i-biomed: Ambidextrous Innovation, Dexterous Prosthetics

Dr.Natarajan profile photo


Dr. Ananth Natarajan
Founder, Infinite Biomedical Technologies,
San Marino, CA

This is an exclusive interview with Dr. Ananth Natarajan, who is the founder of Infinite Biomedical Technologies, LLC (IBT or i-biomed) a medical device company – an outcome of his MSE research in collaboration with his guide Dr. Nitish Thakor.

i-biomed, is dedicated to creating innovative and useful solutions in prosthetic technology, exclusively for upper extremity amputees. Ananth’s vision is to solve important prosthetic problems through first-hand feedback and by translating our research discoveries into prosthetic products through commercialization. It develops prosthetic technologies for upper and lower limb amputees in order to make their prosthetics more comfortable and more useful. Our solutions include Flex Cell, a flexible prosthetic battery in two sizes that can fit within the prosthetic’s sleeve in order to provide a better distribution of weight.

Dr. Natarajan has been recognized by MIT TR 100 awards for his IBT’s research into technologies that are in various stages of development. These technologies are:
a) A minimally invasive screening tool for endometrial cancer.
b) A non-surgical prosthesis to treat stress incontinence.
c) A technology to equip pacemakers and implantable defibrillators with the ability to detect an impending heart attack and enable rapid therapy.
d) A wireless monitor with advanced detection algorithms to evaluate
neurological function following brain trauma.
e) An automated intraoperative monitor to improve spine surgery.

These innovations hold the promise to solve pressing clinical problems in the fields of cardiac, gynaecology and neurocrtical care.

Interview with Dr. Natarajan:
Who inspired you to take interest in this area of research?
My parents – both of whom are physicians, influenced and inspired me to take interest in medical field. It was during my training at the College of Bio-Medical Engineering in Duke University at its Pratt School of Engineering, I started to see technology as a means to solve health related challenges.

According to Ananth there is no one answer to deciding what is right in research area, he believes its “an exploration” a random walk of life, persistence and dodged execution just like Edison. His Ph.D. supervisor Dr. Nitish Thakor has also played a pivotal role in his decisions and manifesting them.

What services do Infinite Biomedical Technologies provide?
Infinite Biomedical Technologies has developed multiple products in service of humanity. According to Ananth, what they do is not an easy thing – they have worked hard over years to reach this fame & popularity, it has required team work, most importantly finding the right people on the team has been challenging, and having them work together.

Is it easy to be an entrepreneur in the Healthcare sector in the U.S.?
Ananth believe that Healthcare has become a commodity in the U.S. and is under invested. The products or solutions they have marketed have not been easy for the first five years to make profits. There is less federal money for entrepreneurs and still less for healthcare innovations, which don’t ring profits for first few years on their investments. This certainly has made it difficult for healthcare innovators to thrive in U.S.

What do think about innovation challenges facing India or Asia?
Ananth understands that there are serious challenges pertaining to innovation in India/Asia. Although these are exciting times in India because of the emerging middle class, particularly because of huge opportunities available in bigger markets. He believes though that anyone who has a desire to make a difference in the community through healthcare innovations, they should come up with a sustainable model but first; understand the markets to receive return of revenue.

What challenges did you face to grow the firm?
For the first five years of i-biomed was purely research oriented, mostly geared towards getting the products in the market and thriving them. These years were not philanthropic and the net impact on human health was not that lasting. First few years i-biomed was federally funded by NIH and all products are cleared by USFDA. Originally contribution to the research supervision was done by Dr. Nitish Thakor who has worked in the health care system. There technology is primarily sold in U.S., Canada & Europe and the challenges present in these countries or continents are completely different that those in India or Asia.

What’s his best product service that he is proud of giving it to the community?
Serving 20,000 patients using their susbsidiary vigilant medical solutions is something Ananth is proud of providing to the community. The second in line product service that he is proud of is the prosthetic batteries & RFID that have restored human life.

Use of big data to improve lives of cancer patients – is a project on i-biomed’s radar, that will assist in ways of looking into molecular diagnostics from a larger population to provide a response to treatment or cure. This is their FUTURE’s investment.

The advice Ananth gives to all innovators is “Surround yourself with good advisors and mentors.” He further advices, that build things that are impactful but they should not become a burden to stakeholders in terms of resources or finances that might have them create barriers to deploying them.

Dr. Natarajan is a physician and engineer who specializes in utilization of advanced technology to solve pressing clinical problems. He founded Infinite Biomedical Technologies (IBT) in 1997 and served as the Chief Executive Officer of the company for over ten years. Funding for the company was provided by the National Institutes of Health, which committed substantial capital to IBT for development of its high-risk, high-reward technologies.

The company has developed neurocritical care monitors and also spun-out a software company in the endoscopy space, Ikona Medical. The spin-out developed the first mobile reader application for capsule endoscopy on the Apple iPad™ platform. IBT also launched a healthcare information technology company (Vigilant Medical) which provides medical image sharing for clients, including four of the “Top 10 Heart Hospitals” as ranked by U.S. News and World Report. Over 20,000 patients have been cared for using the Vigilant system.

Currently IBT is developing an advanced dexterous prosthetic system for upper extremity amputees, and over 200 amputees are currently using one or more components of this system. For the past several years, Ananth has also been an active angel investor and has helped fund over a dozen early-stage technology companies, primarily outside the life sciences arena.

Ananth has several publications, presentations, and patents to his credit. He has received the TR35 award from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review and the Duke University Engineering Distinguished Young Alumnus Award. He has been featured in the Red Herring magazine in a cover story as one of “5 Technology Innovators Changing the World.” He is a member of the California Club, the Athenaeum, the Economic Round Table, the Pasadena Angels, and the Life Science Angels.
He serves as the President of the Caltech Associates, and also serves on the Board of Directors of Innovate Pasadena, Ikona Medical, Vigilant Medical (Chairman), and Scalable Wind Solutions (Chairman). In the past he has served on the Boards of the Duke University Alumni Association of Southern California, HIVE Lighting, the Pasadena Angels (Secretary), and the Pasadena Symphony. He is Past President of the Physicians’ Wine & Food Society and continues to serve on its Executive Committee.

Dr. Natarajan received his BSE in Biomedical Engineering and Electrical Engineering from Duke University (at age 18, with Distinction). He received an MSE in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University and his MD from the University Of Chicago Pritzker School Of Medicine. Additionally, he completed his residency training in Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Southern California.