Podcast session on “Medical 3D Printing in India & South-East Asia” with Arpan Saluja from Anatomiz3D

This week, we are launching our second podcast session. In the episodes, we are talking about 3D Printing at the Point-of-Care industry with the experts in the branch and today our guest is Arpan Saluja, a Vice President and a Business Developer at Anatomiz3D, one of the leading medical 3D printing companies in India, which provides point-of-care 3D printing solutions for a wide range of personalized healthcare solutions. These include 3D models, surgical guides, customized implants, or other patient-specific devices. As our guest is an expert in the field for many years and used to work in the field in one of the largest companies in the industry such as Materialise, he provided us with an in-depth insight into the 3D printing advanced solutions in India and South-East Asia.

The mission of our podcast sessions is to provide our listeners with the most resourceful information and insight into the 3D Printing at the Point-of-Care. As our guests are the professionals in the industry, we are doing our best to deliver the first-hand information and their personal experiences while working in the branch. Speaking about our guest, after briefly introducing himself, Arpan Saluja explained their main activities at the company, Anatomiz3D, in which he currently acts as the vice president of business development. He then gives us a glimps on how the process of customized medical devices production in India looks like and how the cooperation with hospitals there is being set up. He also outlined what type of services Anatomiz3D is focused on the most and what kind of use cases are being developed for 3D labs at the hospitals. Mentioning a few of the hospital’s group such as Max or Apollo Hospital groups, he mentioned that thanks to the successful collaboration, these are the ones that are going to have their own, in-house Point-of-Care labs very soon. 

Speaking about the regulations, Arpan Saluja marked that in India, regulations are still unclear and there is a strong dependence on the FDA clearances. As he explained, there is still a lot to be covered in terms of medical device authorizations or approvals and that this is a still very sensitive area in India. However, taking a look back into the South East Asia market while working at Materialise, he stated that Singapore, even if we only take the medical sector, is actually leading in 3D printing technology and has a lot of high-class, 3D printing concentrated, supporting institutions, on which it is relying on. For example, it has its own governing body called NAMIC, which is responsible for promoting innovations in additive manufacturing for different industries. This can also be seen during the COVID19 pandemic, where even though most of the surgeries were put on hold, the 3D printed personal protective equipment (PPE) production was still in progress. To conclude, we can understand that there are great growth and traction towards 3D Printing at Point-of-Care in Asian markets too.

“Medical 3D Printing is the natural progression of medical imaging technologies,” says Arpan Saluja from Anatomiz3D “Just as the other imaging technologies that were adopted in-house to make it faster and easily accessible for the doctors, 3D printing need to be adopted in-house”

Below, you can listen to the whole episode on  “3D Printed Medical Devices Manufacturing in India & South-East Asia” with Arpan Saluja from Anatomiz3D. However, if you prefer the transcribed version of our second podcast, you can also read it below. We hope that you would enjoy or podcast show and please let us also know what topics would you like us to consider in our next podcast sessions!

00:01:59 Hi, welcome to our second podcast session. I’m Weronika, the host of this program in which we are going to talk about printing and at the point of care industry with our guests who are experts in the branch. We would like to also invite you to check out our website, 3dpointofcare.com, where we post the latest news and advancements in the industry. Now, let’s move to our episode today. Our guest is Arpan Saluja, a vice president and a business developer at Anatomiz3D. Hi Arpan! It’s a pleasure to have you with us today. Once again, thank you for participating in our podcast show. We know that before you have been also working as a medical 3D, printing application engineer at Materialise in India and South-East Asia. Can you also tell us more about yourself and your past work experiences in your industry?

00:02:53: Sure. Hi, Weronika. I’m happy to be here. Happy to be a part of this and share my experience. So just to give you a brief background. I actually was introduced to 3D Printing during my Masters. That’s what I learned about 3D printing first, but is very generic. It was just a simple SDN machine. And after I completed my Masters, I was fortunate to join Materialise, which is one of the pioneers in this field. One of the largest companies worldwide, one of the most innovative companies. So I was very happy to be a part of the team there, and I was even more fortunate to join the medical team, which produces advanced medical 3D modeling and 3D printing solutions. So as the application engineer there, I drove the adoption of these solutions in India and South-East Asia. And after working there for more than four years, I joined a startup in India called an Anatomiz3D, which is one of the leaders of medical 3D printing solutions in India. So that’s how my journey into medical 3D printing continued, whereby I left Materialise, It was more focused on, say, the software component of how to enable people with the software for medical 3D printing while at Anatomiz, it was more on the ground level how to use the software to create actual components and provide them to the surgeons and the clinical setting. So that’s how I went along my journey into medical 3D printing.

00:04:31: Yes, I see, great, thank you for such an introduction. We can now move on to our next questions I would say. So what Anatomiz3D provides? Can you tell us more about its activities?

00:04:46: Right. So Anatomiz3D is a provider of all kinds of personalized healthcare solutions. This ranges from basic customized medical devices whereby we can both patients CT or an MRI scan into our 3D model, as well as in further design or engineer upon that 3D model to create surgical guides, customized implants and other patient-specific devices. So this is more on the medical devices component where we create customized devices. We also do provide design and consultancy services for medical 3D printing. And Anatomiz3D has been one of the leading companies in India for medical 3D modeling services. And over the years, they started back in 2015. So over the years, they’ve gathered a lot of expertise, especially in some core areas, such as soft tissue modeling, which is a little more difficult than hard tissue modeling.So you have heart structures, liver structures, all the soft tissues. So we are since you’ve gathered that expertise, we are also able to train, consult and provide design services to companies which are, you know, not so familiar with the medical 3D modeling, with 3D printing side of things. And lastly, we also help hospitals. Now they have gathered. All that and when expertise, we are now helping hospitals, also technology can be provided here. So that’s how we provide all end to end services, design service to a complete enterprise-level 3D printing set up.

00:06:26: I understand. So can you also provide some examples of your work until now? How are the hospitals using the service? Is it possible to provide some statistics for us?

00:06:38 Oh, yeah, sure. We’ve actually, I think at Anatomiz, the core focus, which it began with was cardiology, especially pediatric cardiology, was one of the key sectors whereby a need for 3D modeling was very significant since the hard structures are very intricate and very complex. So that’s what Anatomiz started with. But as the years went by, a lot of need came from plastic surgery, cranio-maxillofacial surgery and neurosurgery. So we’ve worked with all the leading hospitals in India, all the leading hospital chains, if you might have heard of Apollo hospitals, Fortis hospitals, Manipal hospitals, both private and public hospitals to provide them with these kinds of 3D models and customized devices. So I think gradually, where initially it used to be only about two to three cases a month in the last one year on average, we have done about 20 to 25 cases a month. So volume has steadily increased as more people, more surgeons are adopting this technology. And the key sectors seem to be neurosurgery, plastic surgery and oncology, because that’s also where the most complexity occurs. Over the last one year we have had two major breakthroughs whereby we have signed contracts with two of the biggest hospital chains in India to send them in-house point of care, 3D printing labs. This is the Max Hospital Group, as well as the Apollo Hospital Group. So in Max, the latter has already been set up. And in Apollo, it’ll also be set up very soon. It’s just got delayed due to the current situation. So that’s two major breakthroughs. Two such big hospitals teams are taking this technology onboard in such a big way.

00:08:27: Great. Thank you. So we also know that the regulations can vary from one country to another. And we are really interested in how different are the regulations in India? And do you officially recognize 3D printing as a method of manufacturing medical devices there?

00:08:46: OK, so the regulations in India for medical devices generally have not are not very well defined. India does rely to a large extent on certain FDA clearances. But apart from that, not all devices are very well regulated. And 3D printing is also in that bracket whereby it is not yet recognized as a manufacturing method for medical devices.This does for us, this does bring some advantages, but also poses some challenges. The advantages are that because it is not recognized, it is very easy to provide these services without any specific regulation or any authorization. So as long as the doctor is convinced, the patient is convinced they are ready to go and use this technology, be it invasively or noninvasively. However, the other side of the argument with this is that because there is no checks in place, the quality is not always well regulated. So because of that, you have a lot of people lining up, providing medical 3D printing services. However, not all of them are either well qualified or well experienced to provide the high quality of services, audio and sense of medical. It becomes a very sensitive area. So, that’s where I think the lack of regulation is both a blessing and a curse.

00:10:05: I see. Okay, so speaking about that, can you also provide us some more about the landscape of 3D printing medical devices in Asia? Because you worked at Materialize in Malaysia. How would you define the industry there? Is it growing?

00:10:20: Yeah. So I think when I was in Malaysia, I was not responsible for the whole of Southeast Asia, which in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, all of that. I was at this one for all of that market. And what happens there is Singapore is a clear leader in leading the front on 3D printing technology. But in terms of medical specifically, there, the local regulatory body is quite strict. So which is why what Singapore has done, though, is they focused heavily on their R&D. They have a number of high-class research institutions, such as the National University of Singapore, the Nanyang Technological University, a lot of major research institutions. So they’ve invested heavily in terms of the research to build it up from the ground up so that all the processes are well documented. They use cases that are well seen and enough evidence is gathered together to be presented to the regulatory body to make it a standard of care. So Singapore has and in fact, Singapore even has a government body in place which is responsible for encouraging 3D printing in the community. It’s called NAMIC. So that’s responsible for promoting additive manufacturing and innovation in the community. A similar initiative is in Korea as well. So Korea is also one of the leaders, I would say, worldwide in 3D printing, because they are also the government has focused on it in a heavy way, again, through the establishment of a dedicated body called KMUG, It’s the core Additive Manufacturing User Group, which is again responsible to gather funds, allocate funds and encourage research into 3D printing. So clearly in Asia, Singapore and Korea are huge hubs for 3D printing, and then they adopt the route of going to their research institutions whereby their engineering schools collaborate with their medical schools to perform research and come up with innovations using 3D printing. Whereas in the other countries, as in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, though, again, it’s a bit of a gray area. There is no clear definition in terms of the regulatory structure is still an evolving process, which is why also there are some innovations are easy to progress into. But some parts, there are roadblocks there. There’s a lot of red tape. So that’s why the progress also is slower at more of the research level and not yet at the clinical adoption as much. 

00:12:54: Great, I understand. And what’s your personal outlook on that? What exactly do you think about 3D printing of medical devices at the Point of Care?

00:13:03: I think that’s definitely the next step to go, because the fact is that, like with the most other 3D printing is sort of a natural progression to imaging the technologies. The entire purpose of 3D printing and medical where that came about first was to realize what’s inside the human body without cutting it open, which is similar to imaging. First, you had x rays. Then you had CT scans. Then you had MRI scans. And now 3D printing is a natural progression of that technology whereby the doctor can know what to expect before going into surgery, just like all the other technologies that have been adopted in-house, because it makes the process a lot faster. It makes it easily accessible for the doctor. Same with 3D printing needs to also be adopted in-house to make it very easily accessible. And part of the standard of care, I think where else it can advance into then, is the creation of devices such as surgical guides, customized implants and more. I think the focus needs to be on material innovation to create more bio resolvable and biocompatible materials that can be manufactured at the point of care and hopefully with the progress of even bioprinting. I do see that someday you will have a scenario whereby if someone needs a liver to be donated, someone needs a liver, they don’t need it to be donated, they can simply be printed in the hospital and implanted straight away. So I see that as the end goal or the best case scenario.

00:14:33: I see. Thank you. And now comes the kind of other question, like different type of question. How about COVID19? Like, I know your company is doing a lot to fight the pandemic situation. I also read that you have been producing 3D printed parts of medical devices, such as the ventilators, valves and face shields masks. And I was about to ask how challenging was that for you?

00:14:59: Well, it has been very challenging because the fact is that as a company where our entire business model depends on surgeons performing complex genes and that’s providing them with these patient-specific devices. With Covid, what happened is the all the surgeries at the hospitals have been put on hold. So what that causes is our entire business is shut in that sense, because since no one’s doing surgeries, we can not provide any sorts of sensations, specific devices. So which is exactly where that anatomy has had to diversify or look into another direction to be sustainable. And that’s exactly where protective equipment came in. The first thing that we saw, the first request that we got actually was ventilator parts to create certain ventilators, splitters, because the estimation was that as October 19 cases would rise, they would not be in a ventilator. So if a ventilator could be shared between two people. So that’s why the first request came about. And that’s when you’ve got Anatotomiz3D thinking on what else it can do to help with this current situation. And through some brainstorming, that’s what we came across the idea of face shields. So we developed facials, which were quite successful. And now it’s become like a norm. And then we kept innovating on the ventilator pods to produce certain spare parts, certain converters to convert them into bypass. And all of that. And that has been definitely a success. Apart from that, then the focus has still been more on the protective equipment, because that seems to be that we can say the largest source of revenue or the largest requirement from the market. So, the fact is that Anatomiz3D had to diversify into that because of the Covid situation. However, now that things are slowly, slowly getting back to a some what of a normal, the normal surgical cases have also started. It’s good to see that that is normal business is also resuming. At least to certain extent. However, still on this protective equipment. 

00:17:13 Okay, great. Thanks. I see. Like, it was very interesting to know actually. And Arpan, Thanks a lot. That was my last question. Maybe, is there anything more that you would like to mention before we finish our session?

00:17:31: No, I don’t think so. I think that it has been a great session. And thank you so much for the opportunity.

00:17:36: Thanks a lot. And I think it would be the end. It was a great conversation. Once again, thank you for being with us today. We hope that you can have you once again in our program soon. And we wish you all the best with your next career plans. And to our listeners now. Thank you for listening to our podcast show, If you liked it. Visit our website 3Dpointofcare.com and stay tuned for the next sessions. Have a great day and bye!

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