The driving force behind stent and lightweight callipers

File photo of former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam interacting with polio-affected children. Such interactions motivated Kalam to develop light-weight callipers  

Images and events in Belgaum, Karnataka on October 15, 2004 keeps coming back to Dr. L. Narendranath, as he sits in his chambers in Hyderabad-based Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) on Tuesday and reflects the day’s significance. That day marked President Kalam’s birthday and it was also the day when his dream to deliver affordable lightweight callipers to the polio-stricken actually became a reality.

The light weight callipers and the Kalam-Raju stent, perhaps country’s first fully indigenised and affordable stent for heart patients, were the two innovations dear to Dr.Kalam.

Kalam-Raju stent

“We spent long hours at NIMS on how to innovate and bring together the vast experience of our defence scientists and physicians. We were successful because his vision to provide affordable medical care was very clear,” recalls Dr. B. Soma Raju, founder of Care Group of Hospitals, who collaborated with the late President to develop the ‘Kalam-Raju stent’.

On that day in Belgaum, when Dr. Kalam was distributing the callipers among polio patients, Dr. Narendranath was a relieved man. “I thank you for taking this project to a logical conclusion. I was confident you would deliver this project on this day and I am very happy,” the late President told me this - Dr. Narendranath, Director, NIMS, recalls. Dr. Kalam was so happy and relieved he brought loads of sweet boxes to distribute among polio patients, their relatives and technicians who had developed the lightweight callipers. The ingenuity was such that the callipers was developed from the same composite material used to manufacture the nose cone of the Agni missile.

Lightweight callipers was made up of glass filled polypropylene which weighed just 300 grams while in those days the polio patients used to wear callipers that weighed around four kg. “Our lightweight callipers was lighter, sturdier, easier to make and cheaper. The cost of traditional leather and metal polio callipers at that time was between Rs. 3,500 and Rs. 4,000 but ours was just Rs. 500,” recalls Venkatesh and Ramulu, who still manufacture the callipers in a small workshop at NIMS.

In late 90s, only one stent manufactured by a private manufacturer was available in the country. “The cost of the existing stent was between Rs. 1 lakh and Rs. 1.75 lakh. We, however, managed to develop our stent for just Rs. 10,000. Dr. Kalam frequently used to refer that the callipers and the stent were ‘icing on the cake’, as far as his accomplishments in innovation were concerned,” Dr. Soma Raju told The Hindu from New Delhi.

The two innovations close to Dr. Kalam’s heart did not happen overnight. Dr. Kalam, who was Chief of DRDO in the 90s visited NIMS and urged physicians to come up with ideas that can actually be developed using defence technologies. “He was great in man management and clearly understood the capabilities of each individual and worked around it. He had immense knowledge of materials being developed by Indian researchers in defence laboratories. His vision was to bring physicians and Indian defence innovation and develop affordable healthcare,” says Dr. Narendranath. So how was the cost of Indian stent way below the existing rates? “The components used to manufacture Kalam-Raju stent were the same as used by International manufacturers. However, our manufacturing did not have any overheads. Because the stent was meant for altruistic purpose, there were no margins to dealers, which reduced the costs. At that time, the stent cost started from Rs. 80,000 but we did it for Rs. 10,000. Dr. Kalam knew very well the strengths of our defence laboratories,” explains Dr. B. N. Prasad, Head, Orthopaedics, Care Group of Hospitals.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 7:04:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/the-driving-force-behind-stent-and-lightweight-callipers/article7475926.ece

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