatment.

The app would allow anyone with a cell phone to send an image of an affected eye to a trained ophthalmologist. The partners wish to price this app, which they say has a 92 percent accuracy rate, at about $10 to make it universally accessible. The cost of diagnosing cataracts, a leading cause of blindness, is about $3,000 today in the United States.

Youthful Indian man receiving award from grey-haired man in suit

Vikram Arun is recognized at the Green and Affordable Innovation showcase in New Delhi, India in June 2013.

Katti and Arun have also benefitted from the expert advice and support of the MU SBTDC’s Jim Gann, director of technology business development and Paul Bateson, technology development and commercialization counselor. Gann and Bateson advised them on the necessity of a business plan and intellectual property protection, steering them toward a patent; helped perfect their pitch for competitions; and advised them on what type of company to form, among other foundational business essentials.

“Dr. Gann has just helped us immensely in strengthening the business aspects of our company, DoctorOn LLC,” says Katti. “Vikram and I are able to work on the technical aspects of DoctorOn, but had little to no idea on how to properly run a business. Dr. Gann taught us that, among many other things. Prior to the trip to California [for an Indo-American science and technology forum], Dr. Gann worked with us for a couple of hours every day to rehearse our presentation. He was also instrumental in helping us convey our idea clearly and concisely.”

Although they did not receive funding for the company, the partners agree the experience was invaluable.

DoctorOn’s a-ha! moment occurred when Katti’s grandfather, who lives in a small Indian village, fell ill and had to travel to a hospital two hours one way, sometimes to be kept waiting interminably for a perfunctory treatment. Smart phones, tablets and other devices have revolutionized almost every aspect of our lives, the partners thought, allowing us to do almost anything remotely. Why not healthcare?

But what would their first app be?

That, too, came easily to the bright young men. India, with about 1.25 billion people, has largely bypassed the industrial revolution to plunge straight into the electronic revolution. That nation today has an estimated 862 million cell phones with the number expected to rise to 97 percent of the applicable population by the end of the decade.

At the same time, large swaths of India, especially rural areas, don’t have access to basic health care, and India is home to the world’s largest population of blind individuals, nearly 20 million people, according to that country’s national medical journal. Many of these individuals are born with easily correctable impairments or conditions almost nonexistent in the developed world where blindness prevention programs were enacted decades ago.

But why stop at blindness prevention?

Katti speaks enthusiastically about placing the app in kiosks situated in rural government buildings, bus stations, grocery stores and other public locations. “Next time you take out your phone to take a picture,” he said in a presentation, “don’t just think about what it can do. Think about what else it can do.”

Katti also foresees farmers employing a slightly different version of the app to show an agricultural pathologist across the province or across the country a crystal clear image of a pernicious fungus or pest.

“Last summer, Vikram and I tested that idea with an agricultural college in India and received stellar results,” says Katti. Although the partners have focused on the ophthalmic aspect of DoctorOn, a provisional patent has been filed for both core concepts. “We hope that one day, hospitals will be for intensive care or extensive testing only. Everything else will be through your phone or at a kiosk.”

This independent thinking may be inherited. Arun’s father is a professor of accounting at MU and was able to help the partners immensely with the business and financial part of the effort. Katti’s dad is an MU professor of radiology and physics, a senior researcher at MU’s research reactor, director of MU’s nanotechnology cancer efforts, a man named one of the 25 most influential scientists globally in molecular imaging and the father of green nanotechnology.

“It definitely helps coming from a family of scientists!” says Katti.

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