April 16, 2011

INDIA: Offering a smart and sweet solution for diabetics

MUMBAI / Daily News & Analysis / Money / Interview / April 16, 2011

By Lison Joseph

For over 50 million diabetic patients in India, the work of Mayur Sadawana (26), a doctoral student in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, would mean less needle pricks.

A patient suffering from diabetes is unable to process sugar for meeting the energy requirements of the body. In response to this, human body breaks down stored fat in the body to fuel the energy needs. But this process results in an acidic by-product called ketones. Excess of ketones in blood is poisonous and the condition is called diabetic ketoacidosis. Every diabetic patient is prone to this condition.

Present DKA diagnosis methods use glucose estimation and monitoring techniques. For follow-up treatment, electrolytes, blood acid balance and oxygen concentration in blood are constantly monitored which requires multiple needle-pricks for collecting blood sample.

Sadawana has developed a small diagnostic device that looks like a pen and can diagnose diabetic ketoacidosis with fair amount of accuracy with one drop of blood sample. The device, once commercially available, promises to bring down the cost of diagnosis and increase the accuracy of test compared to existing medical devices.

Sadawana tells DNA his technique combines nano technology, photo-luminescence and a micro-chip to accurately diagnose diabetic ketoacidosis.

Error factor in his technique range from 4-9% compared to 20% in existing tests. Best of all, it brings down the cost of a test to Rs100.

Is this your first idea that clicked?
Yes. This is the first among the few ideas that I planned in the medical field. However, this was not the priority, as I thought it was not possible for me to build such a device, until I started my masters in biomedical engineering.

What are you currently working on?
I am developing a point-of-care multi-analyte sensor for diabetic ketoacidosis patients.

Would you work independently with funding or as part of a research institution?
Working independently with funding gives an opportunity to form a great team. However, I love working with my guide Rohit Srivastava as he gives us the freedom to work and motivates us for out-of-box thinking. After my PhD, I would like to work as an individual. I have made plans for the future, but require funding for it.

Is innovation an end in itself or a means to become an entrepreneur?
Innovation is one of the means to become an entrepreneur. Diagnostics is what I like and what I’m going to do for a living, either by practicing medicine or by innovating diagnostic devices.

Does India value and reward its innovators?
I can’t say about other innovators but at least for me, it’s so far, so good. India is a land of opportunities. Recently, I attended a workshop on entrepreneurship, which stated ‘changes bring opportunity’. India is a land where changes happen too often.

Has your innovation made material difference to your standard of living?
My innovation has not made any difference to my standard of living. But it has definitely made a difference in the way others perceive me. After graduating as MBBS, diversifying into engineering and research was not easy and the TR35 India award validates my capability.

Who are your biggest influences?
My father. His general practice and diagnostic skills were the only reason for me to stick to medicine. My mom and my fiancee are very supportive. My brother is my strength and support.

What has been your biggest mistake?

If you could go back and change one thing about your life as an innovator, what would it be?
I would have liked to have done engineering first and then medicine. Now I need a little more time to understand the engineering concepts, as I don’t come from an engineering background. But my passion drives me to the shore eventually.

Did you have a childhood dream?
Yes. To be an automobile engineering and make cars that run on sea.

©2011 Diligent Media Corporation Ltd