ACT For Environment Grantee: AP Chemi

Plastic has become an all-pervasive part of life on Earth. ~350 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated globally each year – only 20% of this waste is recycled while the remaining 80% makes its way to landfills, water streams or gets incinerated. Right from our blood streams to oceans, plastic chokes life.

But given the reality of plastic being a lifeline of a large number of industries, removing or replacing and managing it has been a herculean task. Dumping this waste for someone else to manage has been the easiest solution.

Historically, efforts have been made to convert mixed plastic waste to energy through pyrolysis – a process through which matter is broken down in the absence of oxygen to produce liquid oil which can potentially be used as an industrial fuel. Pyrolysis enables the recycling of materials which are otherwise inappropriate for conventional recycling. However, conventional pyrolysis of mixed plastic waste often produces contaminated oil that is unsuitable for use by refineries/petrochemical plants as is and is also usually commercially unviable to purify.

APChemi has broken this cycle. Their patented pyrolysis and oil purification technology PUREMAX™ removes contaminants from pyrolysis oil to produce a high quality oil PUROIL™ from mixed plastic & biomass waste. Through their proprietary technology, they have been successful in reducing the cost (capex and opex) of pyrolysis oil purification by multi-folds. Further, PUROIL™ has been proven to be the best feedstock for the production of biofuels, circular polymers, sustainable chemicals and sustainable vehicle fuels.

APChemi minimises the amount of plastic that gets dumped by enabling circularity for the post-consumer mixed plastic waste; by 2028, they plan to recycle 500 million kgs of plastic per year!

From an environmental standpoint, this is a double whammy – achievement of scalable plastic circularity and the production of feedstock (PUROIL™) for the generation of biofuels which can potentially replace fossil fuels.

Since 2007, APChemi has established over 45 pyrolysis plants across Asia, Europe, Africa and Middle East where they provide turnkey sustainable pyrolysis solutions. They have converted ~180k tonnes of plastic to oil and reduced dependency on crude oil by ~110k tonnes.

ACT For Environment will support APChemi in building a first-of-its-kind pyrolysis oil purification which can purify 17.5 thousand tons of pyrolysis oil. This project will exemplify the scalability of sustainable recycling of non-recyclable plastic waste globally.

We are beyond excited to partner with APChemi in their journey to build global waste circularity and produce clean energy!

ACT For Environment Grantee: Agri To Power (A2P)

India produces approximately 500 million tonnes of crop residue every year – most of which is burnt on-site, causing serious air pollution. Researchers estimate that each year, farmers burn about 23 million tonnes of paddy stubble in India. If stacked in 20 kg, 38 cm tall bales, that massive amount of straw would reach a height of almost 430,000 Kms. Stubble burning in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh is attributed as one of the biggest contributors to the rising levels of air pollution in the region during winters; accounting for close to 30% of Delhi’s winter air pollution.

For many farmers, burning off crop leftovers from previous harvests is the most cost-effective way to clear the fields for the next planting and get rid of weeds and pests. At a macro level, this practice has resulted in India accounting for 13% of total global carbon emissions for the 2015-2020 period.

At the same time, 60-70% of the electricity generated at thermal power plants comes from burning fossil fuels; often low-grade coal. In 2021, the Government of India launched the SAMARTH mission under which power plants are mandated to use between 5% and 10% of biomass alongside coal.

ACT For Environment is proud to support A2P Energy and their new biomass marketplace Carbon2Climate – an AI based platform that uses satellite imagery to identify areas where crop waste burning is prevalent & creates a marketplace where crop waste can be turned into clean biofuels instead. It connects farmers, manufacturers and buyers of biofuels as well as covers the entire value chain of biomass from identification and collection to processing and the end use of the green fuel supply chain.
A2P was one of the winners of ACT’s India Clean Air Challenge (ICAC) held in early 2022. Their solution displays a deep understanding of the crop burning challenge, aligns with the farmers’ economic realities and helps create radical efficiencies in the market for environmental impact.

ACT For Environment will help A2P increase the adoption of biomass and biofuels produced from agriculture waste to 1600 MT monthly and 6800 MT respectively. This has the potential significant environmental impact – the use of 6800 MT of green fuel for conventional fuel, the reduction of 9928 MT of CO2 emissions and the prevention of 20.4 tonnes of particulate matter from entering the atmosphere.

The company will implement a program model to onboard biomass and biogas producers as well as buyers on its proprietary trading platform, test biomass and biogas quality and create market linkages so that farmers, FPOs and related groups are able to increase their income and reduce crop burning.

Solving for air quality issues across India will take multiple interventions with multiple stakeholders like policy makers, businesses and citizens – it is a complex balancing act of economics and environment. We are excited to see A2P Energy at the forefront of fighting this critical problem with their technological solution that reduces agricultural emissions and increases clean energy use in the country.

ACT For Health brings Navya Care on board

According to the National Cancer Registry, 1 in 8 Indian men and 1 in 9 Indian women will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime.

These outcomes rank cancer as the most frequent non-communicable disease in India. The mortality:incidence ratio of 0.68 in India is far higher than that in very high human development index countries (0.38) as well as high HDI countries (0.57). Major causes for increased mortality ratio are lack of awareness and illiteracy leading to an advanced stage of cancer diagnosis, limited access to quality cancer care and inability of patients to afford optimum cancer care.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected cancer care services, with many oncology centres having been restructured to create COVID-19 units. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 cancer cases per month will go undiagnosed & delivering cancer care that complies with standard clinical guidelines improves cure, longevity, and quality of life will be further impacted.

To combat these disparities in standards of care and its availability, the National Cancer Grid (NCG) has the primary mandate of working towards uniform standards of care across India by adopting evidence-based management guidelines. However, an analysis of 21 cases at an AB empaneled hospital in a single day showed only 31% complied with NCG treatment guidelines, while 69% had treatment errors.

There are innovative solutions, like the one being piloted by Navya Care, that use the technology plus service model to empower patients with personalised, evidence-based cancer treatment plans. Navya’s AI-based intervention has three USPTO patents and functions as a sophisticated engine that requires trained clinical staff to operate. The guidelines engine matches a patient’s medical record with clinical guidelines from the National Cancer Grid (NCG) and National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).

  • The Evidence Engine uses published literature from randomised control trials and global conferences, and matches new patient data with the most applicable high quality evidence.
  • The Experience Engine uses case histories, treatment decisions of experts at tertiary care centres, and patient outcomes, to create an untapped source of experiential knowledge.
  • The Expert App quickly converts a medical case into a structured summary, presents evidence and experience-based options (above), and patient preference considerations, and collects and combines opinions from multiple experts – online.

ACT is excited to support Navya in developing the Earthshot Engine for breast, lung and oral cancer and thereby enable savings by cutting overtreatment cost of ~30,000 per patient, improve patient outcomes by avoiding undertreatment and ensure 100% of the patients coming to Navya receive NCG compliant care.

ACT For Health welcomes Swasth Alliance to its portfolio in support of the Health Claims Exchange

A big challenge we see with universal health coverage in India is the financeability of care and the corresponding implications for health related poverty – there is an inability to access meaningful care, especially for the missing middle in India. Where insurance exists, it is often reimbursement based, involves significant fraud risk and is costly to process with long lead times.

Swasth is a multi-stakeholder health sector alliance that leverages digital technologies and healthcare expertise to drive healthcare inclusion & better health outcomes for India.

A key area of work for Swasth is the Health Claims Exchange (HCX) which has the potential to become a transformative factor in reaching Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in India.

HCX is a set of standards created by an open community of volunteers convened by the Swasth Alliance that is now being used to build a national claims routing network that can be interoperably accessed and used by all payers in the system – from private insurers to public and community payers.

As one of the core building blocks of Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission’s architecture, HCX’s construct is inspired by the recommendations of the 2019 Joint Working Group convened by National Health Authority (NHA) and Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI).

By enabling payer-provider interactions irrespective of who the payers and providers are, it focuses on improving the efficiency of insurance and other health benefit payments in India – both for those who are already insured (public and private) as well as for those who currently have no insurance (the missing middle).

The same infrastructure can support the transfer/exchange of any kind of health related information between health system participants – from doctors and healthcare providers to pharmacists, insurers and patients. The exchange can carry information on the services rendered, value delivered and the corresponding payments made or claimed for.

The immediate goal for HCX is to transform the viability and scale of cashless claims processing by:

Improving patient experience & outcomes: By decreasing the 6-24 additional hours spent by patients in hospitals waiting for payments to come through.

Reducing risk for payers/insurers by reducing fraud: By enabling reduced fraud, support the evolution and entry of new payers and new kinds of payers.

Reducing the cost of claims processing: Today, the cost of processing a claim ranges between Rs. 500-2000. This makes paying for small ticket items like primary care impossible. HCX will drive this cost down and enable payers to efficiently cover a wider range of services for the patient.

Reducing the time of claims processing: HCX will mean faster resolution of claims, therefore reducing the financial burden for insurance holders.

Enabling health benefits interoperability between all health stakeholders: Standardisation will lead to ease of information transfer & improve interoperability which will enable patients and policy holders to explore new, less expensive options.

Hence, HCX will act as the foundation of a wider health information exchange (HIX) that will eventually underpin universal value-based healthcare in India – in line with SDG 3.8, which is to ‘achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all’.

We believe that Swasth is uniquely positioned as the prime mover of foundational infrastructure – governance infrastructure, collaborative infrastructure, technological infrastructure – and we look forward to working with them in pursuit of our aspiration for a genuine population scale health for all goal!

ACT For Health Grantee: BHS

Basic Healthcare Services (BHS) is an NGO that was born of the realization that rural India still struggles with a lack of access to proper healthcare.

With the aim of ensuring dignified healthcare for vulnerable communities, a group of public health & development professionals came together to set up a network of high quality, low cost primary healthcare services in Rajasthan’s tribal areas.

Tribal communities have a high prevalence of tuberculosis but existing XRay diagnostics are expensive & unavailable in rural PHCs. Patients have to incur huge expenses to travel to the nearest city for the XRay and often drop out of treatment; which can be fatal.

As an ACT For Health grantee, BHS is setting up light and inexpensive XRay machines across 3 AMRIT Clinics in Udaipur and 1 PHC in Dungarpur district to enable timely and effective diagnosis of TB. They’ll install a reader in one of the nodes to capture data from all machines; leading to an estimated cost reduction of 40%.

We are proud to play a small part in BHS’s journey & look forward to the wave of change they’ll bring to underserved communities healthcare needs!

If you’re a healthcare entrepreneur working on an innovative solution to address the access to affordability gap for Bharat, get in touch with us here.

Because we believe that everyone can be a co-founder of social change!

ACT For Health welcomes Periwinkle to its portfolio

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in India; accounting for 18.3% of new cases in the country. It is touted as the ‘disease of inequity’ because of the lack of access to modern advancements that have not equally benefited people living in LMICs like India.

Many studies prove that early screening and treatment reduces the overall incidence and prevalence of the disease. But for women living in rural India, low awareness about early detection and scarcity of healthcare resources often leads to the cancer only being diagnosed at an advanced stage; which leads to death.

Pap smears have been used for cervical cancer screening since the 1940s but the methodology is plagued with multiple issues. Pap smears require a complex infrastructure – experts to collect the sample / develop the slide, careful transportation of the slide to the laboratory and expert analysis by a pathologist for the final results. This not only makes this technique cost intensive but also increases the turnaround time for getting the results – which prevents the patient from getting immediate treatment, in case the results are positive.

And while WHO recommends naked VIA tests for LMICs, they also have a major limitation w.r.t. the subjectivity of test results as the accuracy is dependent on the experience of the professional conducting the test.

Taking cognizance of all these issues, ACT For Health has decided to support Periwinkle Technologies which has developed Smart Scope® CX – a handheld device that enables health workers to detect cervical cancer at an early stage, thus, reducing the morbidity and high mortality caused by late diagnosis.

Smart Scope captures images of the cervix with uniform illumination without the need for electricity, space, or other infrastructure. Its AI component analyses the images to provide a risk stratification thus reducing the need for extensive training and experience for the existing personnel to conduct the screening tests. The sensitivity of the test is around 88-90%, which is quite high compared to a pap smear, and the test results can be obtained within 10-15 mins.

ACT Grants is supporting Periwinkle in conducting an operational study in Chhattisgarh, by screening 2500+ women, to establish the benefits of Smart Scope® CX against the current prevalent naked eye VIA test.

Niramai comes on board as an ACT For Health grantee

Cancer, often dubbed as the ’emperor of all maladies’, is one of the leading causes of death globally. Among all prevalent types of cancer, breast cancer continues to account for the largest share of cancer cases globally.

The prevalence of breast cancer in India has sharply increased, primarily as a result of demographic changes and lifestyle modifications. A study found that the overall survival rate for breast cancer is 95% for stage I patients, 92% for stage II patients, 70% for stage III patients, and just 21% for stage IV patients.

According to the WHO, early detection is the key to improving patient survival. In fact in countries like the US and UK, the early stage screening program has led to 30-40% reduction in the mortality rate of breast cancer patients.

However, 60% of breast cancer patients in India are diagnosed only at an advanced stage (stages III and IV), which impacts both healthcare outcomes and the financial burden on patients.

Currently, mammography is the gold standard for screening breast cancer patients. However, it is ineffective for women with dense breasts – which is a dominant trait in the Indian subcontinent. This often results in false positives and over-diagnosis. Moreover, there is a lack of adequate mammography machines and trained manpower which limits widespread cancer screening across the country.

Innovative tools like the one developed by Niramai, a Bengaluru based deeptech startup, shows promise in addressing these limitations. Thermalytix, its proprietary product, is a low cost, portable & radiation-free AI based engine that objectively analyses images to detect thermal signatures for abnormalities. Many clinical studies have demonstrated their superior performance and as a result, Thermalytix has been approved by both the CE and FDA as an adjunct tool for breast cancer screening.

In one of their multicentric clinical investigations for instance, the sensitivity and specificity of their solutions were comparable to mammography while the accuracy being greater for participants with dense breast tissue – making them ideal for women from the Indian subcontinent.

This non-invasive technology has the potential to be socially and culturally more acceptable in countries like India and would therefore, accelerate mass screening of breast cancer in India.

ACT For Health is assisting Niramai in conducting a breast cancer screening in Andhra Pradesh with the goal of enhancing early stage cancer detection and treatment. This program will help 5,000 women in the state and create useful data to aid the replication of such programs across the country.

Vidyakul joins the ACT For Education collective

Since the pandemic, the online tutoring space has picked up immensely; with online classes rapidly replacing the traditional tuition centre model.

While this opened up access to quality teachers for students across the country, these e-learning solutions primarily catered to students in tier 1 cities – those whose families could afford to pay upwards of Rs 20,000 for such services per year. Furthermore, being designed for the English medium CBSE curriculum, they were unable to serve the needs of students from state board schools.

Having studied in a Hindi medium school near Ambala in Punjab, Tarun Saini set out to create an affordable solution that is custom created for state board students.

Vidyakul, his entrepreneurial idea, is a mobile app that offers both live & recorded classes, along with lecture notes and quizzes, for students in grades 9 to 12. Currently operating in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh & Gujarat, Vidyakul employs local teachers to create vernacular educational content for all subjects (including math, science, english & commerce) with contextual examples to help students learn better.

With all courses available only for Rs. 3000 for a full year, not only is this edtech solution highly affordable but also highly effective. Earlier, many of Vidyakul’s current users in remote/rural areas had to travel 20km+ to their nearest physical tuition centre whereas now, they can simply log in to the app on their parents phone for 1-2 hours a day and be taught by trained teachers.

ACT for Education believes in enabling high-quality edtech solutions for Bharat and we look forward to supporting Vidyakul in making theirs more holistic by adding doubt solving mechanisms, personalising the content for students and generating clear evidence of learning outcomes through both in app data and researcher led studies.

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