IITian quits Hollywood to design lab in suitcase

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Village folk may soon have access to accurate medical diagnosis at their doorstep with a miniaturised pathological laboratory packed into a suitcase capable of conducting tests which could lead to early identification of many diseases.

Amit Bhatnagar, an alumnus of IIT-Roorkee who quit a plush job in Hollywood's famed Universal Studios, has designed a portable biochemistry laboratory, which comes packed in a suitcase and can perform 23 crucial medical tests including for kidney, liver, heart, anaemia, diabetes and arthritis.

The portable lab, which could prove a boon to people staying in remote areas that have little access to diagnostics which results in several diseases remaining undetected, was launched by Science and Technology Minister S Jaipal Reddy yesterday.

"It is a complete compact lab in a suitcase with power backup. It has been designed to perform 23 vital blood tests for kidney, liver, heart, anaemia, diabetes and arthritis accurately, cost-effectively and timely," Bhatnagar told PTI.

The lab, which costs a maximum of Rs. 3.5 lakh, includes blood analyser, centrifuge, Micro pipettes, incubator, Laptop with Patient Data Management Software and consumables.

"Key advantage of Mobile Lab is in its design, rugged analyser, portability, cost effectiveness," Bhatnagar said.

The portable lab is being used by Border Roads Organisation at its dispensaries in remote areas of Kargil, Leh, Nagaland, by the Central Reserve Police Force in the jungles of Chhattisgarh and various programmes of the National Rural Health Mission in Haryana and Kerala on a pilot basis.

"We did a trial for 800-900 people in our dispensaries in remote areas. It has a lot of potential for early detection of lifestyle diseases like diabetes, cardiac problems and in emergencies," Brigadier S B Mahajan, Deputy Director General, Border Roads Organisation said.

Mahajan said the results of the tests performed by the portable lab were validated against those done in conventional laboratories and were found to be accurate.

"We have put up a demand for procurement of more such units," he said.

Bhatnagar received a soft loan of up to Rs. 4 crore for developing the lab from Technology Development Board of the Government of India.

He raised an additional Rs. four crore from various other resources. Bhatnagar did his B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from IIT, Roorkee and went to the Pennsylvania State University in the US to complete his Masters in Biomedical Engineering.

He joined as a business consultant at the Universal Studios, where he analysed consumer trends for products of the Hollywood major.

But homeland beckoned him and the stint in Hollywood was cut short after nine months.

Back in Delhi, he and his technology partners at IIT Delhi decided to take on the problem faced by nearly 70 percent of villages in the country which did not have access to accurate diagnosis.

The 'lab in a suitcase' was a fruit of the efforts put in by Bhatnagar and his collaborators at IIT-Delhi.

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