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Asian startups: I see dead people—the story of iGene

Zafar Anjum | Dec. 19, 2013
Mathavan A. Chandran, 45, a Malaysian entrepreneur, has brought IT a little closer to the morbid frontier of death by pioneering a system of digital autopsy that is finding favour in far corners of the world.

They would call that room the digital autopsy facility.

Malaysia was the first country to believe in Chandran's offering.

Two and a half years ago they deployed their first such facility in a hospital in Kuala Lumpur. That was the world's first full-fledged digital autopsy facility.

"That gave us a lot of mileage and we started having foreign visitors," he recalls.

After that there was no looking back for Chandran.

The future is digital autopsy

Professor Peter Vanezis, Consultant Forensic Pathologist to the Home Office and Chief Medical Officer for iGene in the UK 

According to Chandran, iGene's UK operation will be profitable within three years. During that time, he hopes to have built at least 10 more facilities in his Malaysia. Countries from the Middle East, Latin America and elsewhere in Asia are also showing keen interest in his service.

Chandran thinks that digital autopsy is here to stay. "Where necessary, the scene of death or crime could also be reconstructed digitally using the 3D capabilities of the system. The results are available almost immediately," he says.

The benefits of the digital autopsy system include easing the emotional burden on families at a time of intense stress with a non-invasive investigation; speed of examination, investigation and subsequent autopsy results, minimising delays in releasing the body for burial or cremation; and accuracy of results (some findings that are difficult to spot during a conventional process can be more easily identified and examined in line with the needs of forensic pathologists).

Chandran says about 550,000 deaths are recorded in England and Wales each year alone, of which more than 200,000 are classified as medico legal. "Digital Autopsies will become the first line intervention in post-mortem investigation and more than 70 percent of the cases could be concluded with Digital Autopsy alone.  In the future a more targeted, invasive post mortem may only be required where Digital Autopsy cannot provide all information required."

Chandran says it looks improper to make a forecast of his market in terms of business potential but he feels that there is definitely a need for a service like his.

"In the first world, the ratio of autopsy is very high," he says. "In the third world, the ration of autopsy is very low. Lowest is 5% and highest is 54%. UK has a rate of 46%. So you can say that at best one in two deaths must be autopsied. In the world 70 million people die per year. Out of 70 million, 7 million are autopsied somewhere on planet earth."

Even if the dead don't speak, the statistics do. And we agree.


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