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Harm Reduction Research & Innovation Center: Empowering Innovations to Build a Healthier India

Harm Reduction Research & Innovation Center: Empowering Innovations to Build a Healthier India

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Nilesh Jain,FounderHow shocked would you be if you learned that India is yet to establishe a standard protocol for testing smokeless tobacco (SLT) products such as gutka, khaini and pan masala, which are the main culprits of oral cancer in India? Oral cancer, which contributes to more than 30 percent of all cancers reported in India, is posing a great economic burden on our national healthcare system, easily outweighing the taxation imposed on the SLT products. Even if the taxes on SLT products are doubled, it will still be hundred times lesser than what our country’s healthcare system is spending on taking care of the mass population suffering due to excessive SLT consumption, most of who belong to the low-income groups.

Sadly, despite all these, India still struggles to build capacity for research in the SLT arena that would facilitate to drill deep into the root cause of the problem. Realizing this as an opportunity to make a difference, Nilesh Jain (Founder) incepted Harm Reduction Research & Innovation Center (HRRIC), a forward-looking research center that leverages proper tools & resources to bring innovations in a sector that is long overdue for some disruption.

The core axiom of the organization revolves around creating a platform that provides hardcore scientific data for NGOs, governments, clinics, universities and policy makers, which would help them assess & understand the ground reality and make decisions in terms of policy, advocacy and innovation.

HRRIC stands tall as a leading organization to establish the protocols and guidelines for testing smokeless tobacco in India that follows the guidelines of WHO, CDCA and FDA. “Over the past six months, our team has built a testing protocol for testing smokeless tobacco,” affirms Nilesh. The organization is keen on opening-up new possibilities that would modernize the methods and techniques which will pillar harm reduction, prevention, treatment and its enforcement.

HRRIC aims to encourage new harm reduction tools and cessation techniques to reduce tobacco usage in India by conducting research on the characterization of HPHC (Harmful and Potentially Harmful Constituents) in SLT products. It strives to provide users with more options to choose from, thereby motivating them to move towards safer options and reduced harm.

Looking Beyond Conventional Ways
Even today, there are hundreds of shops selling SLT products in India, and many Bollywood celebrities endorse these harmful (pseudo) products – surrogate marketing. The SLT industry is a humungous ship with multiple anchor points, which can only be moved when more scientific data is published along with actual evidence. Having spent ample time in this space and worked with many foundations and NGOs, Nilesh realized merely displaying pictures of harmful
effects of the products is not going to cut it anymore.Hence, he decided to look beyond the conventional ways of harm reduction and approach the problem from a different angle – delving deep into the manufacturing process to figure-out various methodologies to reduce the toxicity of the components in the tobacco.

“By changing how the tobacco leaf is produced by the farmers and processed by the manufacturers of the tobacco products, we can reduce the harmful effect of the end product by a large magnitude of percent. However, given the significant effort in investment this endeavor requires, no farmer or manufacturer is willing to start this initiative without a little push from the policy makers or innovators,” remarks Nilesh.

Hence, he was determined to alter the perception of policy makers and prominent universities by bringing-out scientific evidence regarding the carcinogenic components in SLT and the technology & solutions that can actually change the behavior and products.

But Nilesh couldn’t find a single lab that could test these products. As this further strengthened his resolve, he approached universities and spurred the interest of talented people who could assist him to formulate the standards for testing SLT products. Thus, from being a one-man-army, HRRIC has grown into a proficient team over the past seven months. This becomes even more noteworthy considering the fact that there is a serious scarcity for skilled resources who are particularly dedicated to the cause of smokeless tobacco and trained to conduct research in this area.

“We are probably the only organization conducting research around the areas that work on the root cause of the SLT issue. So far, we have got interest from some universities to focus on tobacco and its research,” adds Nilesh.

The Voyage Ahead
Addressing the country’s dire need for a hardware/laboratory testing infrastructure, the organization plans to invest in building its own lab focused on smokeless tobacco next year and also train as many labs as it can across India to perform similar high-standard testing. “Over the past few years, we have seen public organizations discuss about these laboratory infrastructures, but haven’t taken any measure to push testing on smokeless tobacco. Although there have been announcements for center to build three labs since April 15, 2010, we haven’t seen a single evidence around such activities till now,” remarks Nilesh.

Endeavoring to kickstart the momentum, HRRIC has collected data from all over India, which highlights the complexity of SLT products in India, breadth of challenges brought-on by the carcinogenic components in them, and its impact on public health. The samples collected by the team are being tested in three labs in India, Canada and US. The organization strives to establish regulations that would help farmers and manufacturers to seek alternate technologies and processes that can reduce overall harm. “The more information we push into public domain, the more policy makers, manufacturers and public will get educated.
With a combined effort, we can significantly reduce the harmful effects of smokeless tobacco,” adds Nilesh. The company operates with the mission to advance the right knowledge, skills, resources, and support required by the people, their families, and communities who use substances to encourage safer behavior.

HRRIC aims to encourage new harm reduction tools and cessation techniques to reduce tobacco usage in India by conducting research on the characterization of HPHC in SLT products


HRRIC hopes to grab the attention of policy makers with all the empirical data it will be publishing on the public domain and propel them to change the processes of manufacturing and influence policy. This endeavor would also ignite the passion of the research community to innovate in the smokeless tobacco sector. With research and innovation in harm reduction, HRRIC has laid-out a vision to create a platform for different stakeholders to collaborate and create a public health impact.

“The smokeless tobacco space hasn’t seen any innovation over the last century due to the lack of attention and focus towards this cause. India being a hub of a talent pool, there is huge scope for bringing-in a myriad of new technologies and innovations, if more hands were joined towards the cause of smokeless tobacco,” concludes Nilesh.

Key Management:
Nilesh Jain, Founder
Nilesh is a serial entrepreneur and a strategy advisor for emerging entrepreneurs & startups, who possesses 20+ years of entrepreneurial experience. Self-motivated to work in the area of healthcare and harm reduction, he has co-founded CliniVantage Healthcare Technologies, an integrated and award-winning SaaS-based healthcare platform, and QuitX, an application that helps tobacco users quit tobacco, apart from HRRIC.

Location: Mumbai
HRRIC on Spotlight
• The first to establish the protocols and guidelines for testing smokeless tobacco in India that follows the guidelines of WHO, CDCA and FDA
• Opening-up new possibilities that would modernize the methods and techniques which will pillar harm reduction, prevention, treatment and its enforcement
• Endeavoring to reduce the harmful effect of the end product by a high magnitude multiple percent by changing the processing of SLT product.
• Plans to invest in building its own laboratory focused on SLT next year and also train as many laboratories as it can across India to perform similar high-standard testing
• The samples collected by the team are being tested in three labs in India, Canada and US

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