Dr Vasan SS, CEO & MD, Manipal Ankur, in conversation with eHealth holds forth on the recent developments at Manipal Ankur and shares his insights on the sudden spurt of infertility in India
Please tell us something about Manipal Ankur.
Manipal Ankur is a joint venture between Ankur Healthcare and Manipal Health Enterprises Pvt Ltd, Bangalore. At Ankur we are focused both on male and female fertility issues as well as special dysfunctions like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation. We also have an emphasis on male health in terms of mens vascular. The organization has a pan-India presence, having 11 centres in India across different cities such as Bangalore, Mangalore, Ongole, Raichur, Indore, Jaipur, Salem and Goa. We will soon be functional in Surat, Jabalpur, Delhi, Bhuvaneshwar and Kolkata.
If you look at fertility centres, most are tilted towards addressing only female fertility or IVF alone. What research has established is that male infertility is equally a pertinent issue and it is extremely under-served in India. Therefore, we have been constantly addressing fertility comprehensively, both, male and female. It is our firm belief that addressing this comprehensively is the only way to be effective in the treatment that we are eventually offering to our patient.
What are the reasons for spurt of infertility in India?
People tend to associate fertility as an urban phenomenon which is untrue. The problem of infertility is multi-layered. Infertility is an equally rampant phenomenon in rural areas.
Historically, in India, a lot of infertility was undetected. Culturally, the females were to be blamed for infertility. Now, with our thought processes being more open, people are resorting to take medical help. It has helped us capture the problem of infertility.
What are the major technologies that you have implemented in Manipal Ankur?
We have constantly invested in the latest technologies. We have been pioneers in advanced diagnostic capabilities of andrology. Some of the tests we do like DNA Fragmentation Index (DFI), Reactive Oxygenation Species (ROS), Caspase 3, Annexin V Binding, Sperm Proteomic analysis, we are the only ones in the country to be doing this. We have invested in time lapsed imaging system for embryo monitoring that helps in deciding the best embryo for implantation. This has helped us significantly improve our success rates in females with recurrent IVF failures.
We would be the first to be using flow cytometry technology in male infertility diagnosis. Along the way we have partnered with various equipment vendors globally and are now focussing in assessing endothelial dysfunction in male, manage the reproductive health of a male and therefore proactively identifying males who show signs of developing CVD eventually.
What are the steps you have taken to make IVF treatment affordable to the masses?
Our presence across the country has helped us in standardizing our infrastructure and treatment protocols. Due to this there is consistency in what we do across all these centers. Over time, this has enabled us to focus on automation, thereby improving clinical accuracy and reducing costs. Further, we are constantly looking for ways to bring in new tools/technologies that will help us in reducing cost to patient. Testimony to this is the fact that our prices would be one of the lowest in most of the locations we are present and still manage to deliver success at international benchmarks.
In India, there are around 1,000 IVF centres. How are you different from them?
Traditional infertility centers focus on IVF / female infertility only, but we focus on addressing male and female infertility comprehensively. We are considered pioneers in the field of Andrology in India, having a strong lab conducting advanced tests to help maximize success of an IVF. Some tests like DFI, ROS, Caspase 3, Annexin V Binding, Sperm proteomic analysis were initiated by us and have helped in developing clinical strategies for patient care. We have incubated a set of services in the area of early vascular ageing detection and management of male and have seen tremendous success.
Research collaborations with institutes like IISc, Biocos, Achira labs, RGTU constantly help us in pushing the bar on treating fertility. Our time tested QA-QC processes ensure consistent SOPs across all centres across all clinical services therefore consistent patient care and results. We offer fellowship courses in Andrology and Reproductive Medicine that are certified by Manipal & RGUHS univer sity. This has helped us in spreading awareness and going beyond our centers to ensure people get benefited. Innovation is at the core of this all and our efforts in deploying time lapse imaging system for embryo monitoring & flow cytometry in Andrology diagnosis is testimony to this.
“Traditional infertility centers focus on IVF / female infertility only but we focus on addressing male and female infertility comprehensively”
What is the normal success rate of these treatments?
If you look at the international standards, success rate is categorised by age. By international standards, it has been benchmarked at around 35- 36 percent. Indian standards do not publish any standard for India. We also come out with our own researches, and we have kept it as 45 percent, as we like going beyond standard benchmarks.
Convincing people for IVF technology, how difficult is it?
We are here to explain the right approach, to diagnose their problems, tell them why pregnancy is not hap- pening and give them a scientific explanation. The decision is completely the patients.
Please tell us about Medical Tourism at Manipal Ankur.
Although our focus has been primarily on the domestic patients, we have seen a steady increase in patient flow from a few international markets like Maldives, Africa, Middle East and Bangladesh to our centers across.