Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, and in 2018 was the second most common cancer globally. It now accounts for one in four of all cancers in women, and since 2008, incidence has increased by more than 20 per cent and mortality rates from the disease have increased by 14 per cent.
Yet in India, women face huge barriers to the early diagnosis and treatment so critical to survival. Those with the condition have only around a 50 per cent chance of recovery, largely because the high cost of screening, inaccuracy of X-ray detection, and cultural barriers often deter them from seeking medical assistance.
Responding to this need is Niramai, a business that has developed software to detect early-stage breast cancer using thermal imaging and machine-learning algorithms. These innovations are 30 per cent more accurate than the typical detection technique of mammograms, and 70 per cent more capable of making predictions than the traditional method of doctors interpreting reports.
Importantly, this screening method is radiation-free, which removes the risks often associated with traditional procedures. Also, it’s non-invasive, which removes social barriers and makes it accessible to more women.
• Niramai’s technology reduces diagnostic costs by 95 per cent, and is 30 per cent more accurate than the typical breast cancer detection technique
• The business has reached 24,000 women since inception
Niramai’s technology is cutting breast cancer diagnostic costs by 95 per cent compared to traditional detection techniques
The thermal imaging and machine-learning technology also has huge value and impact beyond breast screening. For example, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded a project where Niramai used its technology to detect the presence of live adult worms, a major problem in some parts of Africa that can cause disfiguring skin conditions and permanent blindness.
The technology is cheaper too, typically cutting diagnostic costs by around 95 per cent compared to traditional methods – from 2,000 INR to 100 INR per patient (from $27 to $1.3) for breast screening. Since inception, the company has screened 24,000 women.
Niramai has also been finding new ways to use the technology in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and has piloted ‘FeverTest’, an artificial-intelligence-powered Covid-screening solution. Used at the entrances to hospitals, workplaces and other public premises, the test is more effective at screening and detecting the virus than existing methods such as infrared thermometers. It has great potential to reduce the risk of transmission and enable faster treatment for positive cases – both vital in slowing the spread of the virus.
We invested in Niramai through Ankur Capital and Pi Ventures, early-stage venture capital funds focused on technology disruptions that benefit Indian consumers. The FeverTest pilot has been supported with funding from British International Investment Plus, our technical assistance facility.
Niramai’s technology is 30 per cent more accurate than typical breast cancer detection techniques