Using Innovation and Technology to Solve People’s Problems

Syngene, a subsidiary of Biocon, is a contract research and manufacturing organisation, which supports R&D programs from lead generation to clinical supplies. Syngene undertakes many activities in the CSR and sustainability space, and according to Mahesh Bhalgat, Chief Operating Officer of Syngene, “We are a science company. We incorporate science and technology in everything that we do.”

When the company embarked on the path of sustainability, the immediate concern was to solve some of the developmental challenges faced in its neighbourhood. There was a clear lack of health and sanitation facilities. They started by providing a doctor and basic primary health facilities. Since no buildings were available to house this clinic immediately, the clinic was set up temporarily in a government school, after class hours. Soon the program expanded to eight full-fledged clinics. Syngene focused on innovation and technology and utilised these elements in their health programs. This led to the development of eLAJ Smart Clinics. Typically, a patient has a long wait before the consultation with the doctor. In the eLAJ Smart Clinic model, a patient’s vital parameters are electronically recorded at the registration desk while she waits for the doctor. Thus, when the patient meets the doctor, the doctor already has the patient’s vitals delivered through the network. If further diagnostics are required, the clinics are equipped with lab devices which instantly transmit results to the doctor. The programme has expanded to 15 Public Health Centres of the Government of Karnataka. The eLAJ Smart Clinics set up in Rajasthan, supported the development of a more comprehensive Integrated Health Management System by the government of Rajasthan.

Over time, Biocon Foundation, the CSR arm of Syngene, expanded its activities to provide quality education to schoolchildren. Starting with Chinnara Ganitha, a mathematics workbook series, Syngene has expanded the scope to other subjects as well. The quality and popularity of these books led to the education department requesting that the books be used in government schools.

CHAMPS (Child Health Activists Mentoring & Promoting Health in Society) is a unique initiative of Syngene CSR. The program is aimed at developing high school students as community change agents in driving awareness on the early onset of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The CHAMPS are trained to monitor and report high blood pressure cases. Bhalgat says, “The infectious energy that you see among the students is amazing. They are change agents in the society influencing their parents and the neighbourhood alike.”

Oral cancer is the most common cancer among Indian men. Syngene has trained and equipped ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activists) with a mobile application to capture risk factors and intra-oral images. These images are analysed by remote specialists, for oral lesions. Based on the specialist recommendation, the ASHA mobilises the patient for further diagnosis and treatment.

Mental health has emerged as a significant public health challenge. Syngene tied up with NIMHANS in Bengaluru to develop a mental health self-care kit and address technology addiction among adolescents.

“In addition to healthcare, our innovation and technology extends to rejuvenation and cleaning of the Hebbagodi lake in Bengaluru.” stated Ms. Pratima Rao, Mission Director, Biocon Foundation. The lake was in poor condition due to untreated sewage and dumping of solid waste and debris in the lake. Unlike most lake rejuvenation programmes that utilise one of the three methods: bioremediation, mechanical aeration and artificial floating islands, the Hebbagodi lake rejuvenation used all three methods. Around the lake, a biodiversity hotspot was created with plants, insects, birds, aquatic life, canopy trees, aromatic plants and medicinal shrubs.

Bhalgat says, “In a way, Syngene’s business itself has a far-reaching impact on the lives of people. We help save people’s life through drug discovery and development. Hence, we touch people’s lives every day.

(Based on a conversation with Mahesh Bhalgat, COO, Syngene International and Pratima Rao, Mission Director, Biocon Foundation). For the Responsible Future blog