Saturday, August 19, 2006
An inexpensive device to treat neonatal jaundice, developed by an Indian boy, can save the lives of millions of poor children across the world.
Vijay Anand, a student of Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, US, has developed a light unit for $500. With the standard light to treat neonatal jaundice costing $4,000 a piece, hospitals, especially in poor and under-developed countries, cannot afford to buy them.
As a result, thousands of babies never get treatment and eventually suffer serious brain damage, deafness and even death. Vijay's discovery has won him a whopping $1,00,000 prize at the Duke startup challenge cure competition. The affordable medical device will now be an established business model to distribute the lights to Third World countries. "I realised that the US was ahead of us in the medical device industry for many years and that prompted me to invent this low-cost device.
At present, I am incubating the project at the Duke university. I will use the seed money of $1,00,000 to establish a company called Photogenesis that will commercialise and distribute the lights to the third world countries," Vijay, who belongs to Bangalore, told TOI from the US.
Exposing infants suffering from neonatal jaundice to bright light - phototherapy - is nothing new, except that these devices are expensive and several countries rely on the US for their supply. "All I did was strip the bells and whistles from the device, use the already introduced LEDs to make an affordable device," he said.
After completing his BE in medical electronics at the M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bangalore, Vijay chose to move to health sector management while doing his post-graduation at Duke university. His initial prototypes are installed in a hospital in Tanzania. The project has the support of both Duke and Stanford universities.
As Vijay's parents Shashikala Anand and Anand Sivappa, who live in Bangalore, put it, "He has not only brought light to our lives, but to millions of infants suffering from jaundice."
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