Founded by Dr. Ulhas Kharul
According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, it is estimated that about 3 million deaths were caused globally by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2005. WHO also predicts that COPD will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030. Crude estimates suggest there are 30 million COPD patients in India. Many patients with severe COPD need constant use of supplemental oxygen (~35% oxygen concentration in breathing air). This method of providing supplemental oxygen is called Oxygen Therapy. Oxygen therapy is also important for neonatal (pre-term babies) and maternal care. Currently available methods of oxygen therapy (cryogenic plants or PSA based oxygen concentrators) are either based on imported technology or materials and mainly available in big hospitals only. However, in these methods, oxygen is first concentrated to 95-100% levels and then diluted to 35% before for treating the patients, leading to huge wastage of energy. Due to all these facts, oxygen therapy is costly (prices range from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 2-3 Lakh for portable systems) and out-of-reach for common people. Though oxygen cylinders are available in urban areas, the associated logistic issues render them costly for patients from semi-urban, remote and rural areas. Therefore, oxygen therapy needs to be decentralized from big hospitals and made available to needy patients at an affordable cost.
To address this unmet need in India, Genrich Membranes Pvt. Ltd., a spin-off company based on proprietary technology from CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, uses hollow fiber membrane technology to offer cost-effective solutions for O2 enriched sterile air for medical applications (oxygen therapy) for patients suffering from respiratory diseases (asthma, COPD, neonatal, etc.). Currently available PSA-based O2 concentrator modules dilute 95-100% purity oxygen to the desired concentration of 35%, leading to huge wastage of energy. In contrast, the developed membrane-based oxygen enrichment unit elevates the amount of O2 in ambient air to only 35%, thus making it a more energy efficient process. Moreover, the current OEU is adaptable to diverse applications (rural health centers, hospitals, home care, ambulance, oxygen booths/spas, etc.). In addition, since there is no fouling, these membrane systems can be expected to have a long operational life with minimum maintenance.
In 2016, Venture Center invested Rs. 50 Lakh as a seed fund under the NSTEDB_SSS scheme. This money has helped Genrich to build necessary facilities, build the team, plan field trials and product design efforts, and scout for other ideas to expand the product portfolio. Genrich is also hopeful of receiving financial assistance under the SPARSH scheme of BIRAC.
Genrich Membranes is looking at other business opportunities to diversify and work towards applying this hollow fiber membrane technology for enrichment of other gases like nitrogen, hydrogen and biogas sweetening. They are currently working on realizing a proof-of-concept for nitrogen enrichment, as purified nitrogen gas has many applications in the food, automobile and chemical industries. They have also signed MOUs for H2 enrichment in the hydroprocessing industry and with two biogas manufacturers for enriching methane and removal of CO2.
The global gas separation market is estimated to be worth 760 million US$ by 2020, with an average growth rate of 7-8% per year.
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