Saving lives: ETH doctoral candidate Eashan Saikia wants to drastically reduce the number of pneumonia cases resulting from artificial respiration.
Mr Saikia, what’s so dangerous about artificial respiration?
The tracheal tube that is inserted into a patient’s airway prevents the natural flow of mucus and therefore the continuous removal of pathogens. What’s more, a hospital already has a higher concentration of dangerous germs in the air than a natural environment. Especially patients in intensive care units are affected: In the United States alone, 150,000 people contract ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) every year.
You are a mechanical engineer. How did you become aware of this problem?
On average, every third ventilator patient gets VAP worldwide and in developing countries like India, where I am originally from, the rate is even higher. A doctor I know told me about this problem, and I decided to find a solution.
What does your solution look like?
We, at Aesptuva, are currently developing a device that periodically cleans the tracheal tube. We would not be able to disclose technical details as we are in the process of filing a patent.
How do you find time for your startup project as a PhD candidate at the Institute of Building Materials at ETH Zurich?
I’m completing my doctoral thesis at the end of this year. Until then, my colleagues and I will be able to complete the necessary preparations with regard to funding and medical partnerships.
So you will start in earnest in 2021?
That’s correct. From then on, we will get a move on: in-vitro testing, animal testing, and finally clinical trials on humans. I’m extremely confident that it will work; especially because Switzerland is an excellent base for a science-based startup.